The voice of the networks

Looking after employees

Around 45,000 people work in the UK and Ireland’s energy networks and we oversee a number of programmes to help keep them safe.

Engineer standing next to his van with castle ruins in the background
Carwyn from Wales and West Utilities

The health and safety of the public we serve and the workforce that maintains and operates the networks is a core consideration for the energy networks. Through a number of joint strategies, initiatives and advisory bodies, we support energy network employees in carrying out their work in a safe and healthy manner.

Powering Improvement

Powering Improvement is the joint health and safety strategy between ENA and Energy UK members, trade unions and the Health and Safety Executive. It is designed to promote continuous improvement in safety and occupational health in the energy networks and generation sectors.

The main objective of Powering Improvement is to to cut days lost to work-related injury and ill-health in line with the government’s targets. The plan progresses in three phases (2010-2015, 2015-2020 and 2020-2025) and has three overarching themes running throughout its duration:

  • Leadership
  • Improving competence
  • Worker involvement

To maintain momentum throughout the three main phases, Powering Improvement focuses each year on a core health and safety theme identified as a priority area for our sector:

  • 2010 Leadership
  • 2011 Occupational health and wellbeing
  • 2012 Asset management and maintenance
  • 2013 Behavioural safety and personal responsibility
  • 2014 Beyond 2015 – the next steps
  • 2015 Working with contractors
  • 2016 Managing occupational ill health risks
  • 2017 Asset management
  • 2018 Human and organisational factors
  • 2019 Review of progress and developing the next phase
  • 2020 Occupational health and mental wellbeing

poweringimprovement.org is a dedicated website for the health and safety strategy, and includes the Occupational Health Roadmap tool and other collective guidance material.

Skills and training

We are committed to equipping our employees with the skills and competencies needed to operate the networks today and for the future.

  • Engineering the future

    Meeting the network challenges of the future means ensuring we have the skilled workforce to deliver it. The energy networks are undergoing a once in a generation transformation to meet net-zero emissions targets and the UK’s aspiration of a low carbon economy. Delivery of this vision will demand a workforce equipped with the skills, knowledge, experience, and training to build and maintain the smarter network needed to achieve this.

    We have established training programmes designed to equip staff with the technical, operational and managerial skills needed to safely manage the energy networks. The industry builds on this foundation through engagement with training providers, contractor partners and skills bodies, such as EU Skills and the National Skills Academy for Power (NSAP) through the Energy & Utility Skills Partnership Council and various EU Skills and NSAP working groups.

    These initiatives place skills and training high on the agenda as companies work to deliver Government policies and maintain the profile and attractiveness of our sector.

  • Workforce renewal and skills strategy

    Workforce Renewal and Skills Strategy for the Energy & Utilities Sector 2020 strategy sets three key requirements:

    • Sector Attractiveness & Recruitment
    • Maximising the Investment in Skills (apprenticeships, retraining, and upskilling)
    • Addressing Skills Gaps and Shortages (workforce planning, supply chain investment and workforce mobility)

    The report highlights 221,000 vacancies in the utility sector need to be filled within the next 10 years as over 50% of the sector’s workforce are due to leave for other sectors or retire by 2023. In the electricity sector, there is a need to replace more than half of the existing workforce (30,000 staff) within the next few years to maintain current workforce levels. In the gas sector, data shows that for the 15-year period between 2011 and 2025 around 4,277 staff are expected to retire from the industry.

  • Skills challenges

    Expanding the energy workforce needs to be viewed against the backdrop of this impending loss of experience and resource as the ageing workforce retire over the next few years.

    Thanks to recent initiatives from network companies through apprenticeships and other programmes, there has been a considerable increase in the number of younger employees employed in the industry. However there is a comparatively significant shortfall in the number of staff aged 25-45 years and will need to be addressed through the intake of new trainees, upskilling existing staff, and people transferring and re-skilling from other sectors.

    The ENA Training & Competency Committee monitors and reviews industry training and skills issues. The forum provides for a collective network voice on competencies required for current and future industry operational roles and functions and input into the wider industry work of EU Skills and National Skills Academy for Power (NSAP).

  • Future skills

    Not only do we face the challenge of a workforce shortage by 2050, we also need to prepare for the emergence of new and diverse roles expected for building a smarter network over the next few years.

    ENA and member companies advocate for skills to feature at the forefront of new technologies and innovation agendas, such as the Low Carbon Networks Fund and the Open Networks programmes. We also support the government’s target of installing a smart meter in every home. With network businesses anticipating an average of 20,000 network issues to be dealt with every week over the next few years, it is vital that networks staff are available to support smart meter installers in delivering this national policy.

    It is critical we have a skilled workforce ready to deal with the safety and network related issues expected during this transition. As we better understand the skills and competencies we need, we can focus on developing the training programmes necessary to deliver the skills base our energy future demands.

  • Industrial strategy

    We also advocate for skills issues to feature as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy National Infrastructure Delivery Plan 2016-2021, which finds the skills gap has the potential to be the biggest barrier to innovation and smart grid development over the coming years, accompanied by a higher than average number of ‘hard to fill’ vacancies.

    It will take a wider commitment to developing a trained and sustainable workforce with necessary skills and competencies to deliver the infrastructure investment within the RIIO transmission and distribution price control frameworks.

