Working with Overhead Powerlines

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

On average, two people are killed whilst others endure life
changing injuries every year in the UK when equipment or
machinery comes into contact or close proximity to overhead
power lines.

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 of 5 metres, 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, especially 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 buying new machinery, make sure you are aware of its maximum height and make sure that there is enough 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 them on a map.
If you happen upon an accident involving Overhead Powerlines 
  • Stay calm, keep clear and call for help.
  • Check your What3Words address as this can help identify exactly where the line is and where you are.
  • Call 105 (the national number for power emergencies in GB) Your call will go to your local electricity distribution company. Give them your What3Words address and tell them to disconnect the power as there has been a farm 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 Give them your What3Words address and explain the nature of the injury (this helps prioritise the type and speed of responder).

Assist the injured person

  • Remind the victim what they should be doing (whilst keeping yourself at a safe distance).
  • Tell them to 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 IT ISN’T SAFE TO STAY IN THE CAB (e.g. if the vehicle is on fire) THEN JUMP WELL CLEAR  making leaping strides so that one foot is off the ground at all times until you are at least 5 metres away
  • NEVER RETURN TO THE VEHICLE – power lines 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.





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dan parrWorking with Overhead Powerlines