Energy worker survey exposes doubt about resilience

24 March 2020

A survey of Prospect members in the energy supply industry has revealed a widespread lack of faith in energy companies’ workforce resilience plans.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic UK energy sector employers are preparing contingency measures to make sure the lights stay on during these difficult times.

Prospect union represents thousands of engineers and other skilled workers in the energy sector.

The survey which had more than 1,000 responses, showed that less than half of respondents (48%) were confident in the resilience measures that their employers were putting in place.

In the electricity distribution networks, the figures were disturbingly low, with less than one-in-four respondents at some distribution network operators expressing confidence in their employer’s resilience planning. A significant proportion still remain unaware of what has been put in place.

Less than half of respondents (46%) said their employer was taking adequate steps to reduce physical contact in the workplace, and only 5% said there were plans to halt non-essential capital projects.

Many respondents were also unsure about the adequate provision of essential personal protective equipment (PPE) in their workplace. In response to a question on PPE shortages, only 41% said there were currently no shortages, while 14% said there were, and 45% said they were unsure if there were shortages.

Sue Ferns, Prospect senior deputy general secretary, said:

“Prospect’s poll of members has uncovered some areas of concern which the energy supply industry must account for. While it does not necessarily follow that a lack of confidence among workers means the correct action is not being taken, it does not inspire confidence that workforce resilience is as robust as it should be.

“Our members are providing a vital service keeping the lights on. They must be adequately protected from corona virus. Both through PPE and social distancing measures, but they also need to know that if the workforce is reduced it can still function within acceptable safety parameters.

“Employers in the sector need to be explicit with unions and with all their workers what steps they are taking to protect them. We need to work together on this to ensure vital infrastructure operates as normally as possible while looking after the workforce.”