The voice of the networks

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Watch Out, Cables About!

Underground cables are situated in public highways and roads, paths and fields across the country, and while buried and unnoticed, they are essential to provide electricity to homes and businesses across the UK.

Digger on a construction site

Houses, offices, shops, factories and street furniture all have electric cables supplying them. The cables carry voltages ranging from 230 volts (domestic voltage) up to 400,000 volts. Even domestic voltage cables can be fatal and can be buried outside homes and in driveways.

People die each year due to accidentally striking underground cables in the ground, whilst others suffer life changing injury with the lives of families also suffering as a result. The risk of danger can be considerably reduced by following some simple safety tips.

Be aware of what lies beneath

Underground services can be found and disturbed during street work, road work, excavation, drilling and piling, demolition and site remediation, site investigations and any other work that involves penetrating the ground at or below surface level.

Staying safe

Before beginning any excavations be mindful and dig safely. Make sure you have current copies of underground cable or pipe record plans from the local network operator. If you can't find underground cables shown on the plan, never assume they're not there — contact your network operator.

Before you start

  • Make sure that a competent person using a Cable Avoidance Tool (CAT) locates all of the cables shown on the plans
  • Mark the location of cables on the ground surface
  • Hand-dig trial holes to find the exact position of underground cables before you use a mechanical excavator

While you work

  • Be aware that underground cables and pipes can be found at any depth, even just below the surface
  • If you find an underground cable embedded in concrete don't attempt to break it out. Contact your electricity network operator to ensure it is de-energised
  • If you damage an underground cable, vacate the excavation immediately, phone your electricity network operator’s emergency number and keep everybody clear
  • If you are in any doubt about whether an underground cable or other piece of equipment is safe, always assume it is live, keep away from it and contact your local electricity network operator

In an emergency

If anything comes into contact with a cable...

  • Immediately phone 999 and your local electricity network operator on the national number 105
  • Keep others away from the impacted area
  • Clear all other hazardous material from the area
  • Remember that metal and anything wet conducts electricity, so always carry long objects parallel with the ground — never vertically. Contact with a live line through a long object is just as dangerous as touching the line directly