This industry has been experiencing a decline in its electrical safety culture for some years now. More and more trust has been placed on subcontractors’ expertise, and briefings and orientation have been reduced due to tight schedules. Subcontractors have been tasked with more jobs and responsibility over their own safety. They have even purchased voltage detector to ensure their own safety in demolition projects. Little by little, this has led to a scenario where expert electricians’ tasks have become the responsibility of subcontractors. As a result, there has been a notable decline in electrical safety. Examples of problematic scenarios include working too close to energized overhead lines, insufficient attention to safety when electricity networks have left to be torn down and cables installed in violation of the instructions, for example, too low installation depth.
Voimatel Oy became aware of this decline in safety a few years ago. We were determined to start improving electrical safety right then, and our goal has been to improve electrical safety within Voimatel Oy and for our subcontractors.
From an electrical safety standpoint, operations are safe when grids are built according to standards and guidelines and work methods follow the SFS 6002 electrical safety standard.
However, this isn’t always the case. To remedy the situation, we started to examine electrical hazard scenarios with the same methods that we use to investigate any workplace accident. Electrical accidents are, fortunately, so rare that it would take an unacceptably long time to develop and improve electrical safety only by analyzing such incidents. The aim of thoroughly reviewing dangerous situations and accidents is to find the root causes for issues and to use them as a starting point for developing our work methods and procedures further to ensure a safer work environment.
Based on our findings, we have made improvements in our project planning, work, and orientation guidelines to improve electrical safety at our construction and demolition sites. We have also discussed the findings with our clients and suggested some amendments to their processes.
The ultimate goal in these efforts to improve electrical safety is to cement a safe model of operations across the production chain, from earthwork subcontractors to distribution network electricians and grid users. Distribution network electricians, for example, prepare sites for ordinary person´s demolition work. These types of demolition sites require extreme caution so that ordinary person may handle the rest of the demolition safely. The expertise of electricians is taken for granted all too often, but maintaining an expert skill set means constantly re-educating oneself, also regarding safety. It is wonderful that our clients have noticed our efforts to improve everyone’s safety.
– It’s everyone’s right to come home from work in full health and duty to ensure that no harm or danger befalls any third parties or coworkers due to our work. It’s been a joy to see that Voimatel is taking workplace safety and quality concerns very seriously when building grids for Caruna. At our sites, this can be seen in more comprehensive briefings, carefully planned work, improved ground plans, and positive findings when inspecting completed work. I’m sure a lot of effort and well-thought-out procedures went into developing these aspects, says Caruna Oy’s District Manager Olli Kujanperä.
Furthermore, the proper briefing of subcontractors is a significant factor in producing successful outcomes. The foundation for safety is laid by providing clear guidelines and boundaries regarding the tasks that subcontractors may handle and tasks that only electricians should work on. These matters are discussed at site briefings.
Cable installation is electrical work, so we require all of our cable placement contractors to have the expertise mandated by law for building electrical distribution networks.
– We’re on the right track, but there’s still work to be done to reach a situation where zero workplace accidents occur and to improve the quality of work even more. Going through a daily risk assessment with the on-site crew before starting work is a key requirement at any Caruna site. We’ve seen that there is still room for improvement in this respect, and I believe that this is the next step in moving towards zero workplace accidents. When you’re building a power grid, the grid has to be safe now and also in the future. We still find fluctuations in cable depth when we measure our lines. This detail deserves more attention in the field, notes Kujanperä.
Our aim is to increase safety consciousness both in our own personnel and among subcontractors. That is something we constantly strive towards. The theme, in short, is to always think first and then act in a safe manner.
With eyes towards a safer future,
Electrical contractor’s electrical work supervisor at Voimatel Oy