About the EET Program
Over the next decade and beyond the UK is taking significant steps towards developing a new energy economy. A wide range of renewable energy technologies are expected to play an important role in reshaping the way we meet our energy requirements.
HSE recognised that it faced a challenge in keeping pace with the development of new energy technologies and the rapid growth in the industry. As a result, HSE created the Emerging Energies Technologies (EET) Program, which has now ended, in order to understand the hazards and risks involved in new energy technologies so it can play its role as a supportive and enabling regulator.
Hazards and Risks
HSE used its knowledge and experience to undertake an evidence-based assessment of both new and familiar hazards associated with emerging energy technologies. The following list highlights some of the most significant health and safety challenges:
- The rapid expansion that is expected to take place in the development and deployment of emerging energy technologies means activity volumes will be high, generating increased potential for health & safety-related incidents and accidents to occur.
- This speed of expansion will also lead to a skills gap that is difficult to fill quickly (eg 4000 extra operatives will be needed to install 'smart' meters) and to a reliance on large numbers of less-experienced and/or under-skilled workers who will be installing or maintaining new or unfamiliar technologies.
- New companies set up specifically to exploit new opportunities in the energy sector may face difficulties in accessing risk management expertise or rapidly establishing an adequate health & safety culture.
- Linked with this issue, many duty-holders may be managing some unfamiliar hazardous activities and encountering some new health & safety risks, especially where energy generation is not part of their organisation's core business.
- Small-scale, 'embedded' power projects could increase on-site risks (eg related to equipment failure) for schools, hospitals, farms etc.
- Financial and other pressures (eg shortage of materials) may cause extension to the original working life of facilities by means of upgrading, retrofitting etc, thereby increasing maintenance needs and maintenance-related risks.
- The effect of time pressures (eg the availability of offshore weather windows) in relation to construction and maintenance activities, in particular, could militate against compliance with safe working practices.
- Greater reliance on multiple contractors and multiple contractor interfaces, due to the increased complexity of the energy landscape, is likely to increase the potential for accidents to occur as a result of poor communication etc.
HSE considers the general provisions of the existing Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 provides the basis of a fit-for-purpose regulatory framework for renewable energy generation across both onshore and offshore health & safety regimes.
HSE will focus on harnessing tried and tested approaches wherever possible, and on utilising the existing regulatory framework wherever it is flexible enough to respond to new developments in the years ahead. This framework will be kept under review.
The potential for unforeseen developments will require HSE to keep hazards and risks – and industry's ability to control those hazards and risks – under close review.
HSE has learned from many years of experience of regulating existing energy technologies and other hazardous industries both on and offshore. It will continue to apply its expertise intelligently to new and emerging technologies, but it remains the responsibility of those developing and deploying new technologies to identify the risks and implement appropriate management and control measures.
HSE's role does not involve recommending, endorsing or stating a preference for any one energy technology or another. Our role is one of enabling any/all of these technologies to be adopted safely taking account of potential risks to those who will build, operate and maintain the facilities and any risks to the public arising from work activities.
HSE Status Report
Compiled by HSE's Emerging Energy Technologies Programme, the report 'Health and safety in the new energy economy' provides an overview of the health & safety hazards that key emerging energy technologies could pose, both to workers and to the public at large. Appropriate regulations help ensure that these hazards are managed and controlled effectively – an essential element in enabling new technologies to make a major contribution to the UK's energy future.