Many types of farm work can put you at risk of contact with powerlines, especially if you’re 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 risks.
Understanding the risks
Some farming activities carry a higher risk of unexpected contact with energised cables. This could cause power outages, damage your equipment or give you a life-threatening electric shock. High-risk jobs often involve large machinery that can contact powerlines when passing underneath or restrict your field of vision.
Farming jobs with a higher risk of electrical accidents include:
- transporting machinery or other high loads
- moving equipment while irrigating
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 must 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 1.5 mb) for more about your legal requirements for worker safety.
If you’re a farm worker, always look for electrical hazards at the start of each day and monitor while you work. Then, use the following safe work habits to reduce any risks.
IMPORTANT: Always check for electrical hazards, even if you’ve been working there long-term. Electrical accidents often happen when workers underestimate risks in familiar surroundings
How to work safe
Before you start work, make sure you use a simple risk management process like the one below to identify electrical hazards, assess risks and plan safe work habits.
1. Identify electrical hazards
Check your work area for electrical hazards at the start of each day and as conditions change. Hazards are objects or tasks that could cause damage or injury, like a power pole or moving large machinery under powerlines.
To spot electrical hazards:
- Check the location of powerlines and other electrical infrastructure by
- Check for changing conditions that could create new hazards, like
- heat causing powerlines to sag, reducing clearance
- high winds causing lines to sway or fall
- lower light at dawn/dusk causing reduced visibility
- damaged power poles reducing clearance.
- Check that your equipment and machinery
- is in good working order, with no signs of damage
- will not pass into any powerline exclusion zones in the course of your job.
If you’re a worker, tell the person in charge about any hazards and stay well clear.
If you’re in charge, you need to assess the risks posed by each electrical hazard, before deciding what action to take. You can find detailed guidance in the Electrical Safety Codes of Practice and our Electrical Entity Requirements (PDF 1.5 mb).
IMPORTANT: Stay well clear of damaged powerlines and report them immediately by calling Triple zero (000).
2. Use safe work habits
If you can’t remove a hazard, you should use safe work habits to reduce the risk it poses.
There are a range of safe work habits for farm work — including general guidelines for work near powerlines, and specific advice for irrigation, transporting high loads, cotton and sugarcane growing.
Marking powerlines on your property
Find out about powerline markers and how to increase the visibility of overhead powerlines on your property. Marking powerlines is especially important when low level flying or large machinery is operating on your property.
We 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. Topics include exclusion zones, safety observer zones and how to safely operate plant and vehicles near powerlines.
If you would like to book a session for your conference or staff, please email us and we'll contact you to discuss a suitable time.
Want more information?
If you have more questions, you might find answers in our Frequently Asked Questions.
Safety fact sheets
Download our fact sheets for information about working safely in agriculture:
- Buildings, structures and billboards (PDF 1.4 mb)
- Fire and high voltage powerline safety (PDF 1.4 mb)
- Look Up and Live – Exclusion zones (PDF 624.9 kb)
- Low-level flying (PDF 1.4 mb)
- Marking overhead powerlines and electrical assets (PDF 1.8 mb)
- Trees and powerlines (PDF 1.8 mb)