The sharp change in weather conditions in recent weeks is bringing an abrupt end to the grazing season for many and has intensified the rate at which animals are being housed. This has been earlier than planned for some and has the potential to create safety risks if facilities are not primed and ready.

We can never let our guard down with electricity and we need to be particularly careful when carrying out maintenance and repairs on farm buildings. Unfortunately on 12 September a man in his 60s was killed when the MWEP (Mobile Elevating Work Platform) he was using made contact with overhead wires in Co Fermanagh while he was power-washing farm buildings.

Increased risk

As we face into the winter, worsening weather and fewer daylight hours can increase the safety risks on the farm. Forward planning and preparation is key and as well as risks such as livestock or machinery, farmers need to be aware of the dangers of working near electricity wires.

As electricity is so much part of all our daily lives, we can sometimes take it for granted and may become blind to the risk it poses if not respected and managed correctly around the farm. 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. By always asking yourself “Are you sure It’s safe?” we can all go home to our families and loved ones safely every day.

Repairs or maintenance are common during the winter months and it is important to ensure that any equipment used is in good working order and cables etc are not frayed.

Safety tips for outdoors this winter

Last week’s weather is a timely reminder that at this time of year storms and strong winds can cause damage to electricity wires and poles, so always be alert and keep a safe distance. Remember, fallen electricity wires are live and dangerous to approach. Report any damage immediately by contacting the ESB Networks’ emergency number: phone 1800 372 999 (24/7 line).

Always watch out for electricity wires and cables. Ask yourself the question: “Are you sure it’s safe?” and abide by the following four safety principles.

1 Electricity wires are always live; never approach them. Always keep a safe distance because electricity is very powerful and can jump gaps.

2 Wires can become low or fall to the ground when damaged by timber or wind, so always know where wires and poles are on your land, and anticipate dangers, especially when dark.

3 If you see fallen or low wires, keep clear and phone ESB Networks immediately on 1800 372 999

4 If carrying out maintenance around the farm be mindful of the presence of electricity wires and poles. Always Look Out and Look Up for wires and poles and contact ESB Networks before carrying out work near the electricity network.

Sensor lights work well in providing temporary lighting on entry to yards or sheds, particularly with many farmers keen to minimise electricity usage.

More electricity safety information is available at

Electrical safety tips

There is greater demand on electricity use during the winter. Around your home, farm and workplace, ensure all electrical fittings and equipment are in good condition. Make sure outdoor lights and portable/ temporary electrical equipment is properly rated for outdoor use and plug them into a portable residual current device (RCD, sometimes called a trip switch) for extra safety.

1 Only use electrical equipment that is fit for purpose and in good condition. This includes wiring, light fittings, and sockets.

Any equipment showing wear and tear or fraying of cables should not be used until cables have been replaced.

2 Check for damaged or frayed wires, loose connections, damaged or cracked plugs, any signs of discoloration. With damaged equipment, disconnect from the electricity supply immediately – it is always safer to disconnect remotely at your electrical distribution board. Replace faulty equipment when safe to do so.

3 Electrical equipment generates heat. Always switch off when not in use and keep any combustible materials clear.

4 Always unwind extension leads completely to avoid overheating and don’t overload sockets with adaptors or extension blocks.

5 Check that the RCD (trip switch) works by pushing the test button. This is located at your electrical distribution board.

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.

6 Test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they are working.

7 Always get advice from a registered electrical contractor when carrying out electrical repairs. Information

Standby generators

Standby generators are a convenient source of electricity in emergency situations when the ESB Networks supply is unavailable. Special rules apply to the installation of standby generators which your registered electrical contractor will be familiar with.

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.


  • Always ensure a proper change-over switch is installed at the main distribution board.
  • Always use a registered electrical contractor.
  • Always notify ESB Networks of the presence of a standby generator.
  • Never use a temporary generator without a change-over switch.
  • Never plug a portable generator into a socket.