Electrical Dangers In Demolition

Document Type: Alert
Keycode: web only
Industry: Construction, 
Division Author: Construction & Utilities
Publication Date: 07 June 2005
Date First Published: 25 February 2002
Summary: This alert warns of the dangers of failing to disconnect all electrical power before commencing demolition work, and advises on measures to safeguard against electrical hazards in demolition.

Are these power lines alive? Can you tell?Are these power lines alive? Can you tell??

Recently, a number of properties have been demolished without first disconnecting all electrical power. In one case, live electrical cables were severed with a chainsaw!

This is illegal and extremely dangerous to demolition workers and to the electricity distribution system. Apart from personal injury or death, probable consequences include damage to the wiring of adjacent properties and to the electricity distribution network, and interruptions to power supplies.


Legislation and penalties
The Victorian Electricity Safety Act 1998, and the Electricity Safety (Network Assets) Regulations 1999, provides penalties for unauthorised interference with the electrical supply network, and also for damage inflicted upon the network. Damage to the property of other network users, and costs incurred due to interruption of supply, would also be borne by a careless demolisher.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 also provides penalties for employers and others causing injury or exposing people to risk through unsafe work practices.

Preventative measures
Builders and demolition contractors should make sure that the following steps have been taken:

  • Identify and locate all electrical supply cables and systems to the property. Do this by obtaining relevant drawings and by a thorough on-site inspection.
  • At least ten days prior to the scheduled commencement of demolition work, lodge a request for power disconnection with the supply company.
  • Check that the power really is disconnected before starting demolition.
  • Where the building, or the section to which the power connection is made is to be demolished, make sure that the supply company removes the cables.

Other demolition issues

  • Make sure all other services have been safely disconnected and plugged before work commences.
  • Make sure that a demolition permit has been issued and that all local council requirements have been confirmed and are met.
  • Make sure the demolition contractor is a registered building practitioner licensed to carry out demolition work.
  • If cement sheet is to be removed or the presence of asbestos is suspected, work on that part of the job must not proceed until the nature and extent of the asbestos is confirmed, and safe removal completed.

Acts and Regulations

Acts and regulations are available from Information Victoria on 1300 366 356 or order online at www.bookshop.vic.gov.au.

View the legislation at Victorian Law Today at www.legislation.vic.gov.au.

Standards Australia

Australian Standard AS 2601, The Demolition of Structures, is referenced in both the Code of Practice for Demolition and A Guide to Rigging. It can be purchased from Standards Australia, 19-25 Raglan Street South Melbourne, or on-line at www.standards.com.au.

Further information

  • For advice on disconnection and to arrange disconnections, contact the local electrical supply company.
  • For general electrical safety advice, contact the Office of the Chief Electrical Inspector on telephone (03) 9203 9700 or on-line at www.ocei.vic.gov.au.
  • For information about registered demolishers and demolition permits, contact the Building Control Commission on telephone (03) 9285 6400 or on-line at www.buildingcommission.com.au.
  • For advice on asbestos removal or to obtain a list of licensed asbestos removalists, contact WorkSafe Victoria on telephone (03) 9641 1444.
  • The legislation referred to in this Alert is available from Information Victoria on 1300 366 356 or on-line at www.dms.dpc.vic.gov.au.
  • For further advice on safe demolition, refer to WorkSafe Victoria's publication Demolition (Code of Practice No. 14, 1991), and Chapter 19 of WorkSafe's A Guide to Rigging. Publications can be down-loaded from our website. Additional information can be obtained from your local WorkSafe office.

Special Note on Codes of Practice: Codes of Practice made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985 provide practical guidance to people who have duties or obligations under Victoria's OHS laws. The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 allows the Minister for Workcover to make Compliance Codes which will provide greater certainty about what constitutes compliance with the OHS laws.

Codes of Practice will continue to be a practical guide for those who have OHS duties and WorkSafe will continue to regard those who comply with the topics covered in the Codes of Practice as complying with OHS laws. WorkSafe will progressively review all Codes of Practice and replace them with guidance material and in appropriate cases, with Compliance Codes.

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