SSEN urges diggers to think deep this festive season

Image of blue boots digging a spade into soil - IStock purchased

"Can I dig it?" is the question Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) wants everyone to ask themselves before they begin excavation work.

As the holiday celebrations get underway, people up and down the country are installing and erecting Christmas decorations, including some public Christmas trees. Anyone putting a spade in the ground could potentially strike an underground cable, running the risk of serious injury (or worse) and putting the power off in their local community.

Since the start of the year, SSEN, the company responsible for the electricity network across the north of Scotland and central southern England, has been called out to over 400 incidents where underground cables have been struck by members of the public whilst digging.

Thankfully not every incident involved an injury to the person at the other end of the tool, but striking a cable carrying anything up to 33,000 Volts could result in some very serious consequences. In many locations, community volunteers are assisting in installing this year’s festive decorations and, in some areas, not realising the dangers that lie beneath.

To prevent injuries and power cuts, SSEN is urging everyone planning on doing some digging to carry out a full risk assessment before they start. Solid guidance regarding safe digging techniques is available on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Kelvin Somers, SSEN’s Networks Safety Advisor, said:

"With volunteers up and down the country ensuring their local areas are fully prepared for the Christmas celebrations, we want to make sure that they enjoy the festive preparations and not put themselves and others at risk by striking one of our cables. We also want to ensure that companies using larger digging machinery are mindful of the need to carry out a full risk assessment and check the underground situation before they start their work.

"Digging can sometimes cause aches and pains, but it’s often forgotten that it can also be potentially deadly if you strike an underground electric cable. We want to help ensure our customers stay safe, so we are asking them to follow the guidance provided by the Health and Safety Executive before they put a spade in the ground."

For more information, contact SSEN's General Enquiries team by visiting or calling 0800 048 3516.

About the author

Van on rural road

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

We're responsible for maintaining the electricity networks supplying over 3.8 million homes and businesses across central southern England and north of the Central Belt of Scotland. We own one electricity transmission network and two electricity distribution networks, comprising 106,000 substations and 130,000 km of overhead lines and underground cables across one third of the UK. Our first priority is to provide a safe and reliable supply of electricity to the communities we serve in Scotland and England.

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