The risk is real
Farming accounts for one in five worker deaths. Farming equipment such as irrigation systems, harvesting machines, or even high-load vehicles transporting livestock are all at greater risk of coming into contact with electrical assets.
Contact with electricity can result in fires, injury, electric shocks, burns, and even the loss of life. In fact, contact between mobile plant equipment and energised overhead powerlines is one of the biggest killers in the industry.
There are no second chances with electricity. So, whether it’s yourself or someone else working on your property, extra care is needed when working near electrical assets.
Before starting work each day
Your safety and anyone living or working on your property should always be the top priority. Knowing the risks and what you can do to keep yourself and others safe is a great place to start.
- You should know the exact location of overhead and underground powerlines on the property and your proximity to them when working. Consider using the Look Up and Live app for guidance on overhead powerlines in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.
- Ensure all operators know the exact height of vehicles, loads, and machinery when lowered and fully extended.
- If you’re on the road, use maps and diagrams to show the location of powerlines and the safe traffic paths you and others can use to avoid coming into contact with electricity.
- Keep an eye on the weather conditions as powerlines can sway in winds and sag in hot weather. They can also be challenging to see at dawn and dusk.
- Be aware of exclusion zones. These are the safe working distances surrounding electrical wires, poles, and equipment. Never enter an exclusion zone. Even a small lapse in judgment could be life changing.
- Be careful of electricity when excavating, building fences, and driving stakes into the ground. Before You Dig Australia provides free access to plans and information about the location of underground electrical wires.
Stay switched on
Farms are one of the most dangerous workplaces, but there are some steps you can take to stay switched on and safe while working.
- Visual markers and warning signsSet up visual markers and warning signs near electricity to warn others of hazards and dangers.
- Aerial markersConsider using aerial markers to help visually indicate the location of overhead powerlines.
- Safety observerAssign a safety observer to make sure nothing enters an exclusion zone. They can also assist operators if powerlines are obstructed due to blind spots.
You can never be too safe around electricity
Keep an eye out for electrical hazards
Keep an eye out for indicators that there may be an electrical hazard. Indicators include:
- Flickering lights, deceased livestock, or power supply issues could be an indicator of an electrical fault.
- If you feel a shock or tingle, don't ignore it. Shocks and tingles are electrical emergencies and the situation could be life-threatening. Call triple zero (000).
- Downed powerlines can be challenging to spot. Indicators that powerlines could be down include burnt areas in paddocks or roadsides, injured or downed livestock, smoke, or fallen trees. If you see a damaged or fallen powerline, remain at least 8 metres away and call triple zero (000).
Knowing what to do in an electrical emergency could be the difference between life and death. The most important thing to know is to treat all wires as LIVE. If you see a fallen powerline stay at least 8 metres away and call triple zero (000) immediately.
Seasonal & transient workers
Seasonal and transient workers are a key part of Australia’s agriculture industry. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows approximately 325,000 people are employed in agriculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors, with a significant number (over 35,000) of overseas workers employed on farms. However this number is likely to be an underrepresentation of the actual number of overseas workers.
It's estimated 11% of Australia's agricultural workforce come from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds and 5% have lived overseas in the 5 years before. So with differences between Australia’s safety and industry standards, and what might be acceptable practice in other countries, it’s important that training is provided to ensure the expectations and understanding of safe work practices of all workers are up to scratch.