Safe working practices
A safe working environment is a prerequisite for a safe infrastructure. We work according to the protocols of the VIAG (safety instructions for energy companies when working with natural gas) and BEI (safety instructions for working on and close to electrical installations). Alliander ensures that its employees are fully aware of the role that safety plays in their work. In 2019, Alliander’s Life Saving Rules were once again reviewed. To ensure that the same rules apply throughout the company, our updated Life Saving Rules were launched on our Safety Day, which was held on 20 March 2019. These rules provide clarity and consistency when it comes to safety and are aimed at preventing safety incidents.
In 2019 our employees were issued new workwear. The new clothing is safer, more comfortable, and fully circular. The workwear meets the standard for arc flash resistance clothing, has uniform colours, and can be worn in different seasons and under various weather conditions. The clothing was tested and improved during a ‘wear test’, a period of several months during which fifty technicians worked wearing the new protective clothing.
Exposure to hazardous substances
In our activities, there is the risk that employees may come into contact with hazardous substances. From a study conducted in 2018 by testing institute KIWA it emerged that gas escapes can result in soil becoming contaminated with benzene. We have since drawn up new work instructions aimed at protecting employees. In 2019, additional research was carried out on behalf of Netbeheer Nederland (the association of electricity and gas grid operators in the Netherlands) to further determine the risks for employees, the local community, and the environment. One of the findings of the study was that benzene is released more frequently in gas escapes than previously assumed, namely in eight out of ten of these escapes. The degree of contamination and exposure to benzene during gas leak repairs is limited and far below the regulatory levels. The study also shows that the contamination incidents do not lead to risks for the employees who repair the gas leaks nor for those in the vicinity of the gas escape.
In 2018, it became clear that coating containing hexavalent chromium (chromium-6) had been used on a number of TenneT’s high-voltage pylons, including on pylons on which Qirion employees work. We requested TenneT’s cooperation in looking into this matter. We also set up a study group to determine which assets had been protected using coating containing chromium-6 as well as the measures that need to be taken to ensure employees can work on these assets safely. For the sake of the health of our employees, it is important to identify all assets on which coating containing chromium-6 was used. This has resulted in more rigorous work instructions. In 2019, we carried out additional testing and it emerged from various samples that coating containing chromium-6 had been used in the past, though we did not detect a trend in its use. Assets from a wide range of suppliers and from all periods were seen to contain chromium-6. In addition to testing for chromium-6, we tested for lead in the coatings. Repeated exposure to lead can also damage a person’s health. Virtually all layers of coating contain lead to a greater or lesser extent. Employees are given access to information on where coatings containing lead and/or chromium-6 have been used and how to handle these assets safely.
In August 2019, asbestos was found in the meter closets in the common areas of six connected flat complexes in Rotterdam. The asbestos likely came from the sealant used by fitters in the 1960s to make steel threaded joints for pipework gas-tight. It is possible that this type of fitters’ sealant was also used in Liander’s service area. We have prepared a work instruction stating how field engineers are to handle joints where hemp-sealant dating from before 1978 has been used. In order to ensure that our engineers are not exposed to asbestos, the old joints are not loosened as long as these may possibly be contaminated with asbestos. It has also been decided that pipework with these joints may no longer be brushed or sanded. Scheduled work on older gas pipelines will be delayed. Thanks to a (temporary) alternative method, indoor gas pipework can be repaired without this requiring sanding or sawing the joints.
Impact of environmental issues
In 2019, environmental issues arose at national level that impacted our work and our ability to complete our work package, most notably the issues of nitrogen and PFAS.
PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) is the collective name for thousands of man-made substances that do not occur naturally. If the concentration of these substances in soil is above a certain level, measures must be taken and the soil may not simply be transported, dumped or used on land. This complicates all sorts of earth-moving activities. This issue has hardly had any impact on our projects since the permitted level of PFAS was increased. Liander always works carefully with regard to earth-moving activities and early in 2019 had already taken internal precautionary measures around PFAS, setting up soil sampling to test for PFAS in order to protect employees working with soil for example.
In 2019, eight projects related to the construction, replacement or maintenance of our networks were affected by the Dutch nitrogen crisis. Besides this, the crisis has had an indirect impact, because new construction projects have come to a halt for example. We are particularly concerned about this indirect impact. To determine the impact of the nitrogen issue on Alliander projects and to provide an action framework for the future, an ‘issue team’ was formed at Alliander in October 2019.
Lost Time Injury Frequency
Lost Time Injury Frequency (LTIF) expresses the number of accidents resulting in sickness absence per one million worked hours. The LTIF in 2019 was 2.1, meaning higher than the LTIF in 2018 (1.4). The largest part of the increase compared with 2018 can be attributed to the number of traffic accidents that occurred in the reporting year (2019: 9, 2018: 0). In 2019 there were no major safety incidents involving electricity and gas.