Since the year 2000, 49 people have died after coming into contact with electricity, including farm deaths, some involved the equipment and wiring on the premises or farms, according to Arthur Byrne, Public Safety Manager for ESB Networks.

Speaking at Emerald Expo, he said that farmers were told that farm safety is important all the time and to get into the habit of ‘safety first, always’.

Six of those who lost their lives included a farmer who was killed while power washing on a farm, another when a silage harvester contacted an overhead 10,000 volt line and two people were electrocuted moving a high pole under an overhead line.

The safety forum was chaired by Corkman Sean O’Leary, a milk supplier to Dairygold Co-op and Chairman of the IFA dairy committee.

Arthur highlighted the importance of staying vigilant when dealing with electricity and getting into the habit of ‘safety first, always’.

Serious Accident Situations

In 2000, a milking parlour became live killing a farmer, while in 2000 a farm death occurred when a farmer made contact with a fallen 10,000 volt wire.

Other electrical accidents on farms have included: Welding, electric fence connected directly to an ESB line, milking machine became live; cutting timber too near to a 10,000 volt line, damage to transformer poles causing lines to fall to ground.

There have been many hundreds of incidents where livestock have perished because of electricity, and where farmers had lucky escapes when trying to rescue stricken animals, Arthur said.

In north Kerry recently a farmer lost 15 calves in a hay shed fire after an electrical fault. During April 2014 six in-calf pedigree heifers were electrocuted inside a shed, many cows receiving shocks in milking parlours.

However, he also said that since the 1930s the average number of deaths from electrocution is five, in recent years that has come down very significantly to about two per annum – but it needs to be zero.

Seven Key Electrical Risks to Watch Out For
  • Fallen electricity wires – Always stay clear and never assume it is safe to come close or handle fallen wires– Ring the ESB Networks Emergency 24 hour number at 1850 372 999, immediately.
  • Problems with the electrical installation – have it checked out by a registered electrical contractor and use proper fittings which are rated for the elements.
  • Portable tools are a frequent cause of electrical accidents. Make sure your electrical installation is safe and have an RCD fitted. You can buy a portable plug-in RCD for as little as €10.
  • Stray voltage problems give rise to increased mastitis, higher cell counts, lower liveweight gains etc – get your electrical installation checked out and keep it maintained.
  • Electric fencers – Keep fence wire away from overhead electricity wires.
  • Stand-by generators – make sure that they are wired correctly with a proper changeover switch.
  • Machinery and high loads – Watch out for overhead wires and poles on your land, especially when using high machinery, moving high loads, spreading slurry or using irrigation equipment.