Agriculture Electrocutions in the United States

Electrocution is quick and deadly and one of the most overlooked hazards of farm work.

  • Each year 3.6% of the deaths among youths under 20 years of age are caused by electrocution.
  • Every year 62 farm workers in the U.S. are electrocuted.

woman electrocuted by a grain auger that touched a power line

Causes of Electrocutions in Agriculture

The most common causes are portable grain augers, oversized wagons, large combines, irrigation pipe and other tall equipment that contact overhead power lines.

Equipment involved in electrocutions

equipment involvd in electrocutions pictures

  • Tractors with front end loaders
  • Portable grain augers
  • Irrigation pipes
  • Fold-up cultivators
  • Combines
  • Other tall equipment

Irrigation pipe hazard

Agriculture workers have been electrocuted when they lifted 30 ft. aluminum irrigation pipes to a horizontal position under high-voltage lines.

men handling irrigation pipes and hitting power lines

Portable Grain Auger Hazard

If in the vicinity of power lines, always lower a portable grain auger before you allow anyone to move it, even just a few feet.

man hitting power line with portable auger

Picture source: Illinois Cooperative

DOSH Rules on Power lines

Irrigation pipes are often 30 feet long, powerlines can be as low as 18 feet. No matter how high the power lines look, avoid handling pipes under them.Irrigation pipe can’t be stored within 100 feet of overhead power lines.

Irrigation pipe can’t be upended (turned vertical or upright) within 100 feet of overhead power lines.

All equipment and irrigation water streams must be kept at least 10 feet away from high-voltage power lines.

Prevention Tips – Power Lines

look up! Mire arriba

  • Watch out for overhead electrical lines
  • Know where they are located
  • Treat all overhead power lines as though they can kill you
  • Keep all tall equipment and irrigation pipes away from overhead lines

What If Vehicle Contacts Power Line?

Know what to do if the vehicle you are operating comes in contact with an overhead line:

  • Stay on the vehicle, unless there is a fire
  • Ask for someone to immediately contact the local utility company to shut off the power.
  • Electrical current from high voltage lines can flow through vehicle and energize the ground up to 100 feet away.
  • If there is an emergency such as an electrical fire and you must leave the equipment, jump as far away as possible.
tractor what to do when electrified

Source: Ireland Health & Safety Authority

  • Do not allow any part of your body to touch the equipment and the ground at the same time.
  • Shuffle away from where you jumped. To shuffle, do not lift either foot completely off the ground. Keep both feet in contact with the ground at all times. Shuffling greatly reduces current flow through your body from the ground. Shuffle slowly away from the equipment for at least 100 feet.



  • Once away from the vehicle, never attempt to get back on or even touch it. Many electrocutions occur when someone dismounts, then gets back on the vehicle, assuming there is no problem.

man mounting a tractor

Transport and Clearance

  • Determine transport and clearance height for farm equipment. Ask the utility company to do this. Never measure line heights yourself.
  • Where possible, use pre-planned routes that avoid power lines when moving equipment
  • Keep all equipment and objects at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.

Warning Signs

On farm equipment that has parts capable of vertical, lateral or swing motion, install a durable sign, legible at 12 feet that says:

    Unlawful to operate this equipment within 10 feet of high voltage lines.

Special Concerns –Barns & Livestock Houses

electrical box and heater

This is a picture showing what
can happen when electrical
boxes are exposed to moist
and corrosive environments.

Barns & livestock houses are dusty, moist and corrosive places. Supply waterproof, dustproof, and explosion proof electrical boxes, outlets and motors in these areas to ensure safe and reliable electricity throughout the farm.

Determine Other Electrocution Risks

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.

Train Your Workers

  • 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 seasonal workers about dangers and give additional reminders.

Effect of electric current on humans.

Source: Texas cooperative extension

Safety Decals

If not already labeled, attach decals to all equipment that may pose electrical hazards and explain decals to workers who work with the equipment.

voltage danger signage

Publication #: Oct 2010

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More