Because metal pipes can conduct electricity, there are extra precautions you should take when repairing or replacing metal water services and installing water meters. Under certain conditions, a fault could electrify metal plumbing, giving you a life-threatening electric shock.
Safe work habits for metal plumbing
There are several safe work habits you should use when working with metal pipes. These are covered by Australian Standard AS/NZS 3500.1 Plumbing and drainage part 1: water services and include the following steps.
First, always plan your job by assessing electrical risks before you start work. You can find out how to conduct a risk assessment in the Electrical Safety Codes of Practice.
During the job, you can reduce risks by:
- switching off the electrical main switch (or switches)
- attaching a tag to the main switch labelled ‘DANGER DO NOT SWITCH ON’
- avoiding skin contact with metallic water pipes by wearing appropriate safety gear including gloves or long pants
- cleaning both sides any section of metal pipe you are repairing
- attaching an insulated bridging conductor to span the length of pipe you need to cut. This should be a stranded copper cable capable of carrying 80 amps with appropriate clamps and insulated hand grips.
Keep an eye on any safety measures you’re using to make sure:
- clamps make good electrical contact with the metal pipe
- the bridging conductor remains undisturbed until the work is finished.
Also, have a licensed electrical contractor check the electrical installation where any existing metallic service pipe is to be replaced by non-metallic pipe or fittings. They might need to modify the electrical earthing system to make it safe.
If you notice anything abnormal, like sparks or an electric shock, notify the householder and call us immediately on 13 19 62.
Safe work habits near underground powerlines
Whenever you start digging, there’s a risk you’ll come across underground electricity lines.
As a plumber, this means you need to take extra precautions when laying, repairing or removing underground pipe work.
Use the Dial Before You Dig service to locate underground powerlines before you break ground.
For more information on working safely around underground powerlines, see our Electrical Entity Requirements: Working Near Overhead or Underground Powerlines. (PDF 894.0 kb)
Want more information?
Safety fact sheets
Download our fact sheets for information about working safely:
- Plumbers (PDF 1.3 mb)
- Look Up and Live - Exclusion zones (PDF 614.2 kb)
- Building and Construction industries (PDF 1.6 mb)
- Structures and Billboards near powerlines (PDF 1.4 mb)
To order factsheets in industry packs, use our brochure & sticker order form.
We also offer training sessions to help your team work safely near overhead and underground powerlines. These sessions can be targeted for conferences, business groups, local councils or emergency services groups. We cover topics such as exclusion zones, safety observer zones and how to safely operate plant and vehicles near powerlines.
Other forms and guidelines
Links to some popular request forms and information.