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May 2, 2012

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Utilities sector signs up to street-works safety

Transport minister Norman Baker MP has launched an industry-led charter to improve the safety of street works.

The brainchild of organisations in the utilities sector, including contractors, the Safe Dig Charter has been created to ensure the highest standards of safety and best practice when carrying out maintenance work on underground services. In particular, it should help those carrying out such work avoid disrupting supplies through accidental strikes on utilities in the ground.

The charter should ensure that any work carried out is both properly planned and only undertaken by competent professionals.

It also ensures that excavations are carried out in accordance with safe systems of work; the equipment provided is inspected, calibrated and tested in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements and records are kept; the correct protective equipment is used; the latest utility asset drawings are available to people excavating; and all work is inspected.

David Smith, chief executive of the Energy Networks Association (ENA), which helped facilitate the development and launch of the charter, said: “Delivering a safe working environment and protecting existing infrastructure are critical to successful street works. In an Olympic year, and with ever-increasing pressure on utilities to replace ageing infrastructure in crowded urban environments, this is even more important.”

David Burgess, group health and safety manager of North Midland Construction plc, one of the contractors involved in developing the charter, added: “As an industry, we have a responsibility to ensure all those working on the vital services provided for the public are competent, properly trained and have access to the right equipment.

“Health and safety must be paramount to every company working where this level of risk exists. This charter is the result of significant work by stakeholders across the industry to share best practice and ensure the whole industry commits to reducing risk to individuals and the supplies of homes and communities.”

Launching the charter, Mr Baker commented: “I know how frustrating it is when road works cause unnecessary disruption and delays, or worse, when lanes are coned off with no explanation of why no work is taking place. It is not just inconvenient but expensive, costing the economy £4 billion a year.

“The launch of the charter is important, as it will help reduce delays to the travelling public, while improving standards within the industry.”

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