Working near power lines: What you need to know

Any work undertaken near a live low voltage overhead electric line 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 low voltage overhead electric lines in the area where work will be carried out
  • Assess the risk of harm
  • Eliminate the risk of electric shock by isolating the electricity supply to the overhead lines

Eliminating the risk of electric shock

Isolating the electric supply
For all work between 0.5 metres and 4 metres from an overhead line, the safest option is to eliminate the risk of electric shock by isolating the electricity supply to the property while that work is being done.

Isolating the electric supply means disconnecting a property’s electricity supply from the electricity distribution lines so that the overhead electric line to the property is no longer live. Isolation is temporary, for a specified period of time while work takes place.

Keep people informed so they can plan ahead

Find out who needs to know that the electricity supply will be temporarily isolated. 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’ 

Further, anyone who could be affected by isolation 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

Minimum Approach Distances (MADs)
If work needs to take place near a low voltage overhead electric line and isolating the electricity supply is not reasonably practicable, then the worker’s body, their tools, and their equipment must be kept a safe distance away from the overhead line. This safe distance is known as the minimum approach distance, or MAD.

  • If  less than 0.5 m: the electricity supply to the property must be isolated before work starts and until the work is done.
  • If 0.5 m to 4 m: before work starts, written consent is needed from the property owner before work can take place.
  • If more than 4 m: work can start. Consent is not needed from the property owner for work to take place. However, a risk assessment should still be carried out and control measures put in place.

Keeping you and your team safe at work is a priority, so make sure you are aware of the employer’s 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.


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