The government’s decision to change the colours of electrical wiring is going to cause confusion. To avoid risks, Shepherd Engineering Services has introduced safety guidelines

Safer wiring

When the government announced back in 2004 that it would be changing the colours of electrical wiring to harmonise with Europe, the news was not exactly headline grabbing. With a grace period of two years, during which installations could adhere to either the old or the new Requirement for Electrical Installations, many companies saw no need to hurry to change cables.

But now, perhaps unsurprisingly, the installations sector and its clients have found themselves with a new safety risk. Someone going to adapt wiring may not know which set guidance has been followed, and with blue signifying either neutral or live, depending on which rules are followed, this could have dangerous consequences.

M&E firm Shepherd Engineering Services has been quick to spot the risks. To avoid confusion, the firm has introduced a set of clauses to its contracts clearly stating which regulations are to be followed, and has launched a comprehensive information campaign to aid workers and end users alike.

To clarify the situation with its clients, SES has added a clause to its purchase orders clearly stating which version of the standards the firm is using on any given project. A clause was also added to all enquiry documents sent out to subcontractors, stating the firm’s intention to begin using the new colours. To assist the end user, manuals will be provided clearly stating which wiring has been used during the crossover phase, and providing information on how modifications should be carried out and recorded.

To aid those on the front line, SES has developed a guidance package for workers on its schemes. All site operatives receive an introductory talk, and are provided with a wallet-sized laminated card showing the new colours. A poster campaign is also being enforced on the company’s sites.

As a final safeguard, SES has produced warning notices and stickers to attach to any area where there is an interface between old and new wiring standards. The warning notices are affixed to the wiring, clearly stating that care should be taken in wiring identification.

SES is implementing the safety measures on its Darlington Education Village project. The scheme is being completed using new wiring standards, and SES’ safety measures have ensured maximum understanding between the company, suppliers and its workers.

HSE guidance for workers returning from work after extended sickness

The HSE is recommending that trade union representatives be asked to look after workers returning from long-term sickness. It has published a guide outlining the actions that trade union representatives can take. These include:

  • suggesting the development of workplace policies for managing sickness absence;
  • keeping workers who are off sick in contact

with work;

  • helping to plan adjustments to enable a return to work;
  • helping to promote understanding of ill health and disability.

Hugh Robertson, head of health and safety at the TUC and a member of the Health and Safety Commission, said that the guide would be invaluable, given that one in five of those who are absent for more than six weeks ends up leaving work permanently.

Robertson said: “This guide will help union safety representatives show employers that taking a positive approach to managing sickness absence and supporting workers in getting back to work is in everyone’s interest. Safety representatives will very much welcome this practical advice.”