Engineer checking the oil pipeline equipment in crude oil storage workshop, Beijing, China.

Dealing with electric, gas, water and sewerage, those working within the utilities industry are exposed to safety hazards on a daily basis. Within the industry, risk is substantial regardless of the environment.

Hazards are far more common and can be triggered by a number of variables, from worksite and weather related conditions, to operating heavy apparatus and cranes.

In this line of work, working with hazardous substances, potentially dangerous equipment and both at height and underground, significantly increases the risk of damage and injury. Such hazards, place utility workers at risk to the most common causes of workplace injury, such as slips, trips and falls (29%) and lifting/handling (22%).

In extreme circumstances, drowning, electrocution and being crushed by large objects or vehicles, are also a high risk, with the potential of being life-threatening.

What types of hazards do Utilities pose?

  • Confined spaces

Working below ground or in confined spaces possesses risks for lone workers, particularly when working with electrical equipment. If structures are unstable, there is a risk of suffocation or being crushed if there is a collapse.

  • Working at height

Working at height is common practice across the Utilities sector, whether this be scaling pylons and towers, inspecting water and gas systems or operating machinery. Working at height poses the risk of falls – the largest cause of workplace fatalities – if correct measures are not put in place.

  • Electricity

Working with electricity significantly increases the chance of electrocution which could lead to serious injury and even death.

  • Dangerous substances

Particularly in the gas sector where the use of dangerous substances are common, workers are susceptible to a range of risks including carbon monoxide poisoning, fires and even explosions.

  • Water

The hazards associated with water infrastructure, are often electrical due to the combination of power and water systems which together, are extremely volatile. Failure to comply with safety precautions could even lead to workers falling into filtration and water tanks, and subsequently drowning.

  • Travel

Besides individual threats within the utilities sector, it should not be overlooked that there are many more threats that occur when lone workers travel between locations or when operating vehicles on site. With roads and other drivers posing unpredictable behaviours and risks, road accidents are a massive cause of injury and fatality.

Additionally, when working with large vehicles, blind spots and unsecure vehicles can cause accidents to both the employee and those around them. Statistics show that of fatal injuries received from most common accident kinds, 39% equates to workers being struck by a moving vehicle, displaying just how frequent these types of accidents are.

Risks when working alone

Many job roles within the utilities are now carried out by a lone worker. Whether this be inspecting a pipeline, carrying out maintenance on a remote site, or even visiting properties and homes, working alone is commonplace across the different sectors.

When working alone, the danger for utility workers is further heightened, as support is less accessible in the case of an emergency. Due to the high-risk nature of the hazards present within the industry, receiving immediate support or medical help could literally be the difference between a life-changing or fatal injury and a minor one.

Yet working across large sites means lone workers may be completely out of sight and sound if something goes wrong. Calling for assistance can also prove impossible in an industry where loud work environments are likely to drown out a colleague’s call for help.

How can Lone Workers protect themselves?

A number of preventative measures can be put in place to mitigate against these destructive situations for lone workers.

For any employee working within the utilities sector, whether working underground or on land, helmets or hard hats, high visibility jackets, ear protection and boots should be worn at all times. Padded gloves should also be worn if handling dangerous substances or lifting heavy machinery and equipment for added grip and protection.

Read SHP’s guide to PPE.

What can StaySafe do to protect Lone workers?

For those working in areas where they may not be seen or heard should something go wrong, it is crucial that there are systems in place to ensure their safety and location can be monitored.

Location monitoring

The StaySafe app and Hub provide this feature effortlessly by ensuring workers are discoverable on a map through GPS tracking while they are in a session. Sessions can be started on the app by the lone worker who sets the time they expect to be working alone.

Panic alert

If a threat is raised by a lone worker through the panic button, the employers will be notified and are able send help directly to the lone worker, whilst also warning other employees to clear and avoid the problem area so that the issue can be rapidly resolved.

Missed check-ins

For situations where an injury may leave the lone worker unable to access their phone, the hub will also be notified if a session check-in has been missed, which can be followed up promptly.

Man-Down

The ‘man-down’ feature is an essential feature for the utilities sector. This option permits a company to be notified on the Hub if a lone worker has been immobile for a certain period of time, which could be serious cause for concern. The company can then make the decision to escalate further.

Wearable button

The StaySafe app can also be paired with a wearable button to ensure a lone worker can check-in or send an alert even when they are unable to access their phone. For example, when working at height their phone may be secured to their person, or they may be wearing large gloves.

User Case Studies

A number of companies operating within the utilities sector currently use StaySafe to monitor and protect their lone workers. Operating in different areas of the world and across varying job roles, user feedback is testament to the easy to use and flexible nature of the StaySafe solution.

To find out more about how StaySafe can protect your lone workers, visit our solution page or request your own live demo.

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