Because metal pipes can conduct electricity, you should take extra precautions when repairing or replacing metal water services and installing water meters. Under certain conditions, a fault could electrify the metal plumbing and put you at risk of 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.
Always assess electrical risks before you start work. You can find out how to conduct a risk assessment in the Electrical Safety Codes of Practice.
While working, you can reduce the risk of electric shock 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 safety gear, like gloves or long pants
- cleaning both sides of 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 a careful eye on any safety measures you’re using and make sure that the:
- clamps make good electrical contact with the metal pipe
- bridging conductor remains in place until the work is finished.
If you are replacing an existing metallic service pipe with non-metallic pipe or fittings, you’ll also need to have a licensed electrical contractor check the installation. They might have to modify the electrical earthing system to make it safe.
If you notice anything unusual, like sparks, shocks or tingles, notify the householder and call us immediately on 13 19 62 (24/7).
Safe work habits near underground powerlines
Whenever you dig, there’s a risk you’ll come across underground electricity lines. As a plumber, this means you’ll need to take extra precautions when laying, repairing or removing underground pipe work.
Before you break ground, always use the Before You Dig Australia service to locate underground powerlines in the area.
For more information on working safely around underground powerlines, see our Electrical Entity Requirements: Working Near Overhead or Underground Powerlines (PDF 1.5 mb).
Want more information?
If you have more questions, you might find answers in our Frequently Asked Questions.
Safety fact sheets
Download our fact sheets for information about working safely:
- Building and construction industries (PDF 1.6 mb)
- Buildings, structures and billboards (PDF 1.4 mb)
- Look Up and Live – Exclusion zones (PDF 624.9 kb)
- Plumbing industry (PDF 1.3 mb)
To order factsheets in industry packs, use our Brochure & sticker order form.
We 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. Topics include exclusion zones, safety observer zones and how to safely operate plant and vehicles near powerlines.
If you would like to book a session for your conference or staff, please email us and we'll contact you to discuss a suitable time.