Agriculture

Many types of farm work can put you at risk of contact with powerlines, especially if you’re using large machinery like cane or cotton harvesters. To keep safe, you’ll need to know how to spot electrical hazards on the job and use safe work habits to reduce risks.

Understanding the risks

Some farming activities carry a higher risk of unexpected contact with energised cables. This could cause power outages, damage your equipment or give you a life-threatening electric shock. High-risk jobs often involve large machinery that can contact powerlines when passing underneath or restrict your field of vision.

Farming jobs with a higher risk of electrical accidents include:

  • harvesting
  • spraying
  • transporting machinery or other high loads
  • moving equipment while irrigating
  • excavating.

Check out our Agriculture Industry Safety Pack (PDF 4.8 mb). Quantities of these can be ordered  via our Brochure and sticker order form.

What are my responsibilities?

If you’re in charge of a property, you must take reasonable steps to protect workers from electrical hazards and help them work safely. See the Electrical Safety Codes of Practice and Electrical Entity Requirements (PDF 765.3 kb) for more about your legal requirements for worker safety.

If you’re a farm worker, always ‘take care stay line aware’. Look for electrical hazards at the start of each day and monitor while you work. Then, use the following safe work habits to reduce any risks.

IMPORTANT: Always check for electrical hazards, even if you’ve been working there long-term. Electrical accidents often happen when workers underestimate risks in familiar surroundings.

How to work safe

Before you start work, make sure you ‘take care, stay line aware’. Use a simple risk management process like the one below to identify electrical hazards, assess risks and plan safe work habits.

1. Identify electrical hazards

Check your work area for electrical hazards at the start of each day and as conditions change. Hazards are objects or tasks that could cause damage or injury, like a power pole or moving large machinery under powerlines.

To spot electrical hazards:

  1. Check the location of powerlines and other electrical infrastructure by
  2. Check for changing conditions that could create new hazards, like
    • heat causing powerlines to sag, reducing clearance
    • high winds causing lines to sway or fall
    • lower light at dawn/dusk causing reduced visibility
    • damaged power poles reducing clearance.
  3. Check that your equipment and machinery

If you’re a worker, tell the person in charge about any hazards and stay well clear.

If you’re in charge, you need to assess the risks posed by each electrical hazard, before deciding what action to take.  You can find detailed guidance in the Electrical Safety Codes of Practice and our Electrical Entity Requirements. (PDF 765.3 kb)

IMPORTANT: Stay well clear of damaged powerlines and report them immediately by calling triple zero (000).

2. Use safe work habits

If you can’t remove a hazard, you should use safe work habits to reduce the risk it poses.

There are a range of safe work habits for farm work —  including general guidelines for work near powerlines, and specific advice for irrigation, transporting high loads, cotton and sugarcane growing.

Safe work habits for working near powerlines

If you’re working near powerlines, use the following safe work habits:

  • using physical ground barriers to prevent high machinery from passing into powerline exclusion zones
  • installing visual markers on electrical hazards that might be in vehicle blind spots
  • having us install visual markers on overhead powerlines
  • placing warning signs at least 10 metres on either side of powerlines
  • assigning a safety observer to guide machinery movements near overhead powerlines
  • monitoring that all machinery in use maintains its compulsory exclusion zone clearance from powerlines
  • lowering all machinery / equipment to the lowest point before relocating between paddocks
  • carrying out all maintenance and storage activities well away from powerlines
  • making sure all farm workers are trained in safe work practices, including emergency procedures
  • making sure all operators are aware of the height of their machinery in stowed and working positions.

Safe work habits for irrigators

Although irrigation is often a routine task, the combination of water, power and large machinery means it can be dangerous. You can reduce risks by:

  • paying attention to powerlines when relocating or positioning irrigators or irrigation pipes
  • carrying out all maintenance and storage activities well away from powerlines
  • keeping spray from irrigators clear of powerlines
  • being careful not to lift irrigation pipes at right angles near powerlines
  • placing ground markers near powerlines and training workers not to cross them
  • using a safety observer to make sure you keep a safe distance from powerlines.

Safe work habits for transporting high loads

Any loaded vehicle taller than 4.6m is considered to be a ‘high load’. At this height, there’s an increased chance your load could contact overhead powerlines when you’re on the move.

This means you must get written authorisation from us before you transport a load or machinery taller than 4.6 metres. Submit a Notification to Transport High Load form (DOCX 103.1 kb) to advise us of the details of your high load.

Check out our Trucking Industry Safety Pack (PDF 1.4 mb). Quantities of these can be ordered  via our Brochure and sticker order form.

Safe work habits for cotton growers

Cotton workers use large machinery throughout the growing season, which is often tall enough to make contact with powerlines.

If you’re working with cotton, you can improve your safety by:

  • lowering the bars on top of cotton pickers when relocating from paddock to paddock and farm to farm
  • lowering the ram/tramper to the transport position when relocating cotton module makers
  • installing visual markers on overhead powerlines
  • building cotton modules well away from overhead powerlines
  • making boll buggy pick-ups well clear of overhead powerlines.

Check out our Cotton Industry Safety Pack (PDF 5.7 mb). Quantities of these can be ordered  via our Brochure and sticker order form.

Safe work practices for cane growers

Unfortunately, cane harvesting is a very common cause of workplace electrical accidents in Queensland.  Tall equipment and reduced visibility mean harvesters regularly contact and bring down overhead powerlines.

If you’re working with sugarcane, you can improve your safety by:

  • investigating options to relocate hazardous powerlines
  • lowering toppers and elevators to the transport position when relocating, from paddock to paddock and farm to farm
  • installing visual markers on overhead powerlines
  • considering the location of existing powerlines and their exclusion zones when building new cane paddocks and sidings.

Check out our Cane Industry Safety Pack (PDF 5.2 mb). Quantities of these can be ordered  via our Brochure and sticker order form.

Marking powerlines on your property

Find out about powerline markers and how to increase the visibility of overhead powerlines on your property. Marking powerlines is especially important when low level flying or large machinery is operating on your property.

Awareness sessions

We offer training sessions to help your team work safely near overhead and underground powerlines. These sessions can be targeted for conferences, business groups, local councils or emergency services groups. Topics include exclusion zones, safety observer zones and how to safely operate plant and vehicles near powerlines.

If you would like to book a session for your conference or staff, please email us and we'll contact you to discuss a suitable time.

Want more information?

FAQs

If you have more questions, you might find answers in our Frequently Asked Questions (PDF 124.2 kb).

Safety fact sheets

Download our fact sheets for information about working safely in agriculture:

To order factsheets in industry packs, use our brochure & sticker order form.

Other forms and guidelines

Links to some popular request forms and information.