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The UK power utilities industry is in a period of significant change. The disruption caused is impacting all areas of the industry from the asset-heavy generation and transmission companies through to the competitive retail channels and is creating an extremely difficult climate for investment.

So, what does this tough business environment then mean for health and safety?

While accident levels in the industry are broadly in line with other UK sectors such as manufacturing or construction, fatality rates over the past five years are almost double. Will the tendency be to kick the health and safety can down the road or recognise that current systems are no longer fit for purpose and greater investment is required?

What is happening in the power utilities sector that is creating health and safety challenges?

* The ageing workforce is leading to a skills and experience shortfall as well as an increase in the number of contractors, thereby, introducing complexity to the supply chain. ISO 45001 will exacerbate this as the legal and moral obligation of companies is extended to the whole supply chain including contractors:

* Ageing assets and infrastructure with some older assets exceeding usable design life;

* The introduction of new technologies such as renewables, often from smaller companies with different working procedures, which is fragmenting the supply chain.

This fragmentation and increased complexity requires greater oversight of the supply chain yet many systems are still paper-based (e.g. incident reporting/analysis and permit to work).

Taking permit to work as an example, industry players have invested significantly in developing successful health and safety policies and supporting procedures, and permits to work have become extremely sophisticated in their design.

However, the inherent limitations of a manual, paper-based process have always resulted in a disconnect between those well designed, well intended policies and procedures and what’s actually happening on the ground, leaving workers unprotected and Duty holders exposed.

Digitalisation of permit to work reduces the disconnect between policy, procedure and what’s happening on the ground by automating procedures to reflect policy and rules in day-to-day activity. This includes: managing RAMS; checking for adequate insurance; checking competences and training; and emulating agreed decision-making scenarios, thereby, highlighting clashes and providing complete transparency across large and disparate portfolios.

Health and safety in power utilities should not be viewed as out of sight, out of mind. Now is the time for proactive action and investment, not reactive public relations.

Download our exclusive report to fully understand the impact of disruptive change on health and safety, particularly within the asset-based power utilities sector, and in light of the already fragmented and increasingly complex supply chain.

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