WorkSafe advises planners, architects, builders and Local Authorities, as well as property owners and developers, to consider overhead electric lines (power lines) and overhead line supports when planning any construction.

There are rules that we have to observe to supply and use electricity safely. One of these is to keep safe distances (clearances) between overhead lines and their supports, and any other structures. These clearances must be factored into any plans before starting construction to ensure safety. The general requirements for maintaining safe distances are set out in regulation 17 of the Electricity (Safety) Regulations 2010.

Regulation 17 refers to detailed requirements in the New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice for Electrical Safe Distance (ECP34). The safe distances specified in ECP 34 for construction in proximity to existing electricity lines also apply when new lines are being constructed close to existing structures. It is also important to watch out for overhead lines and line supports during construction.

Not giving proper consideration to overhead electric lines can have serious and expensive consequences. Recently, a property owner was convicted and fined for failing to carry out a direction issued under the Electricity Act 1992 to restore safe distances between an extension to a shed and existing overhead electric lines. Not only did they have to pay a large fine but also the remedial work.

While a property owner might expect any potential issues to be picked up in the planning process, this doesn’t necessarily occur. The requirements for maintaining safe distances are not widely understood within the building industry. In addition, checks to determine clearances from the proposed building to existing overhead electric lines are adequate are not always carried out before a building permit is issued.

Constructing buildings and other structures, whether in rural or urban areas (or whether they are residential properties or commercial buildings), without considering overhead electric lines before you start can lead to potentially dangerous and costly situations as shown below.

Not only does this pose obvious safety risks but it can cost the owner thousands of dollars to rectify the problem. If a building is still in the construction stage this can result in a stop work notice being issued, halting the construction of the building.

[image] Pole with power lines standing next to a building
[image] Pole with power lines coming out of a building roof