Jump to content

Electricity safety

Electricity is distributed at high voltages and all lines should be treated as live at all times. Care also needs to be taken around power poles, transformers, and switchgear.

Safety first, always

It’s important to keep the public and independent contractors safe when they work on or near our network.


Without an awareness of overhead lines or underground cables, there’s a real risk of electrocution, explosion, flashover or fire.

Here’s how to safely work near overhead lines, transport high loads and locate electricity cables before digging.

If you’re trimming or removing trees, cleaning or replacing spoutings, painting, repairing roofs or chimneys, or making alterations, be careful when you’re working near overhead power lines or underground cables where they enter your house. These lines are not safe to touch.

The risks when using, or being in contact with electricity are, electric shocks, burns, fire, serious injury and death.

Make sure you look up and look out, watch those overheads, and watch where you dig.

Above Ground

If you’re going to be working closer than four metres to lines, poles or power boxes, you’ll need a Close Approach Consent, for which we’ll need three working weeks to process your application.

This is a legal requirement set down by New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice – NZECP 34:2001 Electrical Safe Distances.

high loads

Getting too close to overhead lines is dangerous, especially when moving over height items such as a house, boat or heavy equipment.

You’ll need a permit and should apply 10 working days before the moving date. We can give you more information about the different requirements for different-sized loads.

Building near lines

If building or extending your house, you may need to put the power underground if it’s too close to overhead lines.

The minimum distance between the building and the lines depends on the voltage and can be found under NZECP 34:2001.

Below Ground

To avoid damage and risk of electrocution, it’s important to know where power or fibre cables are before you dig.

If they’re hit or damaged, it can knock out vital power and communication supplies.

We can help with free help and advice on safe working practices and locating cables.

Safety at home

Treat lines, cables, switches and sockets as live, at all times.

Electricity is clean, efficient and instantly available to use, but it can’t be seen or heard and has no smell. You can’t see the danger.

At Home

Switch power off at the mains if you smell smoke or if your power is surging (e.g. your lights or appliances are turning on and off).

Turn off all electronic appliances when:

  • Your power is surging
  • There is a blown fuse
  • An appliance comes into contact with water
  • Your home is struck by lightning

Treat all power lines and cables as if they’re live, even if you’ve turned off the mains switch.

Be prepared

Electricity faults can happen at any time, with no warning. It’s a good idea to keep the following items handy and know how to find them in the dark:

  • A torch and spare batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • A battery operated radio
  • A phone that doesn’t require power (all cordless phones need power)
  • Bottled water if you rely on power to pump water into your home

Keep fridge and freezer doors closed to stop food from spoiling.

Safety tips

  • Before starting on any repair or maintenance jobs outside, make sure you locate power lines or underground cables. If you’re going to be working near these lines, ask us or your retailer to temporarily disconnect your power supply.

  • If you’re handling tall objects near power lines (like scaffolding or ladders), keep an eye on what’s above — don’t let it come into contact with power lines. Keep at least 4 metres away.

  • Watch out for what’s below — make sure you check for any underground gas, power or water services before you dig.

  • Plant trees well away from power lines and keep branches trimmed before they get too close.

  • Before installing or repairing a clothesline, TV antenna or other high structures, check for clearance of power lines.

  • If you’re operating electrical equipment outdoors, always use a Residual Current Device (RCD) or an isolating transformer.

  • Use a licensed electrical worker for all electrical repairs.

  • Please don’t go near power lines that have been brought down by a storm or any other cause.

Safety resources

We’ve developed a range of useful safety training resources.



These can be used by  contractors, businesses and individuals to help drive a culture of safety around power lines and cables.

Toolbox Talks