With the harvest season about to get into full swing, farmers will be looking to make the most of the better weather – but working in agriculture comes with dangers too.

That’s why safety experts at UK Power Networks have urged farmers to take extra care when working close to power lines and other electrical equipment.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), agriculture is Britain’s most dangerous industry. On average two people are killed and many more are injured every year in the UK when they come into contact with overhead power lines and cables during agricultural work.

With this in mind, UK Power Networks – which delivers electricity to the East of England, London and the South East – is asking farmers and agricultural workers to be vigilant when working. Safety experts from the company will be visiting country fairs and shows in its region to reinforce the safety message.

They will be at country shows and fairs to highlight the dangers from electricity that farm workers face when they are:

  • Ploughing
  • Using irrigation pipes and ladders
  • Using combine harvesters
  • Loading or unloading vehicles
  • Using tipper wagons or trailers in fields
  • Stacking materials

If a piece of machinery or equipment gets too close to or comes into contact with an overhead cable, electricity will be conducted through the metal machine or equipment to earth. It may also pass through anyone who is touching it.

Electricity can arc – jump across gaps – so farm workers do not have to actually touch the lines to get a serious or fatal shock.

Although only 1.5 per cent of the working population is employed in agriculture and death rates are falling, it is still regarded as the most dangerous sector to work in.

Peter Vujanic, Head of Health and Safety at UK Power Networks, said: “Working near an electricity supply network, whether substations, underground cables or overhead lines, can place employers and employees at risk of serious injury.

“We want farmers to be extra vigilant and be aware of the potential risks. Accidents often happen when people are tired – for example, at the end of a long day. Taking these simple precautions can help significantly reduce the risk of death or serious injury.”

Here are Peter’s tips to keep you safe if you work in the fields:

  • Make sure you know the location of underground electricity cables and overhead electricity power lines on your land
  • Contact UK Power Networks for copies of plans showing where equipment is and consider putting this information on your farm map
  • Tell visitors, contractors or casual workers about the presence of electricity cables and lines
  • Be extra careful when ploughing, using irrigation pipes and ladders and combine harvesters
  • Check around you when loading or unloading vehicles, using tipper wagons or trailers in fields or stacking materials.

UK Power Networks has published detailed guidance for farm workers on how to stay safe near overhead power lines in the form of downloadable leaflets. The farming help sheet is available here.