    The UK energy sector must have the necessary skills base in place. To achieve this, company business plans need to make provisions for:

    • investment in skills
    • initiatives on workforce resilience
    • industry routes to attract new employees and talent
    • development of the skills needed to ensure increasing customer service delivery expectations are met
  • UK Model Distribution Safety Rules

    The Model Distribution Safety Rules (MDSRs) are a set of generic rules that our members use as the foundation of their safety management for operations on their electrical networks. Governance of the MDSRs is through the Safety, Health and Environment Committee (SHEC) and compliance with the requirements of this document shall not be taken as meeting all health and safety legal duties.

    Please ensure you check with the member’s own safety rules before carrying out any work activity on their network.

Occupational health

We work to maintain and improve the industry’s safety record – learning from the past to ensure our members are equipped for the future.

The electricity industry has adopted a series of occupational health and wellbeing commitments designed to increase awareness of occupational health risks and outline the approaches to the successful management of those risks.

  • Advocacy of successful Occupational Health (OH) risk management at board level
  • Identify and address the top three health risks
  • Ensure health surveillance and fitness for work assessments meet national and legislative standards
  • Review approaches to the management of stress and identify opportunities for improvement
  • Develop policies for workplace rehabilitation and fast track physiotherapy approaches
  • Raise awareness of the importance of successfully managing OH  with workforce support

Energy Networks Association and Energy UK senior management and TU National Officers are firmly committed to improving health and safety standards in our sector and where appropriate, agreeing initiatives to achieve this at all levels in the industry. A good example of this is the current Powering Improvement strategy.

  • Roadmap to occupational health

    Powering Improvement (PI) is the electricity sector’s health and safety strategy. One of the key pieces of work underpinning PI is the Occupational Health Roadmap. It is a free interactive tool which maps a successful approach to occupational ill health management, including physical and mental health issues.

    As part of the Powering Improvement strategy, a set of case studies in occupational health were produced for the phases occupational health featured as a theme. Other case studies featuring the electricity industry’s top ranking risks are in development:

    • Stress and Mental Health
    • Musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs)
    • Public Health Issues (cancer, diabetes, heart problems etc.)
    • Health Surveillance
    • Hand-arm vibration (HAVs) and fatigue
  • Health and wellbeing framework

    Our health and wellbeing framework (available in the Resource library) is an integrated approach to the management of health and wellbeing. It’s a basis for the assessment of workplace health risks and promotes continuous improvement in employee health and wellbeing.

    The framework outlines a set of agreed protocols and guidance for meeting minimum compliance, such as preventing workplace ill health and injury and prioritising activities to meet legal duties, through to adopting best practice procedures, such as promoting health and wellbeing and social responsibility.

    • Workplace Health Risk Management
    • Individual Health Risk Management
    • Attendance Management
    • Workplace Wellbeing
    • Individual Wellbeing

    The framework has been developed by our Occupational Health Committee with the support of our network members. It aligns with the implementation of the electricity industry’s health and safety strategy, Powering Improvement (PI) and priorities of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

National HESAC

The National Health and Safety Advisory Committee (HESAC) is an established electricity industry (generation, transmission, distribution and supply) body for the consideration of health and safety while operating the networks and in our everyday environment. 

We manage the meeting minutes and Terms of Reference for the National HESAC. HESAC terms and meeting minutes can be found in the Resource library.

We work with our members and those of Energy UK, the industry’s trade unions and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to improve health and safety standards in our sector.

  • Challenge of unsafe acts and conditions

    Energy Networks Association and Energy UK members’ line managers, supervisors and trade union safety representatives commit to challenging any unsafe acts they witness and reporting any unsafe conditions they encounter whilst at work.

  • Good communications

    Energy Networks Association and Energy UK members, together with trade unions will work to ensure there is good national and local communication about health and safety issues.

  • Developing and leading proactive measures to improve health and safety performance

    Through the forum of National HESAC we will, working with Energy UK and trade unions, develop and implement measures to improve health and safety performance within the industry, sharing best practice.

    Support for health and safety representatives

    Energy Networks Association and Energy UK members will actively support health and safety dialogue with employees and dedicate time and facilities for safety representatives to carry out their duties and participate in company level committees and initiatives.

    Annual priorities

    Working with Energy UK and trade unions, we will agree specific targets on an annual basis in support of the Powering Improvement strategy. These priorities will be monitored and feedback provided through National HESAC.

Occupational Health Advisory Group

The Occupational Health Advisory Group for the electricity industry (OHAG) is an independent body which provides advice to individual companies in the electricity industry.

Occupational Health Advisory Group representatives are senior occupational physicians and professionals whose role is to provide guidance on matters of common interest and promote good practice in occupational health across the industry.

The remit of the group and its guidance covers all aspects of the energy industry, including generation, transmission, and distribution to retail and supply. The group is heavily involved in the preparation of guidance notes for the industry.

Industry guidance notes

Health professionals retain an individual responsibility to act in accordance with appropriate professional standards and ethics. The guidance notes provide general advice to industry managers, employees and occupational health professionals and should be interpreted in light of local circumstances. Guidance is offered in good faith and neither the individual members of OHAG, the companies they support, Energy Networks Association or Energy UK can accept any liability for actions taken as a result of using the guidance.

A range of guidance notes can be found in the Resource library.