Working on a farm means you’ll often need to work close to our powerlines, especially when using large machinery like cane or cotton harvesters. To keep safe, you’ll need to know how to spot electrical hazards on the job and use safe work habits to reduce any risks they create.

Understanding the risks

Some farming activities put you at a higher risk of making contact with energised cables, which could cause power outages, damage your equipment or give you a life-threatening electric shock. These jobs often involve large machinery that can contact powerlines when passing underneath, or that restricts your field of vision.

Farming jobs with a higher risk of electrical accidents include:

  • harvesting
  • spraying
  • transporting machinery or other high loads
  • moving equipment while irrigating
  • excavating.

Check out our Agriculture Industry Safety Pack (PDF 4.8 mb). Quantities of these can be ordered  via our Brochure and sticker order form.

What are my responsibilities?

If you’re in charge of a property, you need to take reasonable steps to protect workers from electrical hazards and help them work safely. See the Electrical Safety Codes of Practice and Electrical Entity Requirements (PDF 894.0 kb) for more about your legal requirements for worker safety.

If you’re a farm worker, always ‘take care stay line aware’. Look for electrical hazards at the start of each day and keep an eye on them while you work. You can also use the following safe work habits to improve your safety.

IMPORTANT: Always check for electrical hazards, even if you’ve been working the same property for a long time. Electrical accidents often happen when workers underestimate their risks in familiar surroundings.

How to work safe

Before you start work, make sure you ‘take care, stay line aware’. Use a simple risk management process like the one below to identify electrical hazards, assess risks and plan safe work habits to eliminate or reduce the danger.

1. Identify electrical hazards

Check your work area for electrical hazards at the start of each day, or as conditions change.  These are objects or tasks that could cause damage or injury, like a power pole or moving large machinery under powerlines.

To spot electrical hazards:

  1. Check the location of powerlines and other electrical infrastructure by:
    1. locating overhead powerlines visually or using our Look up and live map
    2. locating underground powerlines using the Dial Before You Dig service
    3. noting the exclusion zone distances for each overhead powerline.
  2. Check for changing conditions that could create new hazards, like:
    1. heat causing powerlines to sag, reducing clearance
    2. high winds causing lines to sway or fall
    3. lower light at dawn/dusk causing reduced visibility
    4. damaged power poles reducing clearance.
  3. Check that your equipment and machinery:
    1. is in good working order, with no signs of damage
    2. will not pass into any powerline exclusion zones in the course of your job.

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If you’re a worker, tell the person in charge if you notice any hazards and stay well clear.

If you’re in charge of the job, you’ll then need to assess the level of risk posed by each electrical hazard, before deciding on what action you’ll take.  You can find detailed guidance in the Electrical Safety Codes of Practice and our Electrical Entity Requirements. (PDF 894.0 kb)

IMPORTANT: Stay well clear of damaged powerlines and report them to us immediately by calling 13 19 62 or  triple zero (000).

2. Use safe work habits

If you can’t remove a hazard, you can use safe work habits to reduce the risk as much as possible.

There are a range of safe work habits for different types of farm work including general guidelines for work near powerlines, and specific advice for irrigation, transporting high loads, cotton and sugarcane growing.

Safe work habits for working near powerlines

If you’re working near powerlines, you might consider using the following safe work habits:

  • using physical ground barriers to prevent high machinery from passing into powerline exclusion zones
  • installing visual markers on electrical hazards that might be in vehicle blind spots
  • having Energex install visual markers on overhead powerlines
  • placing warning signs at least 10 metres on either side of powerlines
  • assigning a safety observer to guide machinery movements near overhead powerlines
  • monitoring that all machinery in use maintains its compulsory exclusion zone clearance from powerlines
  • lowering all machinery / equipment to the lowest point before relocating between paddocks
  • carrying out all maintenance and storage activities well away from powerlines
  • making sure all farm workers are trained in safe work practices, including emergency procedures
  • making sure all operators are aware of the height of their machinery in both stowed and working positions.

Safe work habits for irrigators

Although irrigation is a routine task in many types of farming operations, the combination of water, power and large machinery means it can be dangerous. You can reduce the risk of injury or equipment damage by:

  • paying attention to powerlines when relocating or positioning irrigators or irrigation pipes
  • carrying out all maintenance and storage activities well away from powerlines
  • keeping spray from irrigators clear of powerlines
  • being careful not to lift irrigation pipes at right angles near powerlines.
  • placing ground markers near powerlines and training workers not to cross them
  • using a safety observer to make sure you keep a safe distance from powerlines.

Safe work habits for transporting high loads

A high load is any loaded vehicle taller than 4.6m. At this height, there’s a chance your load could contact overhead powerlines when you’re on the road.

Because of the safety risks, you must get written authorisation from us before you transport a load or machinery taller than 4.6 metres. Submit a Notification to Transport High Load form (PDF 256.8 kb) to advise us of the details of your high load.

Read our Trucking Industry factsheet (PDF 1.4 mb) for more information.

Safe work habits for cotton growers

Cotton farming uses large machinery throughout the growing season, which can easily make contact with powerlines.

If you’re working with cotton, you can reduce the risk of contacting powerlines by:

  • lowering the bars on top of cotton pickers when relocating from paddock to paddock and farm to farm
  • lowering the ram/tramper to the transport position when relocating cotton module makers
  • installing visual markers on overhead powerlines
  • building cotton modules well away from overhead powerlines
  • making boll buggy pick-ups well clear of overhead powerlines.

Check out our Cotton Industry Safety Pack (PDF 5.7 mb). Quantities of these can be ordered  via our Brochure and sticker order form.

Safe work practices for cane growers

Unfortunately, cane harvesting is a common cause of workplace electrical accidents in Queensland. A combination of large equipment and reduced visibility means harvesters often make contact with or bring down overhead powerlines.

If you’re working with sugarcane, you should use the following safe work practices to reduce or eliminate the risks:

Check out our Cane Industry Safety Pack (PDF 5.2 mb). Quantities of these can be ordered  via our Brochure and sticker order form.

Marking powerlines on your property

Find out about powerline markers and how to increase the visibility of powerlines on your property. Marking powerlines is especially important when low level flying or large machinery is operating on your property.

Rotamarker incentive program

To assist the agriculture and aviation industries, we are currently offering to install up to 10 rotamarkers per property at a reduced cost of $100 each (more than ten markers per property may incur extra installation costs).

To arrange for markers to be installed, complete our Safety Advice Form.

To encourage more farmers to take up this opportunity, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) is offering round 2 of rebates; a co-contribution up to a maximum of $500 to match farmers’ funds of installing rotamarkers.  QFF rebates close 30 June 2022.

Awareness sessions

We also offer training sessions to help your team work safely near overhead and underground powerlines. These sessions can be targeted for conferences, business groups, local councils or emergency services groups. We cover topics such as exclusion zones, safety observer zones and how to safely operate plant and vehicles near powerlines.

Email us to find out more or to book a session.

Want more information?

Safety fact sheets

Download our fact sheets for information about working safely in agriculture:

To order factsheets in industry packs, use our brochure & sticker order form.

Other forms and guidelines

Links to some popular request forms and information.