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How electricity fault workers have kept the lights on throughout the pandemic

PUBLISHED: 15:07 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:24 08 July 2020

Fault workers at UK Power Networks have worked relentlessly throughout the pandemic. Picture: UK Power Networks

Fault workers at UK Power Networks have worked relentlessly throughout the pandemic. Picture: UK Power Networks

UK Power Networks

A Hornchurch jointer tells of working throughout lockdown for electricity key workers, keeping the power flowing during the coronavirus pandemic.

Steve Wood from Hornchurch says the hardest part of his job is still working through a storm. Picture: Steve WoodSteve Wood from Hornchurch says the hardest part of his job is still working through a storm. Picture: Steve Wood

NHS and transport staff’s experience of working through lockdown has been well-documented and applauded - and rightly so - but keeping our lights on and taps running also has meant staff have been venturing out and putting themselves at risk too.

Steve Wood is based in Purfleet and works as a jointer repairing underground electricity cables on the network, serving thousands of customers across Havering and Essex

For Steve, his military training as a former soldier has helped him stay focused and continue with “business as usual”.

He says: “For me it hasn’t felt like a pandemic. I haven’t really experienced what 90-odd per cent of other people have staring at the walls at home, because my job working on the electricity network is deemed essential so I’ve just kept on going to work and it’s been business as usual really.

“We did a lot of work during the lockdown period to ensure everything stayed safe and reliable on the network.

“When anyone goes off power we work quickly and safely to restore their supplies, and there has been a real focus on places like care homes in recent months so that vulnerable customers are protected.”

Do people realise that your job is essential?

“I think a lot of people maybe take electricity for granted and forget how much they rely on it, but I have felt we have been appreciated a bit more during the pandemic. There was one Thursday night we restored supply in Billericay about five minutes before the clap for carers at 8pm and the whole street out clapping shouted out praise for us, too, which meant a lot to hear. I think people understand that we are key workers now.”

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How have you coped with the challenge of working in a pandemic?

“I used to be in the army, I was in the infantry until 2013. I started at UK Power Networks as an adult trainee without any skills and have worked my way up to being a team leader. It can be difficult to find a new role after leaving the military, but I’ve found some similarity in the command structure of this job and like the fact you’re working in a team to achieve a positive outcome.

“I did tours of Afghanistan and that was like a pandemic every day. You go through some testing times in the army. It gives you a mental strength and a sense of perspective at any time of crisis.”

Has the pandemic affected your job?

“There have been challenges in recent months, but for me the toughest period for us is still a storm – that’s when the adrenaline kicks in as you have to clear a high number of faults often in tough weather conditions.”

How have your colleagues fared?

“I’m also a union rep and for me this pandemic has seen me busier in that regard than ever before in terms of talking to and reassuring colleagues. What I will say is this company has been fantastic in maintaining our safety, whenever the government guidance changed we reacted straight away and everyone knew what was happening.

“Everyone here at Purfleet depot has worked really hard to keep coming into work and keep the lights on.”

UK Power Networks is the country’s biggest electricity distributor, making sure the lights stay on for more than eight million homes and businesses across London, the South East and the East of England.

Network operators aren’t the same as energy suppliers; network operators manage local power lines and substations, while energy suppliers sell the electricity that runs through the power lines.

In the event of a power cut, you would call UK Power Networks on 105 for help and support. Keeping the power flowing is essential for homes and businesses in the region qualifying staff as key workers.


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