Image of a tractor working beneath power lines.

Tips on Farm Power Line Safety

Knowing how to work and drive implements safely around power lines on the farm is a job requirement for many employees. Review these training tips to train your staff on what to do when power lines are in play. Managing downed power lines and dealing with electrically charged equipment are also discussed.

One thing is certain on the farm, and that’s change. The seasons come and go, crops get planted and harvested and — an often less recognized change — the power lines running through your land begin to sag. This can be a problem, because power lines that once offered plenty of clearance for implements and vehicles might now be a hazard. Which is why it’s time to get up to speed on power line safety.

Follow these general guidelines on staying safe around power lines to help keep you and your employees safe while working on the farm.

Map Out Power Lines First

Your electric utility may be able to assist you in creating a detailed map of where power lines cross your land, so be sure to contact them and request a copy. You can also download a map or a satellite image of your property and zoom in to locate power lines. Print out the map and trace the lines in varying colors according to approximate height and voltage.

Power Line Safety Training for Employees

Now that you know where the lines exist, share this news with your staff and post the map where employees can see it. Use this map as a way to talk about power line safety so your staff understands where the risks are across the farm. Lead with these pointers:

The 10-foot rule. Avoid arching by steering clear of power lines. Arching is an electrical discharge that can carry an electrical charge through the air and can electrify nearby objects that are not physically connected to an electrical source. This is a good starting point, because the simple act of keeping away from power lines — at least 10 feet — can greatly reduce the risk of arching or physical contact with the electric lines.

  • Discuss with employees which equipment and implements on the farm run the risk of breaking this rule.
  • Be sure they know to lower all equipment to the lowest position before moving.
  • Assign a spotter to watch the power line as equipment is transported in areas where clearance is in question.
  • Use the map to chart a route between fields that best avoids power lines.
  • Discuss ways in which these items can operate safely around power lines.

Looking for more great advice on working more safely with tractors? We’ve got some important tractor safety tips for you to review.

Monitor irrigation jets. Farms that use any type of irrigation need to be sure that the water and the equipment itself do not make contact with overhead power lines. Arching can back feed electric current into the water pipes and electrify the irrigation system. This is particularly important to know if your farm uses center point or linear move irrigation systems where the jet’s spray will move over time.

  • Have a staff member observe the entire irrigation pathway and the jet’s spray.
  • Adjust the output to keep the water away from power lines.

Simple Ways to Avoid Electrocution

Simple as it may sound, stress that employees need to steer clear of power lines with tools, machinery and items that they’re carrying.

The dangers of secondary contact. Secondary contact occurs when a power line electrifies something upon making contact. This can be a tree, a fence or any other item. If a worker should pick an apple from a tree that’s electrified, they may be electrocuted.

  • Be sure to flag locations that need observation if sagging lines threaten to come into contact with trees or other items.
  • Call your power utility and coordinate with them a plan to monitor or fix the problem.
  • Farm fencing can pose a risk as well and should be inspected from time to time to be sure livestock and employees are protected.

Take a look at our safe farm fence tips to see how your farm’s perimeter can be improved and made more reliable.

Keep it horizontal. Stress that employees should carry ladders, pipes and other long items horizontally to avoid arching with power lines.  

Downed Power Lines and Agricultural Safety

Powerful storms are known to down power lines, and downed power lines pose risks that you should educate your employees on. Here are some tips should you face a downed power line:

Stay back 35 feet. Downed power lines should be assumed live and dangerous. Avoid going near them, and stay at least 35 feet away from the line as it can energize the ground around it. If you see a downed line, notify local authorities immediately.

Know what to do when. If you find yourself inside the 35-foot perimeter of a downed power line, shuffle your feet as you walk away. Keep both feet in continuous contact with the ground and take small steps to avoid arching from the ground to your foot. If a vehicle comes into contact with a live wire, instruct employees to stay inside and avoid contact with any metal or conductive material in the vehicle. Call for help immediately with a cell phone. Only let emergency personnel near the area.

Dig safely. Call the digger’s hotline or your local utilities and request that they come out and mark the area where you’ll be digging so you’ll know where to avoid. Power lines don’t need to fall from above to be dangerous.

There’s nothing more important than safety on the farm. Employees and children should be made aware of these risks before they begin work on the farm. If you’re looking for other ways to improve safety, we’ve got more tips on farm safety that detail ways to keep you, your family and your employees safe.

After you’ve discussed the ways to work safely around power lines, take another look at your coverage by contacting your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) today. You’ll find tailoring your policy to the exact needs of your business can help to put your mind at ease.

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