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Electrical hazards on the farm can result in electrical shock to humans or to livestock and possibly result in a fire within structures or in operating equipment.

Every year over 60 farm workers in the U.S. are electrocuted and 10 or more of these electrocutions are fatal.


The most common causes are portable grain augers, oversized wagons, large combines, irrigation pipe and other tall equipment that contact overhead power lines.

Equipment involved in electrocutions:

  • Tractors with front-end loaders
  • Portable grain augers
  • Irrigation pipes
  • Fold-up cultivators
  • Combines
  • Other tall equipment including ladders

Irrigation pipe hazard

Special care should be taken when lifting irrigation pipes to a horizontal position under high-voltage lines.  See regulations for distance requirements.

All equipment and irrigation water streams must be kept at least 10 feet away from high-voltage power lines.

Portable Grain Auger Hazard

Always lower a portable grain auger before it is moved any distance if in the vicinity of power lines. Check the height of all tall equipment to ensure that it will not touch overhead powerlines during the move. 

Prevention Tips – Power Lines

  • Watch out for overhead electrical lines.
  • Know where they are located.
  • Treat all overhead power lines as though they are energized, and they can kill you.
  • Keep all tall equipment and irrigation pipes away from overhead lines.

Barns & Livestock Houses

  • Barns & livestock houses are dusty, moist, and corrosive places.
  • Supply waterproof, dustproof, and explosion proof electrical boxes, outlets, and motors in these areas to ensure safe and reliable electricity throughout the farm.
  • Have ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) permanently in each electrical circuit. 
  • Use tools and equipment designed to prevent shock. 
  • Use extension cords properly.
  • Interior wiring should also be securing fastened, protected, or encased in metal or plastic conduit. It should be secured in a manner that it will not be damaged by moving equipment or livestock.
  • Grain fines and crop residues are readily combustible and all electrical components and hydraulic/fuel systems on machinery should be checked for malfunction or leaks.

Livestock Hazard

Animals are naturally grounded, making them more sensitive to low intensity electrical currents than humans. Humans usually wear foot ware and have dryer skin than animals.  This provides greater resistance to electrical shock. Humans may not feel an electrical shock from stray current, but an animal may when standing on a damp concrete slab or damp ground.

Animals experiencing even a minor electrical shock may be reluctant to go near the equipment such as a waterer resulting in harm to the animal or the animal’s production.

What If a Vehicle Contacts a Power Line?

Know what to do if the vehicle you are operating meets an overhead line:

  • Stay in/on the vehicle unless there is a fire.
  • Ask for someone to immediately contact the local utility company to shut off the power.
  • Electrical current from high voltage lines can flow through vehicle and energize the ground up to 100 feet away.
  • If there is an emergency such as an electrical fire and you must leave the equipment, jump as far away as possible.
  • Do not allow any part of your body to touch the equipment and the ground at the same time. Shuffle away from where you jumped. To shuffle, do not lift either foot completely off the ground.  Always keep both feet in contact with the ground.
  • Shuffling greatly reduces current flow through your body from the ground. Shuffle slowly away from the equipment for at least 100 feet.
  • Once away from the vehicle, never attempt to get back on or even touch it.
  • Many electrocutions occur when someone dismounts, then gets back on the vehicle, assuming there is no problem.

 Transport and Clearance

  • Have the utility company determine transport and clearance height for farm equipment. Never measure line heights yourself.
  • Where possible, use pre-planned routes that avoid power lines when moving equipment.
  • Keep all equipment and objects at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.

 Warning Signs

On-farm equipment that has parts capable of vertical, lateral, or swing motion, install a durable sign, legible at 12 feet that says:

Safety Decals

If not already labeled, attach decals to all equipment that may pose electrical hazards and explain decals to workers who work with the equipment.

Determine Other Electrocution Risks

  • Determine risks for potential electrical shock and restrict access to those areas.
  • Locate all buried lines and keep the information available for reference before any digging operations.

Train Your Workers

  • Provide adequate training for all workers. Train them in rescue and emergency procedures so everyone in your operation knows what to do in an electrical emergency.
  • Train seasonal workers about dangers and frequently give reminders.

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