We need an urgent national plan on electrical safety

News: With the increasing access to electricity, the issue of electricity accidents must be addressed. National or State policies or programs do not provide targets or specific resource allocation for safety, at present.

Nearly all households have an electricity connection, as per reports. However, a small portion of the allocation to the electricity sector is spent on safety kits or training of staff.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau data, the rate of deaths (per lakh population) due to electric shocks and fires has steadily increased from 2,957 deaths and 0.36 deaths per lakh population in 1990 to 15,258 deaths and 1.13 deaths per lakh population in 2020.

Central Electricity Authority (CEA) data also suggest the same findings as above.

In many developed countries, the number of deaths has been reducing over the years and the deaths per lakh population is around 0.03 or lower.

Over 90% of the people who die due to electrical accidents are the general public. Thus, the safety of the general public must be the top priority.

What are the major factors behind electricity shocks?

  1. Most fatalities occur at distribution networks (specifically 11 kV and Low-Tension systems) and Low-Tension consumer locations and therefore need higher attention.
  2. Accidental contact with live conductors is the immediate cause of accidents.
  3. Electrical faults, due to Poor design, construction, inadequate maintenance, etc. account for around 12% of the accidents.
  4. There is no mechanism to ensure that safety regulations prepared by the CEA are followed. For example, distribution companies are expected to have safety officers and conduct periodic safety audits.
  5. Revenue collection and fault repairs are given higher priorities by the companies.
  6. Electrical inspectors are supposed to conduct inquiries on accidents, but they are heavily understaffed.
  7. The focus of safety professionals is on industrial safety, and not on safety aspects of the rural public.
  8. Many well-meaning grass-root organizations focus on ensuring ex gratia for accident victims, not on accident prevention.

What should be done?

Electricity safety can be handled only through coordinated action involving all stakeholders.

The current safety regulatory mechanism can be strengthened through the following provisions:

  • Better data collection,
  • Introducing safety aspects in national programs,
  • Strengthening safety institutions,
  • Developing safety metrics for distribution companies,
  • Involving the public and professionals in safety initiatives and
  • Utilizing technological innovations

A national program to reduce electrical accidents in the distribution sector should be implemented, with sufficient resource allocation.

There should be sufficient resource allocation and robust monitoring and verification mechanism.

Source: This post is created based on the article “We need an urgent national plan on electrical safety”, published in The Hindu on 4th July, 2022.

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