Overhead powerline safety

Getting too close to overhead powerlines can be fatal.

From recreational pursuits like hang gliding, boating or flying a kite to home maintenance or construction work – outdoor activities can all bring people into close proximity to live powerlines.

You don’t even have to touch an overhead powerline for it to be fatal. Electricity can jump from powerlines to metal objects in an instant, and a ladder, mast or even a trampoline within clearances could act as a conductor.

To stay safe around overhead powerlines you should always:

  • Look up to check the location and distance of powerlines before beginning any outdoor activity
  • Keep a safe distance or clearance from overhead powerlines
  • Set-up or build structures like ladders and trampolines well away from powerlines

Working near overhead powerlines

People who work outdoors can also work alongside the electricity network, so appropriate safety controls are vital to help keep you and your co-workers safe.

You can avoid hazards and prevent overhead cable strikes by following these important steps:

  • Plan your job well in advance and  consider whether you need to disconnect power while you move plant equipment like cranes to site, or get tiger tails installed     
  • Keep a safe distance from overhead powerlines, and remember that the  appropriate clearance can vary according to the type of powerline
  • Have an up-to-date map showing powerlines and safe traffic paths at your worksite
  • Set up plant, equipment and vehicles for safe distance or clearance from powerlines during operation, including work platforms, cranes, cement and tip trucks
  • If you have a high load, consider overhead powerlines when mapping out your safe path
  • Use visual indicators like tiger tails, signs, paint and bunting to remind workers of overhead powerlines
  • Remember tiger tails are not insulators – their presence does not mean you can work closer to powerlines 
  • Assign an observer to monitor and ensure safe clearances are maintained between machinery and powerlines

Information about safe work practices, including safety clearances from overhead powerlines, can be found in the Safe Work Australia and WorkCover NSW Codes of Practice. You can also visit  Safe Work Australia and WorkCover NSW  for practical advice, guidance and preventative strategies to help mitigate and manage workplace risks to health and safety. 

Contact with overhead powerlines

If a vehicle does contact overhead powerlines it will become 'live' and the electricity will attempt to pass through it to the ground.  In order to stay safe you should:

  • Always remain in the vehicle 
  • Never approach, attempt to rescue or allow others to approach any machinery or vehicles in contact with power lines
  • Stay a minimum of 8 metres from the vehicle (about a bus length away)
  • Treat all power lines as if they are 'live'
  • Call 000 and Ausgrid on 13 13 88 immediately
  • After the emergency is over and you are able to access the vehicle, get a professional to check all tyres, bearings and brakes before you operate or drive it