Working near power lines: What you need to know

Any work undertaken near live overhead electric lines carries the risk of electric shock. Touching a live overhead line with any part of the body, tools or any other equipment can cause serious injury and even fatality.

Make sure that you and your team are aware of the following steps that can be taken to manage the risk of an electric shock.

Forward planning is essential. Before work starts, the person in control should:

  • Identify all overhead electric lines in the area where work will be carried out and identify any potential hazards
  • Assess the risk of harm
  • Eliminate the risk of electric shock by disconnecting the electricity supply to the overhead lines
  • Minimise if you are not able to disconnect the electrical supply then implement other controls such as insulation. 

You must prepare a SWMS before work starts and make sure it includes all the potential hazards and expected controls. Collaborate with your workers in developing the SWMS, ensuring they understand how the task is to be performed.

Eliminating the risk of electric shock

Disconnecting the electric supply

The safest option to eliminate the risk of electric shock is to temporarily disconnect a property’s electricity supply from the electricity distribution lines so that the overhead line to the property is no longer live. 

Keep people informed so they can plan ahead

Find out who needs to know that the electricity supply will be temporarily disconnected. Such as:

  • The property owner
  • People working on-site
  • Other businesses working at the site – in this case, businesses must use the 3 C’s – consult, cooperate and coordinate activities to manage the shared health and safety risks. You can read more about this in our blog ‘Overlapping Duties: Working with other businesses’ 

Anyone who could be affected by the disconnection of the electricity supply should be told:

  • How long the power will be off
  • Who will be affected and when
  • What will be done to ensure that the power is off for as short a time as possible?


Safe Approach Distances (SADs)

If work needs to take place near an overhead electric line then the worker’s body, their tools, and their equipment must be kept a safe distance away from the overhead line, or else the electrical supply must be disconnected by the approved electrical supplier. This is known as the safe approach distance, or SAD.

More information on Safe Approach Distances can be found on your state Regulator’s website or contacting the energy supplier.

Keeping you and your team safe at work is a priority, so make sure you are aware of the requirements of working near power lines. The HazardCo App Site Review resource has a list of electrical controls that should be in place to mitigate the risk of electrical hazards. If in doubt, you can give our team of Health and Safety Advisors a call on 1800 954 702