Farm field with powerlines separating the field and farm house.

Electrical Safety on the Farm & Ranch

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

Understanding electrical safety on the farm is vital to avoid hazards and potential harm to you and your staff. Keep these electrical safety rules in mind to help maintain a safe and productive operation.

Your farm is made of many moving parts. Even though you have a lot to manage, you know to keep safety on the farm front and center. A reliable power supply is a key resource on your farm, but it can also cause problems if it’s not managed properly. Understanding electrical safety on the farm is vital to avoid hazards to you and other employees. Take a look at these important electrical tips to ensure a safe working environment for your operation.

Proper Grounding on the Farm

To ensure the safety and reliability of your farm or ranch’s electrical system, verify that all equipment has a functioning grounding wire. According to OSHA, grounding an electrical system means “intentionally creating a low-resistance path that connects to the earth. This prevents the buildup of voltages that could cause an electrical accident.” Take these steps to prevent accidents from happening on the farm:

Inspect Power Tools

You probably work with power tools frequently. Make it a habit to check that the ground and all ground connections are secure and that power cords aren’t frayed in any way.

Examine Electrical Outlets

Use grounded, three-hole electrical outlets with faceplates and make sure to have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) protection around all potentially damp locations. Always hire a certified electrician to get the work done. Be sure that hot and neutral lines are properly wired, too.

Practice Proper Wiring Standards

In addition to grounding your grid, be sure that your hot and neutral wires are all connected properly at every breaker. Also inspect outlet and electric terminals that connect to farm machinery to ensure they’re properly grounded. Electrical equipment will perform more reliably and be less susceptible to internal damage when wired correctly.

Keep Wiring Safely Contained

To prevent electrical damage to your power supply, you’ll want to protect your lines from the elements by safely burying cables when possible. If you do have wiring above ground, verify that all connections to electrical equipment are sealed with watertight covers. This can help to avoid accidental electrocution. Farm safety is all about working consistently across your whole operation, so be sure safety protocols are followed at every electrical connection.

Managing Overhead Powerlines

Overhead powerlines are common on the farm. Exercise caution around and especially under them when moving your farm implements and machinery. Know the height of your equipment in case you have to go under a powerline. Identify all the overhead powerlines on your farm and create a map that identifies the safest way to transport equipment and machinery across your acreage

Understand the Dangers of Downed Power Lines

If you see a downed or damaged powerline, stay away from it and call 911 or your electric utility company immediately. Never try to raise or move a power line on your own. Be aware that powerlines can stretch and bow over time.

Watch for Guy Wires

A guy wire is the tensioned cable that adds stability to a free-standing structure, like a utility pole. Though the guy wire isn’t energized, damaging one can bring down a live power line. Fencing the area off or flagging guy wires and their anchors can help prevent accidents.

Use Caution With Equipment Near Power Lines

If any equipment you’re operating should come into direct contact with a powerline, stay put until help arrives. Wait until the electricity is turned off before exiting the equipment. Do not allow any part of your body to touch the equipment and ground simultaneously. If you have to escape, jump far away from the vehicle and land with both feet on the ground. Don’t touch the exposed vehicle. And shuffle your feet across the ground (Opens in a new tab) until you’re safely away from the affected area.

Maintain a Safe Distance From Powerlines

Be sure to keep all equipment at least ten feet away from overhead power lines. Never park equipment under them either. Since electricity has the capacity to arc to you or your equipment if you come too close, a wide berth is a smart choice. Fence off areas where low power lines pose an electrical hazard to prevent farm equipment from accessing these danger zones.

Maintaining a Safe Electrical Supply for Your Farm

Your farm and ranch relies on a working, properly installed and maintained electrical supply system to keep things safe. Be sure to work with qualified electricians to understand the electrical layout on your farm. By mapping out how power is distributed, you’ll know where and how to cut power if necessary.

Electricity and Grain Bins

If you have to enter a grain bin be sure to vent the bin for the required period of time prior to entry. Then, shut off and lockout electricity before entering the bin. Never enter without a spotter, and don’t forget to use a safety harness and safety line for protection.

Lockout Switches

Installing a lockout switch gives you the capability to turn off all electricity on the farm from one spot. Lockouts are important because they help prevent equipment from accidentally being started and injuring someone when it’s being serviced or repaired. They’re also key if there’s a fire emergency and all electricity needs to be turned off immediately.

Identify High-risk Electrical Areas

Post warning signs around your farm and use caution tape on the floor where necessary to help identify areas of electrical risk. Clearly identify danger zones where high voltage lines are in use. Be sure to walk new staffers through your outbuildings and other hazardous areas so they know where these areas are.

There are always more ways to make farm and ranch safety a priority as a small business owner. And don’t forget one of the most proactive ways to keep your farm safe from the unexpected — manage the risk with a well-tuned farm insurance policy. Connect with an American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) today to build a policy that’s as hardworking as you are.

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