Working near to underground services
Underground service cables, especially cables containing electricity and gas, can be extremely dangerous.
Cables that are damaged from excavation or penetration of the ground (e.g. by a road pin) can cause serious injury.
- Damage to electricity cables can cause a dangerous flash, leading to severe burns or even death.
- Damage to gas pipes can cause gas leaks leading to fire and explosion.
Underground services may be commonly found in roads, footpaths, on sites or across open land. Always assume that they are present and treat any cable as 'live'.
Be aware that one service can often be mistaken for another, leading to dangeous sitautions, for example:
- Black plastic covered electricity cables can look like plastic water pipes.
- Cast iron gas can look like water mains.
Always check before you act!
Health and safety guidance
Please read health and safety executive guidance document HS(G)47 'Avoiding Danger from Underground Services' before commencing work on site; providing excellent detailed advice on staying safe from the hazard of underground services.
Download this leaflet free of charge from the HSE website
Before starting work you must:
- read our safety guidance leaflet;
- make sure you have plans of the underground services in the area which may not always be possible for emergency or unforeseen works.
Remember that service connection cables from the main to a building or a street lamp may not be shown.
To obtain plans of our network phone us on 0800 195 4749 or email: [email protected]
When you start work:
- always hand dig near to services using spades and shovels as opposed to picks, pins or forks.
- make sure that cables or pipes embedded in concrete are made 'dead' before the concrete is broken out or another safe way of working agreed with the cable owner.
Services are sometimes protected by concrete polythene or earthenware tiles or a marker tape may be laid above the service - this is a useful indication of the presence of the service, you should avoid disturbing any tile or tape to expose the service if possible.
There are however, many services in existence that have no tiles, tapes or other physical indication of their
View our Guidance for Electrical Contractors