Keeping safe at home

Home safety

Electricity must be treated with respect. The fact that you can’t see electricity makes it more dangerous, so it’s important to keep a few simple safety tips in mind when you are working with electrical appliances around the home.

  • Switch off an appliance before you unplug.
  • Care for your cords – replace any frayed or brittle cords.
  • Treat a tingle as a signal – immediately switch off at the outlet and unplug the appliance.
  • Watch out for wires – always stand well clear, warn others and us immediately if you spot a fallen electrical wire.
  • Liquids and electricity don’t mix – never take portable appliances like radios, heaters, phones and hair dryers into the shower or bath and don’t spray cleaners and solvents on switches or sockets.

Keeping children safe

We suggest that parents teach their children to keep well away from power lines and from trees growing close to power lines. Children should also be able to recognise the normal electrical warning notices and know to keep away.

Working outside

Take special care around electricity outdoors. Whether you are working or playing near it, or using electrical equipment, it is important to be aware of the dangers. Make sure you maintain safe clearances when working on ladders and check for underground wires before you dig.

Before you do any work near power lines or underground cables, arrange with your electricity retailer to identify any problems or disconnect the supply. This work might be painting your house, trimming trees, cleaning guttering, replacing spouting or roofing, repairing chimneys or excavating a property.

Never touch overhead power lines, underground cables, or the bare conductors that connect them to the house, as this could be fatal.

Outdoor safety tips

  • Never build or store material under power wires, and so reduce the clearance height. Remember that children are fond of climbing, and wires look tempting.
  • Keep in mind the clearance requirements when undertaking house extensions and renovations, such as installing new windows or building a deck.
  • Watch that ladder! When carrying an aluminium ladder, long lengths of pipe, or any metal object, keep them as horizontal as possible. Take particular care when passing under overhead wires. Always check where overhead power lines are located before using a metal ladder, and avoid contact. Anyone touching a ladder when it is touching a power line could be electrocuted. Wind, uneven ground, or reaching to the side while on a ladder could cause it to shift position and come into contact with an overhead power line.
  • Before starting work on a roof, make sure no aerial lines pass overhead. If they do, arrange with your electricity retailer to have them protected, or isolated before starting work.
  • Teach your children never to climb up power poles or pylons or near wires.
  • A power line that has fallen to the ground should be treated as live – contact your electricity supplier immediately. Do not touch the line, and warn your family members and neighbours.

Do It Yourself (DIY) home electrical work

Undertaking DIY electrical work in your home can save money but not knowing what you are doing can cost someone their life.
The law does allow homeowners to do certain electrical work if they comply with set standards. But, unless you know what you are doing, we advise that you use a licensed electrician. Installing your own wiring or fixing appliances is not as simple as it may seem, and puts you at risk of electric shock or causing a fire. Also, if you sell the house or appliance at a later date, you may be liable under law for any consequence of your workmanship.

We recommend that for all wiring and appliance repair work, you use an electrician who is a member of the New Zealand Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECANZ) and can provide you with an electrical safety certificate.

For a list of Master Electricians in your area please check this website.

If you do decide to undertake the work yourself, make sure that you comply with the following national standards.

You should also comply with the following safety precautions:

  • make sure the power is turned off
  • carry out proper safety tests
  • do not connect the wiring yourself – this must be done by an electrical inspector
  • do not work on mains or main switchboards – a licensed electrician must do this

Heading out boating?

Boating is a popular activity in Southland and Otago, it is really important when towing a boat to be aware of powerlines.

Make sure that you know the height of your aerials and masts above land when towing, and above water when sailing.

Check any land routes, launching and sailing areas for power lines or warning signs that describe where power lines or cables may be present.

Take action to avoid higher parts of your boat intruding into an unsafe distance from overhead lines and always heed the information on signs where these are displayed.

Remember, high voltage electricity can jump to your mast or aerial if they get near enough to a power line which can result in serious burns or death for you or those nearby.

If a boat mast has brought down the power lines around a car, the safest way to avoid electric shock is for occupants to stay in the car until help arrives.

They should only try to get away from the car if another urgent matter, such as a fire in the car, forces them to evacuate.

Click on these links to find out more:

For more information on using electricity safely, visit the Energy Safety Service’s website at