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Planning construction work near overhead powerlines

Failing to consider overhead powerlines in the planning and construction stages of projects can create safety risks, have expensive consequences and cause delays. Ensure your project complies with electrical safety laws well before construction commences.

The Electrical Safety Regulation 2013 sets out specific clearance requirements between structures and overhead powerlines, depending on the voltage they carry.

The regulation states if the proposed work involves a building or other structure within the clearance requirements for an overhead or underground powerline, then before work commences, operators must contact the electricity entity via written notice. These clearance requirements are outlined in schedules 4 and 5.

Compliance must be confirmed with your electricity entity before building plans are finalised.

These resources will assist builders, civil contractors, carpenters, bricklayers, painters, plumbers and small contractors to plan work near powerlines safely:

The Code provides practical guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking on how to manage electrical risks when working near energised overhead or underground electric lines.

The Look up and Live mobile app is an interactive geospatial map showing the location of Energex, Ergon and Powerlink powerlines.

Working near powerlines can be fatal. Touching them or straying into the exclusion zone around them can result in a serious electric shock.

Safety precautions must be followed if the worksite is near powerlines so that workers, plant or equipment do not enter the exclusion zones - these are different distances to clearance requirements. If you must work near overhead powerlines, follow these steps:

Develop a safe system of work before you start

  • Identify overhead and underground powerlines by consulting maps or speaking with the property owner or electrical entity.
  • Conduct a site-specific risk assessment – think about the type of plant and equipment/tools needed, nature and size of loads being moved, site and weather conditions, type of work being done, plus set-up and pack-up procedures.
  • Put risk controls in place where there is a risk of contact – the most effective way of controlling the risk is by de-energising the powerline for the duration of work.

Keep your workers and contractors informed about electrical safety

  • Induct and train your workers and contractors in safe work procedures, emergency procedures, and staying well clear of exclusion zones.
  • Carefully plan the tasks to be completed near powerlines – by working away from them whenever possible, not underneath them. Plan tasks so they do not enter the exclusion zone.
  • Avoid storing equipment under powerlines.
  • Show your workers the safe distance from an exclusion zone by marking it on the ground.
  • Ensure people are aware that powerlines sag or sway in hot or windy weather which can change the safe distance from the exclusion zone.
  • Tip trucks, excavators, mobile cranes/scaffolds, scaffolding, concrete pumps, long metal-handled tools, and reo bars have the potential to enter an exclusion zone.
  • Ensure your operators know the height and reach of plant, machinery or handheld items to be used.

Avoid going into exclusion zones

  • Make powerlines and poles visible. Ask your electrical entity for permission to paint power poles or have them install visible markers or flags on the powerlines.
  • Where possible, avoid moving metal-handled equipment, reo bars or scaffolding pipes, in the vicinity of powerlines.
  • Use a safety observer to make sure you stay well clear of exclusion zones.
  • Where possible, use insulated or non-conductive tools and equipment.
  • Operators should use a safety observer when, raising their tip trucks, using mobile cranes/scaffolds or assembling scaffolding, to avoid entering exclusion zones.
  • Follow the safety advice given by your electrical entity.

Further information

Read more about powerline exclusion zones.