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I was with a HSE quarry inspector recently and we were discussing the HSE hot topics. The recently published sector plan for health and safety in quarries talks about silica and high-risk, low-likelihood events (shotfiring and tips and excavation failures), but I want to discuss something else – electrical safety.

Now I need to make it clear at the start, I am not an electrician, but some of the nastiest incidents I have had to investigate have involved contact with live buzz bars and lack of proper control.

They say you can’t easily see, hear or smell electricity, but you can feel it, and then it’s usually a bit too late. Getting a kick off an electric fence (12V) when out walking the dog is one thing, but coming into contact with higher voltages and currents in the workplace can be something totally different.

I had to investigate an incident in Glasgow a few years back where an electrical contractor dropped a spanner on to some live incoming cables and suffered severe burns. This just shows that even the professionals can get things wrong.

So here are some really basic things to consider:

Have access to competent electrical advice: Whether in house or through an external contractor, get someone involved whose opinion you trust;

Get a site survey completed: The survey should be carried out and a drawing produced to show all site services, both overhead and underground. A key should be developed so as to distinguish between the various services. Items on the plan might include:

  • Overhead electrical supply
  • Underground electrical supply HV
  • Underground electrical supply LV
  • On-site electrical distribution line and depth
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Telecoms 
  • Security Systems

The plan should have reference to fixed points and, where possible, show service depths.

Undertake regular inspection and maintenance: Develop a scheme of inspection and maintenance based around the following:

  • An organizational structure for the scheme of maintenance
  • Appropriate authorization of competent personnel
  • A detailed description of the scheme and the equipment included for inspection and maintenance
  • Testing specifications, procedures and methods
  • Technical notes for specific equipment.

The scheme should be developed with your electrical specialist but you may wish to have someone independent undertake the inspection and test.

Finally, I have read of a lot of electrical inspections that contain many actions but often these have not been corrected or signed off. When you get an electrical report back, don’t just file it in a draw. Read the action list and set up a plan for dealing with the category 1s, 2s and 3s, and when they have been sorted, sign off that part of the report to show it has been actioned.

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