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All About  private power poles and lines in Western Australia, Perth Region

Introduction

These guidelines are issued under Section 33AA of the Electricity Act 1945 (WA) by the Director of Energy Safety, to assist property owners and electrical contractors in the selection, installation and safe management of private overhead power lines and poles.

There are risks and potential significant consequences of electrical or structural failure of private power poles and lines, including power interruptions, electrocution and fires. These risks and consequences can be mitigated through the proper selection of equipment and regular inspection and maintenance.
It is the property owner’s legal responsibility (duty of care) under common law to install and maintain private power poles and lines so they do not pose a safety risk to the property occupants, adjacent properties and their occupants or the wider community.

However, any activities which constitute electrical work must be carried out by licensed electrical
contractors.

These guidelines provide the recommended technical requirements and practices for the safe
management of privately owned power poles and lines, including:
• repair and maintenance; and
• new construction.

What are private power poles and lines?

Power lines on private property transporting electricity from the main switchboard and meter to the home or other buildings and facilities are private power lines.

Poles on private property supporting the network operator’s overhead service cable and poles supporting private power lines are private power poles.

Private power poles and lines do not include:
• the network operator’s service cable;
• the meter (owned by the network operator); and
• power lines which cross private property in rural areas and are owned and managed by the
network operator

Check out our article on the role of power pole in high voltage transmission lines.

 

Private Power Pole Explanation
A typical private power pole used in the suburbs of Perth WA

Responsibilities regarding Private Power Poles

Property owners have a duty of care under Common Law to ensure that the private power poles on their property are constructed and maintained in a manner that does not present a safety risk to occupants, adjacent properties and their occupants or the wider community. These assets include any private overhead power lines or private power poles installed on the property.

Property owners should maintain all electrical equipment that they are responsible for in a safe and serviceable condition in order to reduce the risk of:

• injury or electrocution of residents or members of the public;
• a fire on the property or causing a bushfire; and
• adversely affecting the quality of electricity supply to other consumers.

Construction and maintenance of private overhead power lines will generally constitute electrical work
and must be carried out by licensed electrical contractors

Purpose of Power Pole Guidelines

These guidelines provide information and recommend practices for the safe management of low voltage overhead lines on private property. They do not apply to:
• underground low voltage power lines on private property;
• high voltage (overhead or underground) power lines on private property; and
• Network operators’ electrical installations covered by the Electricity (Network Safety) Regulations 2015. These guidelines complement, and should be read together with, other related documents including (but not limited to):
• Electricity (Licensing) Regulations 1991;
• WA Electrical Requirements (WAER) published by Building and Energy;
• the national electrical technical standard AS/NZS 3000:2018, Wiring Rules;
• the Building and Energy publication Guidelines for the management of vegetation near power lines; and
• the Western Australian Distribution Connection Manual (WADCM) published by Western Power
and Horizon Power.

Definitions of words relating to Power Poles

For the purposes of this article:

Low voltage means an operating voltage of less than 1,000 volts.
High voltage means an operating voltage of 1,000 volts and higher.
Overhead power line means a power line constructed using aerial electrical wiring (insulated or uninsulated) supported by poles, and associated apparatus.
Network Operator has the meaning given in the Electricity (Network Safety) Regulations 2015.
Point of attachment means the point at which a network operator’s aerial service cable is physically secured on a property owner’s structure.

Technical requirements

All electrical installations (new and subsequent augmentations) must be designed and constructed to
a standard consistent with good industry practice, with careful consideration of the ongoing safety of
the owner, occupants of the premises and members of the public, integrity of equipment and risks to
property.
The detailed technical requirements for the design and construction of private power lines are
adequately covered by existing legislation and technical standards and are not repeated in these
guidelines.
The relevant documents include, but are not limited to:
• AS/NZS 3000:2018, Wiring Rules;
• AS/NZS 7000:2016, Overhead line design – Detailed procedures;
• the WAER; and
• other network operator technical requirements as set out in the WADCM.
In particular, relevant provisions in the WAER require that:
• new low voltage private power lines should be in the form of underground cables except in
extenuating circumstances; and
• where new overhead lines are installed, they must be constructed using only prescribed pole
types and insulated conductors

Inspection of private overhead power poles and lines

General requirements

 

Property owners should inspect private power poles and lines at least once a year for any visible signs
of deterioration including:
• vegetation growth near or in contact with the power line conductors;
• wood poles which are cracked, damaged, leaning, rotting or attacked by white-ants/termites;
• steel poles showing signs of significant rust and corrosion; and
• obvious defects such as support brackets pulling away from poles/buildings, damaged staywires, splits in wooden crossarms, broken strands in wires, damaged insulators or wires hanging
much lower than others in the same section.
Private power poles and lines should also be checked for possible damage following significant
weather events involving lightning, high winds, heavy rain and/or extremes of cold and heat.
If property owners identify any apparent defects, they should promptly arrange for further detailed
inspection and/or repairs by a licensed electrical contractor.

Detailed inspection requirements

The following sections provide recommended practices for inspection of private power lines and their
primary components by electrical contractors.

 

Safely remove any vegetation close to the base of all power poles and under the power lines to
minimise the risk of starting fires or propagating ground fires.
• Further detailed information is provided in the Building and Energy publication Guidelines for the
management of vegetation near power lines (see www.dmirs.wa.gov.au/building-and-energy).

Power poles
Private power poles vary in type, with different life expectancies, and may be:
• hardwood (e.g. jarrah);
• softwood (e.g. pine); or
• steel (tubular or lattice).

If poles have been in service for longer than their expected life, there is a strong possibility that they
are no longer safe, even though there may be no obvious evidence of deterioration. Also, the lifeexpectancy of wood poles can vary significantly depending on their uses, species, climatic conditions
and the location’s soil properties. If there are any doubts about the strength of any pole, it should
either be replaced or an expert assessment should be sought from a civil/structural engineer or asset
management company.
If the poles are timber:
• They should be inspected for obvious defects such as ground line rot, large cracks, splitting or
excessive leaning.
• It is important to determine the species of the timber and age of the poles (where possible) to
determine the appropriate treatment of any defects.
• If the poles are made of sawn timber, they should be replaced immediately. Sawn timber should
not be used to support power lines because of the high risk of deterioration and early failure.
• If termites/white ants are detected during an inspection, prompt treatment should be sought
from a white ant inspector/pest controller. If damage is significant, the pole should be replaced.
• In some cases, ground-line reinforcements using galvanised steel supports can be used to
extend the life of wood poles. However, this work must only be performed by asset management
companies specialising in such services. Electrical contractors must not attempt to reinforce
poles unless they can certify that the reinforced poles satisfy the structural properties prescribed
in Appendix D of AS/NZS 3000:2018