Contact with electricity can kill, cause serious burns and disabling injuries.   There are many electrical incidents which damage equipment and thousands of 'near-misses', any of which could have had fatal consequences.

In agriculture, many of these involve contact with overhead power lines (OHPLs).  Farm  machinery is getting bigger and taller, increasing the chances of a cable strike.   Such incidents also  cause disruption and costs to farmers, other businesses and the community.

Others involve poorly maintained hand-held equipment, electrical faults on machinery or extension cables. Poor electrical installations and equipment can also cause fires, resulting in significant losses in buildings, equipment and livestock.

What you need to do...

Electrical equipment must be safe, and properly maintained.  Work near electrical equipment, or conductors such as OHPLs should be carried out safely.  You should isolate the power supply before carrying out any repair or maintenance work. The key issues are:

Overhead power lines

Electricity can arc (jump gaps) in certain circumstances when equipment or machinery gets close enough – you do not need to contact OHPLs to receive an electric shock.  Make sure you know where OHPLs are located on your farm, or where you are required to work.  For example, obtain a map showing the routes of the lines , available from your Distribution Network Operator (DNO), or mark the route of the lines on your own farm map.  Ensure that visiting workers such as contractors also have copies and include details of OHPLs in contracts you have with them.

The safest option is to avoid OHPLs altogether if you can.  But  if you have to work near OHPLs, plan the job carefully and use safe systems of work. 

Consult with your DNO and if necessary arrange temporary disconnection.  If OHPLs run across your land, ask your DNO if they can be re-routed, put underground, or raised.

Risks can be reduced if  the following activities are not carried out within a horizontal distance of at least 10m from OHPLs .

If you cannot avoid carrying out  any of these activities closer than 10 m, consult your DNO for advice.  If the line cannot be moved or made dead,  you will need to assess the risks and agree a safe system of work.

What to do if you come into contact with an OHPL

Look at the Energy Network Association's (ENA) website for more information.

Underground cables

If you suspect there are underground cables owned by the DNO in the vicinity of where you propose to excavate, ask the DNO for plans to confirm their location. If they are in close proximity you may need to ask someone from the DNO to come and accurately locate them for you using appropriate cable detection equipment.

If you are intending to excavate where your own cables are present, then someone who is experienced in underground cable detection techniques should help you locate them.  Always use safe digging techniques where cables are present.

Your electrical system

Make sure that:

Portable equipment

Electrical tools used outdoors or where there is a lot of earthed metalwork should be either

Consider whether you can avoid using electricity altogether, eg by using pneumatic tools in the workshop, but check the noise levels are not too high.

Make sure you and your workers:

Electric shock

It is important to know what to do if someone receives an electric shock. Remember always to disconnect the power source first. If that is not possible, never touch the electrocuted person except with non-conducting items and never use metal. Resuscitation needs training and practice so make sure that you and your workers receive elementary first aid training. You can also display a copy of an 'electric shock poster' which shows what to do.