The changes due in weather over the coming weeks, along with the onset of shorter days, is no doubt increasing the pressure to get field work completed. This extra pressure brings its own safety risks, and I am asking farmers to also be mindful of the dangers of working near electricity wires.

All I can ask is that you always take a few minutes to look out and look up for electricity wires, poles and stays and to make sure it is safe before carrying out your daily tasks. Of equal importance is sharing this information with anyone coming on to the farm to complete tasks.

With electricity, the most important precaution is to keep a safe distance from overhead wires and poles. When it comes to the wiring on your farm, the advice is to always get the work done by a registered electrical contractor.

2021 incident examples

Here are some examples of the incidents that happened this year.

Low hanging wires and silage

In a very positive example, an agricultural contractor was cutting silage and noticed that the wire was too low in one part of the field. He contacted the ESB Networks emergency number and we were able to solve the problem. The message here is always contact ESB Networks if you have a concern. Please don’t wait and hope that the next person who comes across a potential issue will report it.

Tree and hedge-cutting risk

A hedge cutter hit the stay wire causing the pole to lean forward. This resulted in the height of wires crossing a road reducing significantly, with the real danger of causing a road traffic accident along with putting people at risk of electrocution. The advice here is to clear the area around the pole and the stay wire before using the machine. Always contact ESB Networks before you carry out timber- or hedge-cutting if the wires are too close or there is any risk that a tree or branches could fall on the wires.

Machinery risk

We continue to have too many incidents where farm machines crash into poles. For example, a farmer spraying in a field got distracted and struck a 20kV pole and knocked it to the ground and the wires tripped out. The line could easily have come down on the cab and remained live, putting both the driver and anyone nearby at risk of electrocution. Make sure you focus on the task at hand and always steer clear of poles and stays. If the worst happens, stay in the cab, keep others away and contact ESB Networks immediately on 1800-372 999.

Check that the Residual Current Device (RCD, sometimes called a ‘trip switch’) works by pushing the test button. This is located at your electrical distribution board.

Slurry spreading risk

In another case, a farmer was spreading slurry with the splash plate facing upwards and the liquid came close to the overhead power line. This could have resulted in the electricity jumping from the wires and travelling back to the vehicle using the liquid as a conductor. You should always look out and look up for electricity poles and wires and ask yourself the question “Are you sure it’s safe?”

Electric fence risk

We discovered an electric fence wire tied on to a pole close to the bottom of a 10kV transformer to get clearance for the electric fence over their yard for deliveries. Using ESB poles and live wires to carry electric fencers is highly dangerous. The visible DANGER NOTICE on all ESB poles clearly says ‘DANGER – KEEP AWAY’.

Always contact ESB Networks before you carry out timber- or hedge cutting, if the wires are too close or there is any risk at all that a tree or branches could fall on the wires.

Preparing well in advance for storm season

The storm season is coming earlier each year and with it there will undoubtedly be severe weather causing wires to come to the ground or hang low on ditches or gates and fences. Remember, electricity wires are always live and anything they are in contact with, including the nearby ground, will be live too. Our advice is always stay safe, stay clear and immediately contact the ESB Networks emergency number – 1800-372 999.

Have you checked your farm wiring?

Your electrical installation is, or should be protected, by an important safety device, called a residual current device (RCD). For this device to work when you need it most, you need to carry out a simple test by pushing the “test” button. This test ensures that if electrical equipment and wiring gets damaged that this will trip the switch. Push the test button, and simply reset.

Sheds have not been used since spring on many farms. If this is the case then a precaution you need to take is to check all wiring, including light and socket fittings, is in good working order. Replace all damaged equipment including those with any frayed wiring and broken or missing covers. Always use fittings that are appropriate for outdoor and wet/dusty environments and check that they have the correct ingress protection (IP) rating.

The best advice is to have your installation checked out by a registered electrical contractor.