New research from Energy Networks Association (ENA) shows that on average, one person dies or is injured each month as a result of contact with overhead power lines. Consequently the association has issued a set of safety guidelines for those working near overhead power lines.

Overhead power lines have the capacity to carry voltages anywhere between 230 volts (domestic voltage) up to 400,000 volts. Even domestic voltage can be fatal and high voltage electricity can jump gaps meaning you don’t have to be in direct physical contact with a conductor to experience a fatal electric shock.

When a vehicle or piece of machinery touches an overhead power line, it acts as a conductor passing the high voltage electricity through it. If you were to then exit your vehicle, keeping contact with it while your feet also touch the ground this voltage would pass through you, certainly causing serious injury and, in most cases, death.

Data from the Health & Safety Executive shows that one in four of these cases (26%) will involve a lorry driver, making road haulage workers at extreme risk of fatal injury in the workplace. To help prevent the number of fatalities amongst lorry drivers, the ENA has launched a new Look Out Look Up! film targeting those working within the industry. The thought-provoking film explores the journey of two road haulage workers carrying out a job near overhead power lines that results in a fatal accident.

The ENA has also released a new set of life-saving safety guidelines targeted towards those whose work may take place near overhead power lines:

1. Risk assess – know where overhead power lines are and mark them on a map. Find out the height and reach of your equipment and how this compares to the maximum working height under overhead power lines. Share this information with workers and contractors.

2. Control measures – don’t work near an overhead power line if you don’t have to. Speak to your electricity network operator for advice. Select suitable machinery and equipment and use it safely.

3. Know what’s safe, and what isn’t – certain work should be avoided within 10 metres of overhead power lines, such as for example operating Lorry mounted cranes (such as Hiabs or Palingers), Mobile Elevated Work Platforms (MEWP's), tipper vehicles and cranes.

4. Keep your distance - when overhead power lines are damaged or fall to the ground, individuals should stay well away and contact their local network operator by telephoning 105.

5. Know what to do if you make contact - if your vehicle has come into contact with an overhead power line, stay in the cab and try to drive clear. If that is not possible, jump clear of the machine, move away and don’t touch it once on the ground.

Call 105 – if an incident occurs, contact your network operator by calling the national 24-hour emergency number 105.