Farm Safety

Stay Safe With and Around Irrigation Equipment

Irrigation operators should know, follow, and share proper safety precautions to avoid potentially deadly electrical accidents when operating, handling, and working around the watering systems.

While working around irrigation equipment—stay away and do not make contact. Keep in mind that metal and water are conductors of electricity. Aluminum irrigation pipes, while lightweight and easier to handle, are excellent conductors of electricity. To ensure safe operation of irrigation equipment, the Safe Electricity program offers the following tips:

  • Make sure that irrigation system wiring is properly grounded. Before the start of each irrigation season, have a qualified electrician check the pump and wiring.
  • Store unused irrigation pipes far away from power lines or electrical equipment.
  • Position irrigation pipes at least 15 feet away from power lines.
  • Position the water jet streams so that there is no chance of them spraying onto power lines. If this happens, the entire system could become energized, creating a danger for anyone nearby.
  • Stay away from the piping during any lightning activity. Install lightning arresters to protect your equipment.
  • If fuses continually blow or circuit breakers repeatedly trip, have a professional check the wiring. This could indicate a potential electrical hazard.
  • Always shut off and lock the master electrical control switch before servicing the machine.
  • Avoid moving irrigation pipe and equipment on windy days, as a sudden gust could lift pipes into overhead power lines. This power line contact could prove fatal to a person holding the pipe
  • Take some time to survey your surroundings before moving equipment. Look up and around you; note any power lines that could be close enough to come into contact with equipment—and stay away.

Powerlines and Farm Safety

Overhead powerlines that cross many properties can be extremely dangerous. Treat them with great caution.

Tall farm machinery-headers, towed augers and tractors fitted with radio antennae-become instant killers if they contact high-voltage powerlines. In fact, the right atmospheric conditions, the machinery does not even have to touch the powerlines. Simply being too close, sometimes even a year away, can evoke a fatal "flash over".

Another cause of powerline electrocution in rural areas is the upending of long metal irrigation pipes beneath high voltage lines.

Reminder: Conductive farm machinery and equipment should remain at least 3.2 yards away from powerlines carrying up to 33,000 volts and at least 6.5 yards from powerlines carrying more than 33,000 volts. Please contact SWPPD if you have any questions about farm safety.

Information Source: SafeElectricity.org