Working with Overhead Powerlines

Scroll down to find out more

Overhead powerlines carry a powerful electrical charge and if machinery or equipment come into contact with them, the consequences can be fatal.

On average, one farm worker dies each year as a result of contact with an overhead powerline.

In the last five years, there were 1,140 near-misses involving machinery and overhead powerlines where serious injury or death was a possibility.

The risk to farmworkers is not only during harvest, but all year round. Every year, approximately 225 reported incidents occur where farm vehicles and machinery make contact with overhead lines. Typically these incidents involve equipment such as tipping trailers, lorry mounted cranes, combine harvesters and telehandlers. Not only does each incident have the potential to kill or seriously injure those involved, but there are also financial costs in terms of damaged or destroyed equipment and lost time.

And you do not even have to contact the line! At high voltage, electricity can jump gaps, so machinery does not have to touch a powerline to result in a serious or lethal electric shock so even getting too close to overhead power lines can be dangerous.


Always assume that a powerline is live unless and until the owner of the line has confirmed that it is dead.
Even though power lines are normally visible, people are less aware of them when they are busy at work, particularly at night, so accidents do happen. Where equipment or machinery is used near overhead power lines the risks must be considered and controlled.
Find out the heights and locations of overhead power lines crossing land you farm and mark these on a map.
Do not store materials, stack bales or store crops underneath overhead power lines.
When purchasing new machinery, make sure you are aware of its maximum height and ensure that there is sufficient clearance to pass safely beneath overhead power lines on your land.
Make sure people working on your farm, including contractors, are aware of the heights of overhead power lines so that they can plan their work to reduce the risk of coming into contact with them. 
Equipment that is capable of contacting overhead powerlines should not work within 10 metres of the line.. 

Before starting the task STOP and THINK…

  • Think about the job you are going to do and make preparations to do the whole task safely.
  • Identify areas where it is unsafe for materials handlers, tipping lorries and trainers to work and mark these on a map.
If you happen upon an accident involving Overhead Powerlines 
  • Stay calm, keep clear and call for help.
  • Call 105, the national number for power emergencies in GB – your call will be routed to your local electricity distribution company. Request that the power line is immediately disconnected because of an accident.
  • If a piece of machinery or equipment has made contact with an overhead powerline, touching that equipment could be fatal so stand well clear. The driver of a vehicle which has come into contact with an overhead powerline should remain safe by staying in the cab
  • Keep everyone else out of the way.
  • Call the emergency services using either 999 or 112. Explain the nature of the injury (this helps prioritise the type and speed of responder).

Assist the injured person

  • Remind affected person of action they should take (whilst keeping yourself at a safe distance).
  • STAY in cab until the power network confirms the line is off.
  • Ask the driver to DRIVE clear of the wires if they can.
  • IF NOT SAFE TO REMAIN IN CAB (e.g. the vehicle is on fire) THEN JUMP WELL CLEAR ensuring no contact is made between the person, the vehicle and the ground at the same time and RUN WELL CLEAR.
  • NEVER RETURN TO THE VEHICLE – wires can re-energise without warning.


  • Discuss the risks regularly with the whole team, and train everyone in safe working methods, and emergency procedures.
  • Make sure everyone carries a mobile phone with them and have the relevant emergency information and emergency contact numbers programmed into them.  Keep the mobile phone with you.





ATVs >

dan parrWorking with Overhead Powerlines