Farm safety

Farmers - What’s up above?

The 4-metre rule for electricity is to stay at least 4 metres away from overhead lines. You must obtain a permit from PowerNet’s System Control to get closer. Freephone 0800 808 587

Look out for live lines on your property.

Sometimes, something as simple as being focused on the stock or crops and not noticing what is above can result in potentially fatal incidents. Privately owned low-voltage lines on a property are not always well maintained, and wires may sag over time.

Common dangers when working near overhead power lines include:

  • Diggers hitting wires
  • Round bales on a loader obscuring your vision
  • Tip trucks where the tilted deck can be higher than the power lines
  • High loads on trucks such as silage, bales or stock crate
  • Post hole rammers hitting wires
  • Grain augers hitting wires
  • Trimming vegetation too close to power lines

Working at a safe distance around the farm

Keep 4m away from power lines at all times. Electricity can arc (jump) through the air from power lines to you or your equipment within this distance. Treat every power line as live at all times.

Always take care when working around the guy wires (or stays) attached to power poles. Bumping them can cause poles to lean and power lines to sag.

Park stock trucks and large vehicles, such as harvesters, away from overhead lines and work well away from lines and poles. Keep clear of power lines when working on the upper levels of stock trucks or high loads.

Look up and check where lines are before raising any tractor attachments, augers, ladders, or using any lifting equipment or raising dump truck beds.

Using truck-mounted cranes, side lifters, tractors and diggers

  • Looking for a spot to unload or pick up? Remember to check for power lines.
  • Make Ensure lifting equipment like booms, loaders, or decks on your farm machinery is lowered before you move off.

Moving equipment and machinery around lines

  • When moving machinery, such as grain augers, ladders, drills, and dump truck beds, choose a route where power lines are high enough to give adequate clearance or avoid power lines altogether.
  • Always have lifting equipment in a lowered position before moving it under power lines.

Irrigation equipment around lines

  • Don’t load or unload metal irrigation pipes close to power lines.
  • Keep jet irrigators and the booms of rotary irrigators clear at all times.
  • Make sure the tips of rotary irrigators are kept 4 metres from power lines when operating and moving down a paddock and when being shifted along bumpy roads or across bumpy paddocks.

Working with power tools

  • When working with power tools, use a safety switch (RCD) which can trip the power before an injury occurs


  • Fences are great conductors of electricity, so always take care when building or moving fences near power lines
  • Farmers and fencers have been injured and killed when fence wire has been pulled up into or flicked up onto power lines. Keep fencing away from the path of overhead lines.
  • Be sure to locate underground cables before driving posts or waratahs for temporary fences

Underground cables

Be careful when planning any earthworks, landscaping, fencing or drainage on your farm. Electricity cables may be under your paddocks, garden, driveway or roadside verge.

When roadside grazing or haymaking, be sure to locate underground cables or pipes first before driving in things like waratahs.

Use the free beforeUdig service to find out where underground cables and gas mains are on your farm.

For more information, refer to cable locations. Please be aware a charge will apply for locating cables that are privately owned service lines.

If you plan to excavate more than 300mm deep within 2 metres of a power pole or pylon, you must, by law, complete and submit an excavation permit to PowerNet System Control. Click here to download an excavation permit (PDF). You must allow at least seven days’ notice when submitting the permit.

Please note additional pole supports are often required to prevent the line from collapsing. For your protection, don’t start this work until you call PowerNet System Control on 0800 808 587 or email before starting any work.

If you damage a power cable while excavating, treat it as live and keep all people and animals well away from the area.

Contact PowerNet System Control immediately on 0800 808 587 if you suspect any damage has occurred. Do not try to correct the situation yourself, and please never cover up a damaged cable.

Stay safe around downed power lines

  • DO NOT touch, move, or go near any downed or hanging line.
  • DO NOT move tree branches or other objects entangled in any line.
  • Contact PowerNet immediately on 03 2111899 or 0800 808 587 and contact the Police on 111.
  • Treat all lines as live until advised otherwise by us.
  • Keep yourself and others well clear – at least 10 metres away.

It doesn’t happen often, but power lines can sometimes fall to the ground. If a farm machine crashes into a pole or a tree falls onto power lines, the lines can break and fall down.

By knowing what to do in emergencies such as this, you can keep yourself and others safe.

Once you have phoned PowerNet, we will get someone there quickly to make the lines safe and repair them.

The only people who should ever come near downed power lines are our experienced and trained line mechanics. They know the danger and will only approach downed lines if they are sure it’s safe.

What do you do if a power line comes down on a tractor or farm machine you’re in?

If you are in a farm machine and the lines come down on top of you, you should:

  • Stay in the machine
  • Tell anyone near to keep away, too, because the lines might electrify the ground around the farm machine.
  • Stay in the machine until one of our line mechanics tells you it’s safe to get out.

There are certain circumstances when staying in the machine might not be safe, for example, if a fire starts inside the cab.

If it is not safe to stay in the machine and you have to get out, you should:

  • Jump from the open door of the machine so that you are not touching the machine and the ground simultaneously (touching the ground at the same time could give you a potentially fatal electric shock).
  • Stay on your feet and either shuffle or hop away, keeping your feet close together until you are at least 10 metres away from the machine. This might look strange when you are doing it, but it could save your life because electricity can flow up one leg and down the other if you take a normal-sized step on electrified ground.

For more information on using electricity safely around the farm, visit the Energy Safety Service’s website at