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Overhead and Underground electric lines

Hazard, Risk and Remedy information herein adapted from Safe Work Australia material. Definition overhead and underground lines herein may not represent a legal definition.

A person conducting a business or undertaking has specific duties under the WHS Regulations to manage electrical risks, including ensuring, so far as is reasonably practicable, that no person, plant or thing at the workplace comes within an unsafe distance of an overhead or underground electric line.

Risk

Electrical risks are risks of death, electric shock or other injury caused directly or indirectly by electricity. Contact with energised overhead or underground electric lines can be fatal, whether they are carrying a voltage as high as 400,000 volts or as low as 230 volts.

Contact with overhead electric lines is not necessary to result in electric shock. A close approach to the line conductors may allow a ‘flashover’ or arc to take place. The risk of flashover increases as the line voltage increases. In addition other infrastructure such as power poles can also present a risk to health and safety if contact is made as a result of work near power lines.

Remedy

Work undertaken that poses a risk to power lines may come under the definition of ‘high risk construction’ work which has a number of obligations such as the requirement to prepare safe work method statements. General construction, excavation and plant related work that is often associated with incidents involving power lines also have varied risk management strategies and legislative obligations.

Using a risk management strategy relating to the nature of work being performed persons conducting a business or undertaking need to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that no person, plant or thing at the workplace comes within an unsafe distance of overhead or underground electric lines.

Resources

Information SourceWhat it contains
Safe Work Australia – Draft Model Code of Practice – Working in the vicinity of overhead and underground electric linesThis draft code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety involving overhead and underground electric lines. Please note this is guidance only and not a legislative instrument.
Code of Practice - Managing the risks of plant in the workplaceThis code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety involving plant in the workplace
Code of Practice - Excavation WorkThis code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to excavation. Please note this is guidance only and not a legislative instrument.
Code of Practice - How to Manage Work Health and Safety RisksThis Code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety. Please note this is guidance only and not a legislative instrument.
Code of Practice - Managing Electrical Risks in the WorkplaceThis code provides practical guidance for persons who have duties under the WHS Act and Regulations to manage risks to health and safety involving electricity in the workplace. Please note this is guidance only and not a legislative instrument.
UK Health & Safety Executive - Overhead power linesGeneral information on managing risks associated with overhead power lines

Notifications

Given even the briefest contact with electricity at 50 volts for alternating current (V a.c.) or 120 volts for direct current (V d.c.) can have serious consequences to a person’s health and safety all incidents involving electric shock are notifiable.

Information sourceWhat it contain
Incident notification - Part 3, Section 35 to 37 of the Work, Health and Safety Act 2011The legislative requirements for incident notification to Comcare
Comcare - Guide to incident notificationHelps you decide whether you need to notify Comcare of an injury, illness or dangerous incident under the WHS Act
Page last updated: 05 May 2017