Building and construction
For construction workers, working near electrical hazards is part of the job. This includes overhead and underground powerlines, pillar boxes and electricity poles. Learn to identify electrical hazards in your place of work, then use safe work habits to reduce risk and stay safe.
Understanding the risks
Some construction jobs carry a higher risk of contact with our electrical assets, which could cause power outages, damage your equipment or give you a life-threatening electric shock. Common higher risk jobs include:
- working on roofs or scaffolding
- excavation and trenching
- loading and unloading trucks or trailers
- transporting machinery or high loads
- using large plant like cranes, forklifts and dump trucks
- erecting signs, flagpoles, shade sails or other tall, metallic structures
- working around metal water pipes.
Check out our Building and Construction Industry Safety Pack (PDF 5.3 mb). Quantities of these can be ordered via our Brochure and sticker order form.
What are my responsibilities?
If you’re in charge of a construction job or work site, you must take reasonable steps to protect your workers from electrical hazards. See the Electrical Safety Codes of Practice and our Electrical Entity Requirements (PDF 1002.3 kb) for more about your legal requirements for worker safety.
If you’re a worker, always ‘take care stay line aware’. Look for electrical hazards at the start of each day and monitor them while you work. Then, use the following safe work habits to reduce any risks.
How to work safe
First, consult with us during your project’s planning stage. We’ll check that none of your proposed buildings or equipment (e.g scaffolding, cranes) will enter a powerline exclusion zone during construction. Find out more about exclusion zones.
Then, use a simple risk management process (like the one below) to identify electrical hazards, assess risks and plan how to work safely around them.
1. Identify electrical hazards
Check your work area for electrical hazards at the start of each day, or as conditions change. Hazards are objects or tasks that could cause damage or injury, like a power pole or moving large machinery under powerlines.
To find electrical hazards:
- Check the location of powerlines and other electrical infrastructure by
- Check for changing conditions that could create new hazards, like
- heat causing powerlines to sag, reducing clearance
- high winds causing lines to sway or fall
- lower light at dawn/dusk causing reduced visibility
- damaged power poles reducing clearance.
- Check that your equipment and machinery
- is in good working order, with no signs of damage
- will not pass into any powerline exclusion zones during your job.
If you’re a worker, tell the person in charge about any hazards and stay well clear.
If you’re in charge, you need to assess the risks posed by each electrical hazard, before deciding what action to take. You can find detailed guidance in the Electrical Safety Codes of Practice and our Electrical Entity Requirements (PDF 1002.3 kb).
IMPORTANT: Stay well clear of damaged powerlines and report them immediately by calling triple zero (000).
2. Use safe work habits
If you can’t remove a hazard, use safe work habits to reduce the risk it poses. These should include:
- making sure all workers are familiar with relevant sections of the Electrical Safety Codes of Practice and our Electrical Entity Requirements: Working near Overhead and Underground Electric Lines (PDF 1002.3 kb)
- making sure your workers have the right training and are competent
- requesting installation of powerline markers to improve visibility
- covering all potential electrical hazards in site inductions
- adding an electrical safety check to your risk assessment forms, work instructions and quotation pads
- reminding workers of powerline exclusion zones, and regularly checking clearances
- making sure operators of machinery or delivery vehicles are aware of the height of their load
- advising machinery and delivery vehicle operators of all powerline locations
- assigning a Safety Observer to guide machinery movements and material handling near overhead powerlines.
When to use a safety observer
A Safety Observer, sometimes known as a spotter, is a person who watches over machinery or equipment in use in high risk situations. Their job is to alert the operator if any part of the machinery or equipment is at risk of entering an overhead powerline exclusion zone.
Safety Observers undergo specific training and must be competent to perform the role in observing, warning and communicating effectively with the machinery or equipment operator.
So, when do you need to use a safety observer?
Anytime there is the possibility of machinery or equipment reaching or entering an exclusion zone a trained Safety Observer MUST be appointed.
When a trained Safety Observer is appointed a Safety Observer Zone can be set up 10 meters either side of overhead powerlines. A Safety Observer Zone is an area where machinery or equipment is allowed to operate even if any part of the machinery or equipment COULD enter the powerline exclusion zone.
Before starting work take the time to plan.
Visit our website or contact us for more information about Safety Observers, Safety Observer Zones, or to order industry specific safety materials to help you and your team work safely around powerlines.
Advice during the planning stage
You should contact us for safety advice during the planning stage of your construction or demolition project. We can help you arrange upgrades, relocations or disconnections to your electricity services before work begins.
You’ll also need to submit a request to disconnect the site during construction, if required. Be sure to submit all requests well before work commences.
IMPORTANT: Do not start any work near our electrical equipment or demolish any structure where our equipment is located until we have confirmed that the equipment is safe.
Marking powerlines on your site
Find out about powerline markers and how to increase the visibility of powerlines on your property. Marking powerlines is especially important when low level flying or operating large machinery on your property.
We offer training sessions to help your team work safely near overhead and underground powerlines. These sessions can be targeted for conferences, business groups, local councils or emergency services groups. Topics include exclusion zones, safety observer zones and how to safely operate plant and vehicles near powerlines.
If you would like to book a session for your conference or staff, please email us and we'll contact you to discuss a suitable time.
Want more information?
If you have more questions, you might find answers in our Frequently Asked Questions (PDF 124.2 kb).
Safety fact sheets
Download our fact sheets for information about working safely in construction:
- Building and Construction industries (PDF 1.6 mb)
- Look Up and Live – Exclusion zones (PDF 614.2 kb)
- Trucking industry (PDF 1.4 mb)
- Structures and Billboards near powerlines (PDF 1.4 mb)
- Powerline markers (PDF 1.8 mb)
- Fire and powerlines (PDF 1.4 mb) (only available to download)
- Trees and powerlines (PDF 1.8 mb) (only available to download)
To order factsheets in industry packs, use our brochure & sticker order form.
Other forms and guidelines
Links to some popular request forms and information.