Electricity is a safe and versatile energy source once it is treated with the respect it deserves.

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 ahead of the winter.

I am asking all farmers to take some time to read these electrical safety tips so that you can be prepared for the winter season ahead.

As we face into the winter season, worsening weather conditions and less daylight hours can increase the safety risks on the farm and, as such, we must prioritise forward planning and preparation. As well as safety risks when working with 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.

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. Please remember 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.

Fallen electricity wires are live and therefore dangerous to approach. Report any damage immediately by contacting the ESB Networks’ emergency number: phone 1800 372 999 (24/7 line).

Winter checklist

There is greater demand on electricity during the winter months. Ensure that all electrical fittings and equipment are in good condition around your home, farm and workplace.

  • Make sure outdoor lights and portable or 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.
  • Only use electrical equipment that is fit for purpose and in good condition; this includes wiring, light fittings and sockets.
  • 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.
  • Heat

    Electrical equipment generates heat – always switch off when not in use and keep any combustible materials clear. Remember to:

  • Always unwind extension leads completely to avoid overheating and don’t overload sockets with adaptors or extension blocks.
  • Check that the RCD (trip switch) works by pushing the test button. This is located at your electrical distribution board.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to ensure they are working.
  • Always get advice from a registered electrical contractor when carrying out electrical repairs. See further information at safeelectric.ie
  • 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.
  • Always ensure a proper change-over switch is installed at the main distribution board.
  • Always use a registered electrical contractor.
  • Never use a temporary generator without a change-over switch.
  • Never plug a portable generator into a socket.