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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.

Each year people suffer significant life changing injuries as a result of accidentally striking underground cables 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, gardening, 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 utlity record plans from the local network operator. If you can't find underground utilities shown on the plan, never assume they're not there — contact your network operator.

Before you start

  • Make sure you have copies of all relevant records/plans of all underground utiliites 
  • 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 the utilities, in particular gas and electricity, on the ground surface
  • Hand-dig trial holes to find the exact position of underground utilities before you use a mechanical excavator

While you work

  • Be aware that underground utilities can be found at any depth, even just below the surface
  • If you find an underground electricity 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 electricity 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 electricity 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 any part of your equipment comes into contact with an electricity cable

  • Immediately phone the emergency services and your local electricity network operator on the national number 105 for Great Britain or 03457 643 643 in Northern Ireland.
  • Keep others away from the impacted area
  • Clear all other hazardous material from the area

Where overhead powerlines are in the vicinity, be mindful that metal and anything wet conducts electricity, so always carry long objects parallel with the ground — never vertically. Contact with an electricity powerline through a long object is just as dangerous as touching the line directly 

If your work damages a gas pipe, don't leave it, you must report it right away

  • Call the National Gas Emergency Number immediately on 0800 111 999 for Great Britain or 0800 002 001 in Northern Ireland
  • Don't attempt to make any repairs, handle the pipe or alter its position