Youth in Agriculture » Electrocution

Power Lines
Case Study Fatality:
A 15-year-old boy died when a section of aluminum pipe came in contact with a 7,200-volt power line.

If you are under 16, Child Labor Laws forbid you from handling certain classes and types of chemicals or pesticides; state laws may be even more stringent.

Do You Know... that each year 3.6 percent of the deaths of youths under age 20 on farms are caused by electrocution? Electrocution is quick and deadly and is one of the most overlooked hazards of farm work. The most common cause of electrocutions are portable grain augers, oversized wagons, large combines, and other tall equipment that come into contact with overhead power lines. Every year 62 farm workers are electrocuted in the United States.

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

  • Be aware that the following types of farm machinery can accidentally brush or get hung up in overhead power lines while in use or being moved:

    • Tractors with front-end loaders.

    • Portable grain augers.

    • Fold-up cultivators.

      Power Pole
    • Moving grain elevators.

    • Irrigation pipes.

    • Equipment with antennas.

  • Watch out for overhead electrical lines.

    • Know where power lines are located.

    • Treat all overhead power lines as though they are bare and uninsulated.

    • Keep all equipment away from overhead lines.

  • Always be aware of where power lines are when:

    • Using ladders.

    • Harvesting tree crops.

    • Moving equipment.

  • Always use pre-planned routes that avoid power lines when moving equipment.

  • Know what to do if equipment you are operating comes in contact with an overhead power line.

    Pipe in contact with power line
    • Stay on the equipment.

    • Ask for someone to immediately contact the local utility company to remove the danger.

    • If there is an emergency such as an electrical fire and you must leave the equipment, jump as far away from the equipment as possible.

    • Do not allow any part of your body to touch the equipment and the ground at same time.

    • Shuffle away from where you jumped; do not take large strides. Too large a step could put each foot in a different voltage zone and electrocute you.

    • Once away from the equipment, never attempt to get back on or even touch it. Many electrocutions occur when the worker dismounts, then gets back on the equipment.

  • Remember that prevention is the best way to handle emergencies. Respect electricity and avoid contact with overhead lines.

Employers have the primary responsibility for protecting the safety and health of their workers. Employees are responsible for following the safe work practices of their employers.

Follow the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) including:

  • Some agricultural jobs are too dangerous for anyone under 16 to perform. No youth under 16 years of age may be employed at any time in any of these Hazardous Occupations in Agriculture (HO/A); including operating or helping to operate, starting, stopping, adjusting, feeding or any other activity involving physical contact with the following machines:

    • HO/A #2, Corn picker, cotton picker, grain combine, hay mover, forage harvester, hay baler, potato digger, mobile pea viner, feed grinder, crop dryer, forage blower, auger conveyor, power post-hole digger, power post driver, nonwalking type rotary tiller, or the unloading mechanism of a non-gravity-type self-unloading wagon or trailer.

    • HO/A #3, Trencher or earth moving equipment, forklift, potato combine, or power-drive circular, band, or chain saw.

    • HO/A #6, Working from a ladder or scaffold at a height of over 20 feet (working includes painting, repairing, or building structures, pruning trees, picking fruit, etc.).

Consider implementing recommended safe work practices, including:

  • Develop a "safety first" attitude. Follow safe work practices all the time and set a good example for others.

  • Provide adequate training for all workers. Train them in rescue and emergency procedures so everyone in your operation knows what to do in an electrical emergency. Train workers that if equipment gets hung up in a power line, they should:

    • Not get off the machinery unless in immediate danger.

    • Avoid touching the ground and the equipment at the same time, so they will not become a channel for electricity.

  • Train workers that if they have an electrical emergency and must leave the equipment, they should:

    • Jump as far away as possible, then shuffle away from danger.

    • Never get back on machinery that touches a power line until the utility company disconnects the line.

  • Train seasonal employees about dangers and give additional reminders.

  • Determine transport and clearance height for farm equipment. Ask your local utility company to help determine line heights in all areas of the farm. Never measure line heights yourself.

  • Plan and develop routes for moving equipment to avoid power lines and train workers to follow these routes.

  • Train workers that when moving equipment they should:

    • Know where all overhead power lines are located.

    • Know pre-planned routes between fields, to bins and elevators, and on public roads to avoid low-hanging power lines.

    • Keep all equipment and objects at least 10 feet away from overhead lines.

    • Always lower a portable grain auger before you allow workers to move it, even just a few feet.

  • Apply decals to all equipment that may pose electrical hazards and explain decals to workers who work with the equipment.

  • Determine risks for potential electrical shock and restrict access to those areas.

  • Locate all buried lines and keep the information available for reference before any digging operations.

  • Inspect the farm for areas of special concern with potential electricity hazards. Livestock houses are dusty, moist, and corrosive environments. Supply waterpoof, dustproof, and explosion proof electrical boxes, outlets, and motors in these areas to ensure reliable and safe electricity throughout the farm.

  • Contact your local power company for more information on electrical safety.

Additional Information: