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Electricity sector strategy 2012-15

Sector description

The scope of sector strategy excludes the nuclear and microgeneration (< 50kW) generation subsectors. Further, it does not address risks to those working in other sectors that may encounter electrical hazards, e.g. interfaces with electricity supply infrastructure in industries such as construction or agriculture.

Risks to the public from the work activities of dutyholders involved electricity generation (high voltage), transmission, distribution and supply are within scope of the sector strategy.

Key stakeholders

Safety and health issues

The current levels of work-related injuries and occupational illness within the industry are not the driver behind this Sector Strategy with incidence rates less than those in manufacturing and construction.

The basis for prioritising the electricity supply industry is that of possible future harm to workers and risk of catastrophic incidents in light of a number of common issues / themes that run through each part of the electricity supply industry, notably:

New hazards and risks arising from the uptake and expansion of renewable energy technologies are a key focus, e.g. a move from coal-fired to biomass power generation may bring new health risks, and the rapid expansion of technologies such as wind energy and energy-from-waste has the potential to impact on the sector’s health and safety performance records.  

Protecting the general public and consumers from danger from the electricity supply infrastructure is a key issue for those working on, or owning power network apparatus such as generators, distributors, meter operators. The Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002 (ESQCR) specify safety standards and duty holders have duties to report certain incidents that may involve public safety.

Legislation and regulation

Ofgem operates a price control regime and issues licences to distribution network operators (DNOs) and transmission operators (TOs). These licences set requirements on coverage and continuity of supply and set price controls taking into consideration running and capital costs. Safety improvements requiring long-term investment will be accounted for within these costs.

HSE is the health and safety regulator for the bulk of the industry with the exception of offices and call centres where local authorities regulate. There are some specific pieces of regulation relevant to this sector notably the Electricity at Work Regulations and ESQCR.

The Environment Agency and MCA also have a regulatory role in the sector. HSE will work with other regulators to address any conflicting priorities which will have impact upon the health and safety of those who work in the industry.

Strategic regulatory and sector approach

The electricity sector, in terms of overall current health and performance, is considered to be a lower risk sector 1. The sector comprises of a number of mature and well placed intermediaries. Many of these players already have established mechanisms for delivery improvements, such as the electricity network and generation industry Powering Improvement initiative.

HSE will support industry in delivering the aims of this strategy through joint working with stakeholders.  Whereas general proactive inspection is not justified in this sector, reactive HSE investigation and enforcement will remain. Through the life of the strategy there may be specific exceptions where proactive inspections may be identified as necessary. 

1 Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone, DWP, March 2011

Future trends

HSE sees the challenges facing the industry as:

Aims for 2012–15

Leadership and Worker Involvement

Building competence

Taking a wider perspective

Customising support for SMEs

Updated 2016-07-13