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
  • 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. 

Eliminating the risk of electric shock

Disconnecting the electric supply for work between 0.5 metres and 4 metres
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?

Minimum Approach Distances (MADs)

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, else the electrical supply must be disconnected by the approved electrical retailer. 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 disconnected 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 overhead line owner before work can take place.
  • If more than 4 m: work can start. Consent is not needed from the overhead line owner for work to take place. However, a risk assessment should still be carried out and control measures put in place.

For more information around consent visit Section 10 of the WorkSafe Working near low voltage overhead electric lines guide.

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 0800 555 339. 


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