Skip to content

Risk of electric shock when working with metal pipes

Plumbers and electricians are reminded that making repairs to or replacing metal pipes and installing water meters can put you at risk of an electric shock and should never be rushed.

If you cut, remove, or work with metal pipes you may be at risk because under certain fault conditions, metal water or gas pipes may provide a path for electric current.

Queensland’s Electrical Safety Office advises before starting work, plumbers and electricians should plan and follow a safe system of work to prevent or minimise the risk of electric shock. The safe system of work you use should suit the situation.

Before cutting metal pipes, you should include the following practices:

  • If a metallic service pipe is to be replaced by non-metallic pipe or fittings, have the electrical installation checked by a licensed electrical contractor and modified, if necessary, to ensure the electrical earthing system for the premises remains effective.
  • Prior to starting work, ask if anyone has experienced shocks or tingles from taps or other metalwork within the installation. If yes, cancel the job and notify the electricity network owner/distributor as this could indicate a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Where possible, switch off the electrical main switch (or switches) and attach a tag stating ‘Danger—do not switch on’.
  • Wear gloves and long trousers to avoid skin contact with the metallic water pipes being worked on. The use of rubber ground mats should be considered, especially where work involves kneeling or laying on the ground.
  • Thoroughly clean the section of metal pipe on each side of the length being repaired.
  • Attach an insulated bridging conductor that has appropriate end clamps with insulated grips – the cable must span the length of pipe being cut or removed.
  • If you see anything abnormal such as electric sparks or you feel an electric shock, cease work immediately and notify the electricity network owner/distributor and the householder.

Further information

Find out more about electrical safety for plumbers.