Construction industry urged to follow the code

Monday, February 19, 2024
Serious injuries and worker fatalities have prompted a call from one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest energy distributors for the construction industry to follow the code for electrical safe distances.

Electricity lines company, Powerco, is again urging the construction industry to educate themselves and their workers about safe distances from power lines following a fatality. Last August, a worker delivering timber to a construction site in Auckland was killed after a raised crane touched power lines.

Powerco launched a worker safety campaign in late 2022, urging the construction industry to follow the minimum safe distances from power lines set out in the NZ Code of Practice (NZECP34 – Electrical Safe Distances). Learn about the code at

That followed two life-changing incidents in 2022. A 28-year-old Auckland scaffolder suffered a massive electric shock and needed both his arms amputated after the metal pole he was holding struck power lines while he was dismantling scaffolding. In a separate incident, in Dunedin, a 34-year-old received serious injuries after a live electric cable was severed during construction work.

Karen Frew, Powerco General Manager Electricity, says the company is concerned the construction industry – from property developers, designers and surveyors, through to builders, scaffolders and roofers – are putting their lives and those of others at risk from working and building too close to power lines, poles and other electricity equipment.

“Our hearts go out to the families of these workers. These are horrific, life-changing, incidents we’re trying to help avoid by educating the construction industry about the minimum safe distances. 

“From design through to construction – whether it’s a permanent or a temporary structure – you must follow the minimum safe distances set out in the New Zealand Code of Practice for electricity safe distances to help avoid electrocution or serious injury.”

The minimum distance between a structure – whether that’s a building, scaffolding, a fence, a driveway or marquee – and an overhead line varies depending on the voltage the line is carrying. The structure needs to be clear of lines both underneath and to the side.

Karen Frew says there are also a concerning number of cases where structures are being built too close to overhead power lines, or land recontoured dangerously close to existing power poles and lines.

“It’s sheer luck that the tradespeople building those sites weren’t seriously injured or electrocuted when they were being constructed.”

Before designing, planning or carrying out any work under or near power lines, poles, stay wires or other electricity network equipment, contact 0800 Powerco (0800 769 372) if the work is in Powerco’s electricity network area and the team can help with the plans. If the work is outside Powerco’s area, it’s best to contact the local electricity lines company for advice. A map of lines companies can be found here. If, in doubt, keep at least 10m – the length of a bus – away from lines.

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