Farm Safety

As farm equipment gets larger the margin for error around power lines is getting smaller.


Would you know what to do if your tractor, sprayer, or heavy equipment contacted a power line?

One wrong move could be the difference between life and death.

Greg McCann of Yankton County shares the tragic story of his son who contacted an overhead power line with a sprayer and died as he tried to escape. 

Safety On The Farm

The 2012 National Electric Safety Code requires distribution power lines - like the ones Northern Electric Cooperative maintains - to be 18.5 feet off the ground over fields and roads where there is truck traffic. Line taps that service homes, shops, and sheds are often only 10 to 16 feet above the ground. Many plows, disks, and farm equipment - including new heavy-duty tractors - can range in height from 12 to 19 feet. That is not much room between you and high-voltage electricity. 

Before you get into your large farm equipment take a few minutes for safety:

  • Locate all overhead power lines around buildings and along well-traveled roads and routes. Just because you have always cleared the power lines in the past with old equipment doesn’t mean the new bigger piece of equipment will make it underneath the lines.
  • Always stay at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines. If you have to climb up a ladder to maintain a building or equipment make sure you stay a safe distance from overhead lines.
  • Lower equipment apparatus and any extensions before driving underneath overhead lines. Making contact with overhead lines can cause major damage and could even be deadly. 

If you do accidentally run into an overhead line there are some important safety steps to keep in mind:

  • Stay inside the vehicle or equipment. The safest place to be when machinery comes in contact with a power line is inside the cab because the rubber tires insulate you from the electricity. Call for help and tell everyone to stay 40 feet away from the area because the downed line could be energizing the ground.
  • If you do need to get out of the machinery hop out with both feet together. Do not touch the equipment and the ground at the same time because you will become the path for the electricity to get to the ground.
  • Shuffle with your feet together at least 40 feet away from the vehicle. If you take normal steps away from the equipment and the ground is still energized you could still become a path for the electricity even if you are out of the cab.