Health & Safety

article icon

BT WITHOD - Safety Belt and Lighting Kit

28 March 2009

Members of the CWU Telecoms and Financial Services Health and Safety team, along with local branch safety representatives recently attended a meeting to examine the effectiveness of the current "Working In the Hours of Darkness" (WITHOD) lighting kit in 'real-life' situations.

They observed two engineers pole climbing, working from ladders and carrying out cabinet and underground work to assess the effectiveness of the equipment in varying degrees of low ambient light. The meeting was also to consider the effectiveness of a commercially available product that BT might be considering as a replacement to the current lighting kit.

Several issues were highlighted and subsequently brought to the attention of the Openreach National safety team:

  • No risk assessment has ever been undertaken for the use of the Safety Belt No 11 in terms of working in low ambient lighting.
  • There appeared to be some problems around the process and ability to undertake a full visual check of the belt and lanyard when aloft.
  • Due to the fact that the Safety Belt No 11 was not in use when the WITHOD kit was assessed there has not been any assessment of the safe working practices for using WITHOD kit in conjunction with the Safety Belt No 11.

Since the CWU contacted Openreach regarding these issues the company is now reviewing the training and delivery of WITHOD. A review of the current GRA (General Risk Assessment) has already been undertaken, the next steps in the review are:

  • Demonstrate the WITHOD working practices to the CWU
  • Agree training module and delivery vehicle
  • Assess requirement for training and kitting
  • Deliver training to appropriate people

Openreach have issued a briefing stating that:

"While we are reviewing the current working practices and because of the possible serious implications to our employees, contractors, and members of the public it is mandatory for all engineers who climb in the hours of darkness always to carry out a full on-site risk assessment before continuing to climb. If you are in any doubt regarding the assessment i.e. you cannot identify if any of the wires are below 5.2 Metres, cannot carry out a pole test in accordance with normal climbing requirements or are in any doubt about any other risks identified due to climbing in the dark, then do not climb."