Public Safety

Safety Around Hydroelectric Facilities

Dams, generating stations and reservoirs are used for the generation of electricity. Hydroelectric generating facilities can be interesting places to visit; however, these areas may be dangerous to the unwary.

Some hazards are readily apparent and some are not. Hazards such as water flows, both upstream and downstream of dams and generating facilities, may change quickly and without warning.  This can be particularly hazardous to swimmers, kayakers and people fishing.

Observe these safety precautions around hydroelectric facilities:

Stay clear of generating facilities including dams, powerhouses and all electrical equipment.
Respect fenced and gated areas and observe all danger and warning safety signs.
Stay on designated trails and within marked observation areas.
Supervise children closely.
Stay outside of safety booms and buoys and away from all dam structures.
Be alert for changes in water levels.
Never stand, anchor or tie your boat below a dam. Water levels and flows can change rapidly and take you by surprise, swamping your boat or putting you in the grip of an undertow.
Stay off hydroelectric dams or station structures, unless Pioneer Energy has clearly indicated public walkways or observation points.
Stay well back from the edge of a waterway where footing may be slippery or the bank unstable.
In winter, avoid walking on reservoirs near dams and generating stations where the ice may be thin due to the current or where changing water levels have created gaps under the ice.

What is electricity?

Electricity is a form of energy. Through the movement of electrons, electricity has the power to heat, to light, to move things and to make things work.

Electricity travels along a circuit. When you plug something in and turn it on, you complete the electrical circuit from the power station to your home.

Electricity can flow through some materials easily, such as metal and water. These are called conductors. Other materials, such as rubber, plastic, glass and ceramics are called insulators because electricity does not travel easily through them.

An electrical current will flow to make a circuit. If something that conducts electricity gives it an easy path to the ground, it will take it.

People are conductors of electricity as our bodies are mostly water. If you touch an electric circuit and the ground, or earth, at the same time, electricity will flow through you and this could be fatal.

Safe living with electricity

Electricity is clean, efficient and instantly available for use. It cannot be seen and it has no smell. Electricity can cause shock, burns and fire.

Never play with electrical cords, wires, switches, or plugs.
Stay away from fallen power lines.

Electricity - Tips for staying safe

Never use a hairdryer or play an electrical radio or television near a bathtub or sink.
Before you climb a tree, look up. If a power line is nearby or touching, stay away from the tree.
Never touch anything that runs on electricity when your hands are wet.
Fly kites and model airplanes in a wide open field or park—never near overhead electrical wires.
Never climb utility poles or electrical towers.
Stay away from substations and transformers (green boxes).

Living and working with electricity

Overhead lines, underground cables, transformers and substations

Treat all lines as though they are live.
Make sure children are aware of the dangers associated with electricity.
When you plan to work near overhead lines or power poles it is a legal requirement that you follow the minimum safe distances as set down by New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice – NZECP 34:2001 Electrical Safe Distances.
All work activity must be kept at least four metres from overhead lines.
Do not dig within five metres of power poles or utility pillar box.
Keep vegetation trimmed away from overhead lines and electrical equipment.
If you need to work closer to any overhead or underground lines you must get a Close Approach Consent from the asset owner.


Look up and watch out for overhead lines around boat ramps, mast-heads or when towing your boat on land. If a boat mast has brought down the power lines around a vehicle, the safest way to avoid electric shock is for occupants to stay in the vehicle until help arrives.

In the event of an electrical shock, don’t touch the victim until you are certain the source of electricity has been removed. Call 111.

Further Information

The New Zealand Government Energy Safety website has helpful information to keep you safe around electricity and at electrical sites.