- Mention about the rising deaths from electrical accidents.
- Mention the lapses & measures for safety checks.
There has been significant growth in of the Indian power sector. Nearly all households have an electricity connection, amid promises of providing 24×7 electrical supply and achieving net zero emissions by 2070. While these are commendable, there are also many problems that the sector faces, electrical accidents being a tragic one.
It is unfortunate that the increasing rate of electrical accidents is a problem that has not received sufficient attention. National or State policies or programmes do not provide targets or specific resource allocation for safety. In some cases where resource is allocated, it is under-utilised or a small portion is spent on staff for safety kits or training.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the number of fatalities and
rate of deaths (per lakh population) due to electric shocks and fires has been steadily increasing over the years, from 2,957 deaths and 0.36 deaths per lakh population in 1990, it has increased to 15,258 deaths and 1.13 deaths per lakh population in 2020.
It is worth mentioning that in many developed countries, the number of deaths has been reducing over the years and the deaths per lakh population is 0.03 or lower. From the analysis of available data, it appears that over 90% general people die due to electrical accidents. Hence, any attempt to reduce such accidents must prioritise the safety of general public.
Geographically, most electrical accidents are taking place in rural areas, but considering the rapid urbanisation, poor urban localities need attention too. Most fatalities occur at distribution network (specifically 11 kV and Low-Tension systems) and Low-Tension consumer locations, needing higher attention.
- Electrocution due to accidental contact with live conductors is the immediate cause for accidents.
- The second major reason is fire due to electrical faults, which accounts for around 12% of the accidents. Poor design, construction, inadequate maintenance & protection systems and lack of safety awareness are some root causes.
Safety checks and balances
There are safety regulations prepared by the CEA, which all electricity utilities are expected to follow. But there is no mechanism to ensure that utilities are following them.
- For example, distribution companies are expected to have safety officers and conduct periodic safety audits. These are not done because revenue collection and fault repairs get higher priorities, besides being heavily under-staffed.
- As for safety professionals, their focus is on industrial safety, and not on safety of the rural public, and not on accident prevention.
- Electricity safety is a public interest challenge, which can be met only through coordinated action involving all stakeholders.
- The implementation of the current safety regulatory regime can be significantly tightened through better data collection, introducing safety aspects in national programmes, strengthening safety institutions, developing safety metric for distribution companies, involving public and professionals in safety initiatives and utilising technological innovations.
The need of the hour is a national programme to reduce electrical accidents in the
distribution sector, with clear scope of work, sufficient resource allocation and robust
monitoring and verification mechanism. States could identify districts which have reported high accidents in the past few years and formulate a programme to reduce accidents. Only such measures can ensure not only universal, affordable and good quality, but also safe electrical supply.