Electricity supply industry sees zero fatalities in five years


The year has started strongly for safety in the electrical industry with the release of the Electricity Supply Industry (ESI) Workplace Health and Safety Statistics 2018/19 by the Electricity Engineers Association.

“There have been no fatalities for five consecutive years, and overall safety performance is ahead of WorkSafe benchmarks and continues to improve – the strongest improvement being in the distribution sector,” says Peter Berry, chief executive of the EEA.

“The work on safety leadership, critical risks, standardising of work processes, growing collaboration, and information sharing are initiatives have helped drive these safety improvements,” says Peter. “But while the signs are positive, given the high hazard nature of our industry, we need to continue to be vigilant, stay focused and remain in a state of ‘chronic unease’ around safety.

“The report is a key part of our collaborative monitoring of safety performance, and enables sector and company comparisons,” he said.

This year’s 17-page report analyses the data from 38 asset companies from across the industry for trends in incident rates, severity rates, critical risk events, public safety, auditing and corrective actions, drug and alcohol testing, and health and safety visits by senior leaders. The following narrative discusses several parts of the full report.

Incident rates for the industry

Since 2009 there has been a rapid decline in incidence of harm, although this plateaus from around 2013. This means that while as an industry we easily achieved our interim target of a 10% reduction by 2016, it is less clear whether we will achieve or sustain our 2020 target to reduce harm by 25% (see figure 1 below).

Comparing identified significant events involving Critical Risks with actual outcomes

“This is the second year that we have collected significant event data, and it has helped us to review the ESI Critical Risks,” says James Dodwell, Principal Advisor – Health & Safety at the EEA. “We are now currently consulting on a paper on proposed changes to better support industry’s focus on the right risks.

“The good news is that the report shows us that we have pretty good visibility over several ESI Critical Risks, which is reflected in the relatively high reporting of potential harm events compared with actual harm events, particularly for electricity and driving,” says James. “The not-so-good news is that for several ESI Critical Risks the number of potential and actual serious harm events are close or identical (work-related ill-health, confined spaces and traffic management), so we may not be seeing the full picture of potentially harmful events. This could be that such events aren’t occurring, but equally it may mean that those events are not being reported, or that workers are not recognising such events for what they are.”

Leading indicators

The report revealed an increase of 51% in audits for the industry. Distribution companies, particularly those small-sized, showed the highest rate of activity in this area.

The number of health and safety visits by executives and general managers remained consistent with last year, and despite a small reduction in the number of site visits for the small distribution companies, they continue to be the most active in this area.

“If sustained, the improving performance in this area for distribution will help them stay on top of critical risks and to achieve the low incident rates seen for generation and transmission,” said James.

  • The industry has experienced no fatalities for five consecutive years.
  • The industry’s TRIFR decreased by 19% in 2018/19, compared to 2017/18. All distribution and generation sectors experienced a year to year decrease in TRIFR. A 17% increase in TRIFR was experienced across the transmission sector.
  • In 2018/19, the industry’s LTIs per 200,000 hours worked was below both its 2016 and 2020 targets, with the three-year moving average trending consistently below 1.0.
  • All sectors are below their LTIFR targets for 2020.
  • All distribution companies had a strong improvement in overall severity rate compared to last year, with medium and large sized distribution companies experiencing the lowest rate over the last four years.