Exclusion zones and safety legislation

There are a range of laws, codes and safe work practices designed to protect you when you are working around the electrical network. You can find practical advice about applying these in the Electrical Safety Codes of Practice, like the use of exclusion zones to keep workers safe.

Electrical safety legislation

Electrical Safety legislation is designed to prevent people and property from being harmed or damaged by electricity. These include the:

  • Electrical Safety Act 2002
  • Electrical Safety Regulation 2013
  • Work Health and Safety Act 2011
  • Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011
  • Codes of Practice approved under the above-mentioned Acts.

If you are an employer, getting to know these laws will help you understand your obligations. It’s your responsibility to keep your workers safe.

How to comply

Use the electrical safety codes of practice to help you apply the laws in your place of work. Following the practical advice laid out in these documents will help you meet legal safety standards.

Relevant codes of practice that might apply to your place of work in relation to working near powerlines:

In each of these documents, you’ll find a clear process for managing the risks posed by electrical hazards, including advice how to:

  • Identify electrical hazards
  • Assess the risks associated with these hazards
  • Implement and maintain risk control measures
  • Review risk control measures.

Read more about these in the accordions below.

Identify electrical hazards

Before you work near electricity, you should take some time to identify electrical hazards. Plan ahead and check the location of powerlines with our Look up and Live map, which you can also download from app stores (links below).

Below are some activities, plant or objects that may put you at risk when done or used close to overhead or underground powerlines.

Overhead powerlines

  • Operating machinery such as cranes, tip trucks, cane harvesters, elevated work platforms, forklifts, grain augers, excavators and irrigators
  • Putting up advertising signs or billboards
  • Building work, scaffolding or demolition
  • Pruning or felling trees or vegetation
  • Painting fascia, replacing roofing, guttering or external cladding near service line point of entry to a building
  • Dam construction or levee bank earthworks.

Underground powerlines

  • Digging and excavating
  • Sawing
  • Trenching
  • Under boring
  • Sinking boreholes
  • Earth works
  • Laying cables and pipes
  • Driving implements into the ground such as star pickets and fence posts.

Assess the risks

Before undertaking any activities, you should assess how much risk is involved. To do this, you’ll need to look closely at each hazard, and consider how likely it is that:

  • A worker will be injured
  • Property, plant or equipment will be damaged
  • You’ll come within an unsafe distance of powerlines.

For more detail on how to perform your risk assessment, see the Electrical Safety Code of Practice 2020 - Working near overhead and underground powerlines.

Implement risk control measures

Once you understand the risks, you need to control them. This will improve safety for your team and help you comply with the Codes of Practice. If you can’t eliminate a risk completely, you’ll still need to take steps to minimise it using other control measures.

Some examples of control measures are:

  • De-energising the overhead network
  • Relocating the overhead network
  • De-energising the underground network
  • Relocating the underground network
  • Placing physical barriers to stop entry to exclusion zones
  • Using powerline visual indicators e.g. rota markers
  • Appointing a safety observer
  • Delineating and setting up a safety observer area.

You should also consult the Electricity Entity Requirements: Working Near Overhead and Underground Electric Lines (PDF 1010.5 kb) for specific strategies for working with overhead or underground electric lines, including exclusion zones.

What’s an exclusion zone?

One important control measure to reduce the risk of electric shock at work is an exclusion zone. This is a safety area around a live overhead powerline. It sets the minimum safe distance that people, operating plant and vehicles must stay from a live powerline.

The size of an exclusion zone depends on:

  • The type of work being done
  • The qualifications of the people involved
  • The voltage of the powerline
    • 3 metres for voltages up to 132kV
    • 6 metres for voltages up to 330kV

IMPORTANT: These distances can be reduced if a worker is approved as an Authorised Person. Read more about how to become an Authorised Person.

Assign a safety observer to each work team to guide machinery movements or when handling material near overhead powerlines to ensure required clearances are maintained.

Know your exclusion zones

What is your exclusion zone?

An exclusion zone is an invisible ‘safety envelope’ that surrounds an overhead power line. These ‘no go’ areas represent the minimum safe distance that must be maintained by any person, vehicle or piece of equipment to reduce the risk of electric shock.

No part of a worker, vehicle or piece of equipment should enter the exclusion zone while the overhead powerline is live.

The radius of the exclusion zone depends on the voltage of the powerline, the type of work being performed, and the qualifications of the people performing the work.
The most common exclusion zones are:

3 metres for voltages up to 132kV

and 6 metres for voltages up to 330kV.

However, the radius of the exclusion zone can be reduced if workers performing the work on the power line have been trained and approved as an /Authorized Person/.

Always seek safety advice if your work has the potential to cross into powerline exclusion zones.

Before starting work take the time to plan.

Download the Look up and live app or contact us for more information and advice on exclusion zones and working safely around powerlines.

Entering an exclusion zone

Sometimes, there is no way to avoid entering an exclusion zone to complete your job.

However, before you enter an exclusion zone, you must request written Safety Advice from us. To provide this, we will draw up a set of site-specific instructions to keep you and your team safe.

IMPORTANT: You can’t enter an exclusion zone without written Safety Advice.

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.

Look up and Live map

To make the safety planning process simpler, use our Look up and Live map. You can locate overhead powerlines at your work site on an interactive geospatial map.

Look up and Live Map – visit now

It also combines several important safety features in one handy location, including:

  • Safety guidelines and advice, including powerline exclusion zones
  • Options for planning or performing work e.g. powerline visual indicators
  • Information on de-energisation or relocation of powerlines
  • High load forms
  • Dial Before You Dig enquiry details.

Note: You can also download this map as the Look up and Live app.

Image show Apple logo with 'Download on the App Store' in white on a black backgroundImage of the Google Play logo with the words 'Get it on Google Play' in white on a black background

Want more information?

Safety fact sheets

Download our fact sheets for information about working safely near powerlines, including some specific guidelines for different industries.

To order factsheets in industry packs, use our brochure & sticker order form.

Marking powerlines on your property

Find out about powerline markers and how to increase the visibility of powerlines on your property. This is especially important if there are low level flying operations on your property or if machinery is operated near powerlines.


If you have more questions, you might find answers on our Safety Advice Frequently Asked Questions page.

Other forms and guidelines

Links to some popular request forms and information.