Major Initiative to Reduce Frequency and Costs of Service Strikes

In a quest to reduce strikes on underground services, the Highway Electrical Association’s Safety and Training Committees have agreed to initiate a major initiative through the Highway Electrical Sector Academy (HESA).

The ‘Avoiding Danger from Underground Services’ course has been developed and piloted with the particular help of two HEA Member organisations, and was reviewed and further refined following discussions with specialist loss adjustors, Buckley Scott.  In addition, the course provides underpinning knowledge for the Highway Electrical Registration Scheme (HERS).

The serious impact of the issue of underground strikes and the need for such a course was highlighted when monitoring figures indicated that a service strike takes place every 15 minutes.  The average cost of a service strike is approximately £1000, costing the industry many millions of pounds a year.  In addition, it has come to light that excesses on insurance policies can be higher than the average cost of repairing a service strike, resulting in most strikes not actually being covered by insurance. Not forgetting of course, the injuries sustained and the human cost to both employees and their families due to incidents of underground strikes.

The design of this new training course means it can be delivered in one day, allowing organisations time to tailor a second day for particular requirements relating to their situations.  The elements of the course include:

1.    Sections from the Breaking New Ground video, produced by HTMA (Highway Term Maintenance Association) and Working Well Together, to reinforce and illustrate safe working practices and the consequences of striking underground services
2.    A significant level of interaction with group exercises
3.    A unique learner assessment booklet which provides evidence of learning as the course progresses
4.    A considerable section set aside for practical sessions and assessment on site.

The effective delivery of the course relies on drawings of services being available for the concluding practical sessions allowing for the knowledge delivered on the course to be applied in a controlled and realistic way.

Tony Page, HEA Head of Learning and Development, commented: “This marks a significant step forward in ensuring consistency of training that covers all the key elements of a safe system of work and which, when properly applied, should contribute to minimising the occurrence of incidents.”

This new course is available to all HESA Approved Training Organisations who can demonstrate that they meet the required criteria, and a number of ‘train-the-trainer’ sessions have been held across the UK.  A list of around 25 accredited HESA Approved Training Organisations can be found on the HERS website at .

Criteria for approved trainers includes:

·      occupationally competent
·      trained in adult education (minimum Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector-PTLLS)
·      required to have an appropriate H&S qualification
·      required to have an appropriate First Aid qualification
·      registered to HERS for site  activities (training and assessment)
·      required to have evidence of mandatory CPD and updating sessions
·      audited through the HESA, reporting back to Lantra Awards   

All HESA Approved Trainers are issued with identity cards annually.  Tony Page said: “The HESA-Lantra Awards Approved Training system is the industry standard of education for the sector.  The approved training organisations are subject to strict criteria, as some of the training delivered may fall under Ofqual’s connected provision requirements.  All the procedures and requirements are covered both by our own ISO9001 procedures, and also by the Awarding Body requirements.

“This particular course sets a consistent training standard across the industry, and allows organisations to undertake the NRSWA assessments should this be applicable,” Tony added.

Commenting on the Avoiding Danger from Underground Services course, Gareth Pritchard, HEA Chief Executive, stated: “The format of this course has been developed in response to demand from HEA members and industry experts have been involved in producing this benchmark for training.  The details of this course and its assessment have been made available to the HSE to be considered in their review of HSG 47, which is taking place at the moment.

Gareth continued: “The combination of the Highway Electrical Training Specification Course 202, together with the on site assessments of competence required under HERS, is an assurance to clients that all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure safety on site when working near underground services.  Whilst we’re pleased with the development of this initiative, the HEA Safety Committee will continue to keep the issue of avoiding danger from underground service strikes on its agenda.”

Further details on the HERS scheme and the HE Training Specification are available from the HERS website at .  Further details on HERS and HESA Approved Training Organisations can be found at

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