Refocus on Safety – Live Services

18 Aug 2020

John Egan, Safety & Training Services Executive, writes about site safety around live services.

As part of the CIF’s Refocus on Safety campaign, the theme for week commencing 17th August is Live Services. Colum Costello, HSEQ Manager, Suir Engineering has kindly facilitated a brief video to advise of safe working with live services; this may be accessed here:  

As advised by Colm, “Suir Engineering are delighted to support the CIF’s ‘Refocus on Safety’ Initiative with this video on ‘Live Services’. The video demonstrates how we manage the hazards associated with electricity on a day to day basis through robust LOTO procedures and effective communication”.

The Health and Safety Authority advises of 49 electrocutions or deaths from electricity from year 2000 to the end of 2019, of which 31 deaths were associated with a work activity. Most electrical accidents occur because people are working on or near equipment that is either:

  • thought to be dead but which is live, or
  • known to be live but those involved do not have adequate training or appropriate equipment to prevent injury, or they have not taken adequate precautions.

Work on or near live exposed conductors should rarely be permitted. Persons should plan for work to be undertaken with the equipment dead, where possible. The most common live working activity is testing, which is typically undertaken as part of routine preventative maintenance, diagnostic testing, product testing, commissioning, or fault finding. Three conditions must be met for live working to be permitted:

  • It is unreasonable in all the circumstances for the conductor to be dead; and
  • It is reasonable in all the circumstances for the person to be at work on or near that conductor while it is live; and
  • Suitable precautions (including, where necessary, the provision of personal protective equipment) have been taken to prevent injury.

Contractors are responsible for managing the risks associated with work near overhead electricity wires and underground cables. Competent persons need to review past site records and utility drawings in advance of works and to liaise with the respective utility providers. It is important to note a variance of voltages for overhead electricity lines on ESB Networks distribution and transmission systems, ranging from 230 volts to 400,000 volts. The minimum safe distances for plant and machinery is dictated by the voltage carried. It is always recommended to check the voltage carried and then consult the respective Code of Practice for Avoiding Danger from Overhead Electricity Lines



Always assume utilities as live unless otherwise confirmed; if planning work near overhead electricity wires, contact ESB Networks (1850 928 960 / [email protected]) in advance so that the necessary safety precautions can be evaluated. In the event of emergency, contact ESB Networks immediately on 1850 372 999.

For more information, see links provided:

HSA CoP: Avoiding Danger from Underground Services

HSA Guide: Guide to SHWW (General Applications) Regs, Part 3: Electricity

ESB Networks: Contractor Safety


Additionally, Michael O’Connor, Group EHS Director, Mercury has shared a video on behavioural safety, which may be viewed here:

Please use #CIFSITESAFETY to highlight your safety initiatives on social media and the CIF will endeavour to provide support.

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