Preventing Electrical Accidents on the Farm

You’re probably aware that farming is one of the nation’s most hazardous occupations. What you may not realize is that many hazards on Indiana farms relate to electricity, says Rick Coons, CEO at Indiana Electric Cooperatives.

“Each year, between 30 and 40 farmers are electrocuted nationally,” says Coons. “Countless others are injured in electrical mishaps. Electrical incidents also damage and destroy structures and equipment.”

Fortunately, most electrical accidents on Indiana farms are preventable. Farm workers can reduce the risks associated with electricity by following safe practices and using common sense.

“One of the most important precautions is the ‘10-foot rule’,” explains Coons. “Always keep all equipment at least 10 feet away from power lines. If you need to perform work near a power line, let us know, so we can be sure you’re protected. If you need to dig near power lines, call 8-1-1 at least two full working days prior to digging to get your underground utility lines marked for free.” Other ways to reduce the chances of electrical accidents include:

  • Be especially careful when pruning trees or moving piping and other metal equipment near power lines. Never use metal ladders near power lines.
  • Never touch or try to move a downed power line, even with a pole or a stick. Instead, call the co-op.
  • If a circuit breaker keeps tripping, find and fix the problem with the circuit. Never bypass a breaker, even temporarily.
  • Use ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) outdoors and in wet or humid indoor areas.
  • Inspect wiring regularly to ensure that insulation hasn’t been damaged by rodents.
  • Use only corrosion-resistant electrical equipment, because moisture, animal waste, and agriculture chemicals can damage ordinary equipment.
  • Check wiring for irrigation pumps and motors before use, and verify proper grounding.
  • All electrical equipment installed outdoors must be watertight.
  • In dusty situations, such as in grain-handling areas, use explosion-proof switches and put protective enclosures over light bulbs.
  • Install disconnects on each building and at every service entrance, so you can shut power off immediately when needed.


Another area to ensure electrical safety practices is creating a lockout/tagout program. “One of the best electrical safety measures for Indiana farmers is establishing a lockout/tagout program,” adds Coons. “That way, when a worker is repairing equipment or doing work on an electrical circuit, workers can lock out the source of the electricity. Other workers cannot accidentally restart the power. The only worker who can remove the lock and energize the circuit is the one who shut it off.” Indiana Electric Cooperatives can provide more information about lockout/tagout programs.

SOURCES: Cornell University,  University of Idaho, Ozark Border Electric Cooperative.

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