Farmers warned to stay safe around power lines this harvest

Farmers are being urged to take extra care when working near overhead power lines in a bid to reduce potentially fatal incidents on farms.

The annual “Look out, look up” electricity safety campaign was launched at the Cereals event this month, ahead of the busy harvest season.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), agriculture  is statistically the most dangerous industry, claiming the lives of about 30 people in farm accidents each year.

See also: 10 shortcuts that could kill you at harvest time

The Energy Networks Association, which organises the annual campaign, says one or two people die each year from electrocution caused by touching power lines with machinery.

In addition, there were also 1,140 near-miss incidents involving machinery and equipment contacting overhead electric power lines where serious injury or death was a possibility in the past five years.

Bigger machinery

Every year there are accidents involving power lines on farms – all of which are totally avoidable Phil Latham, NFU Cheshire

In recent years, farm machinery has become bigger and taller, and dangers can occur during ploughing, using irrigation pipes and ladders, loading or unloading vehicles, using combine harvesters, tipper wagons or trailers in fields and stacking materials.

Cheshire dairy farmer and NFU Cheshire county chairman Phil Latham, said: “Every year there are accidents involving power lines on farms – all of which are totally avoidable.

“My advice to my fellow farmers in the region is firstly make sure everyone knows where the lines crossing your land are.

“This means the farmer, their staff and visitors – especially delivery drivers and harvest staff. Don’t stack under or near lines.

“Lastly, check the height of lines on your land. If there is a problem, get it sorted with your local power network.”

How to stay safe when working with farm machinery near power lines

  • Check the location of underground electricity cables and overhead electricity power lines on your land
  • Contact your local power network for plans showing where electrical equipment is and add it to your farm map
  • Tell visitors, contractors or casual workers about the presence of electricity cables and lines
  • Look up when loading or unloading vehicles, using tipper wagons, trailers or stacking materials
  • Be extra careful when ploughing, using irrigation pipes, ladders and combines

What to do if a vehicle, equipment or machinery either contacts or brings down a power line

  • Stay in the cab and if you can use your mobile, ring 999 
  • Warn others to stay well clear
  • If you need to get out of the cab, jump well clear so no contact is made between you, the vehicle and the ground at the same time
  • Never touch the vehicle once you are on the ground and run well clear
  • Do not return to the vehicle, wires may re-energise without warning
  • Assume the cables are live, even if they are not sparking

UK Power Networks’ 24-hour emergency helpline is 105 or 0800 3163 105. Add this number to your phone contacts.

Farm fatalities after machinery contact with overhead power lines

  • November 2016 Young farmer Jackson Maplethorpe, 18,  died after being electrocuted when his tractor-trailer came into contact with an overhead power cable at his family farm in Digby Fen, Lincolnshire.
  • April 2016 Matthew Drummond, a self-employed tipper wagon driver, died after the arm of his lorry-mounted crane touched overhead power lines while he was unloading sand at Heaton Farm, near Rochdale, Greater Manchester. The farmer was later fined £18,000 for health and safety breaches.
  • January 2015 Edward Evans, 52, a scrap metal collector from Elton, Cheshire, hit the power lines and died after he attempted to collect broken lightweight metal cages on Holm Farm in Ince. A farmer was later ordered to pay almost £100,000 for health and safety breaches.