Basic farm safety guidelines
Take a moment to review these guidelines, and keep them in mind whenever you’re working around electricity.
- DO keep all electrical devices, including extension cords, away from animals, water or damp areas.
- DO keep all power tools, motors and other electrical equipment in good repair.
- DO check equipment, cords and plugs frequently for signs of fraying, cracking or scorching.
- DO keep all cords neatly secured and out of traffic areas.
- DO tag the fuse or breaker switch if you need to turn off the power, so no one else turns it on while you’re working.
- DO call before you dig. Just dial your state’s “One Call” or Digger’s Hotline service at least three days before you start to dig to have utility underground service lines marked.
- DO look up for overhead electrical lines when moving tall equipment.
- DO apply "Look Up" safety decals to augers and other tall equipment.
- DO use ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles on all outlets that are outside or near water sources. If there is any variation in the current, the GFCI will automatically cut the flow of electricity through the circuit, greatly reducing the severity of the shock.
- DO familiarize yourself with the location of all overhead and underground power lines, utility equipment such as meters and transformers, and the service panel at each of your buildings.
- DON’T cut off the third grounding prong on a plug. The grounding conductor acts as a protection between electrical wire and people or animals near the wire.
- DON’T use extension cords, power strips, outlet extenders or “cheater” adapter plugs as permanent fixtures. These devices are designed only for temporary use and can overheat or overload a circuit, risking an electrical fire.
- DON’T oversize fuses. Circuits are designed for a given amount of current only.
Farms can cover vast amounts of land, so it’s common to encounter many different buried utility lines, including natural gas pipelines, electrical lines, water lines and cable and internet lines on your property. Alliant Energy offers a free tool to let you know where these lines are buried, so you can stay safe and avoid hitting them.
Call 811 three days before you do any digging or excavating 15 inches or deeper, including:
- Chisel plowing
- Drain tile excavating
- Waterway projects
- Digging or driving a new fence post
You don’t need to call 811 if you are doing normal farm operations less than 15 inches, such as:
- Replacing a fence post in its existing location
When you call 811, a professional locator will come to your property to mark a natural gas pipeline or other utility-owned lines in the ground. If there’s a major pipeline near your farm, a utility employee will monitor any digging activities in person to increase safety and reduce the risk of accidents.
Follow these three rules:
- Call 811 before you dig.
- Wait the required time for utility lines to be marked. One Call Center personnel will notify Alliant Energy to mark the approximate locations of buried gas or electric lines with high visibility safety paint and/or flags.
- Respect the marks or flags and dig with care. When you start digging, stay at least 18 inches away from the marked lines. Hand dig with extreme caution if you must excavate within the safety tolerance zone.
Look out for pipeline markers
Pipeline markers are used to indicate approximate locations of buried pipelines. The markers provide a toll-free number to report problems. Markers are typically placed at public road crossings, fence lines and street intersections. In most cases, there are not pipeline markers for the distribution lines inside urban service territories. Visit the National Pipeline Mapping System at npms.phsma.dot.gov to learn who operates transmission pipelines in your area.
Lines we won’t locate
Some buildings have appliances or heaters fueled through privately buried natural gas or fuel lines. Customers, not Alliant Energy, are responsible for any lines after the meter.
Customers must maintain, operate and know the location of buried lines. A qualified technician should regularly inspect it for leaks. If the piping is metallic, inspect it for corrosion. Repair if unsafe, or shut off the flow of gas. Prior to excavating, have the piping located and marked.
Excavating performed near the pipe should be done by hand.
If you hit something
Notify Alliant Energy at 1-800-ALLIANT (800-255-4268) if your equipment or tools contact our underground pipelines or electrical lines. Even minor damage, such as nicks, scratches, cuts, scrapes, dents and gouges can result in pipeline failure, electric shock or a major incident in the future if not properly assessed. If you hear blowing gas, which is a more serious problem, call 911 immediately from a safe location.
Overhead power lines are a significant risk of electrocution on the farm. Always keep in mind that most overhead power lines have no protective insulation. In addition, high-voltage lines can sag several feet when they are hot. Allow extra space near high voltage lines; the current can “arc” to conductive materials near the line without actually touching.
- Be aware of power lines whenever you’re moving equipment like augers, conveyors, sprayers, bale elevators, hoppers and scaffolds. Maintain at least a
- Keep smaller equipment like ladders, poles, rods or irrigation pipes at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.
- If you’re planning a new building, contact your Alliant Energy agribusiness representative or a licensed electrician for help placing electrical service lines.
- Take care when climbing, trimming or cutting trees, especially after a storm. Broken or damaged power lines can send electricity through tree limbs
and fences, so use extreme caution with chain saws, axes and pruning poles.
- Be sure your children do not fly kites or balloons with long strings in the vicinity of power lines.
The National Electrical Code requires different wiring types and techniques for the three general types of agriculture buildings:
- Damp buildings: High levels of moisture, corrosive dust and gases inside animal housing, milk houses and silos create electrical risks. These buildings require dust- and moisture-tight, non-corroding materials and wiring methods.
- Dusty buildings: Fertilizer, dry grain and hay storage buildings can contain “explosive dust,” so they require dust- and ignition-proof wiring.
- Dry buildings: Machine storage buildings, shops and unattached garages can be wired similar to residential buildings.
Proper grounding is also an essential part of a safe electrical system. Equipment grounding systems, including the use of equipotential planes, act to protect people and animals from electrical shock and help reduce the possibility of an electrical fire.
Periodically have the ground rods and wires at the service entrance panels checked by a qualified electrician for damage or loose connections.
Your qualified electrician should check for improper connections of circuit neutral and equipment ground in a building. Your electrician can find additional guidance for proper neutral and grown wiring for agricultural buildings in The National Electric Code section 547. Your farm must have its own electrical system grounding, in addition to any lightning protection grounding system.
Good maintenance can keep your electrical system and equipment operating safely for years to come – but neglecting it can quickly lead to accidents, fires or costly downtime.
- Keep all electrical equipment and service areas clean. Clear away dust and cobwebs often, and make sure moisture isn’t accumulating.
- Make sure all wiring and cords are protected from human and animal contact or damage from equipment (e.g cords traveling under a heavy storage cabinet).
- Check to see if all fuses in the service panel are the correct size for their circuits.
- Check outlets and switches for loose connections or broken or missing cover plates.
- When replacing light bulbs, make sure the wattage doesn’t exceed the fixture’s rating.
- Keep high-intensity light fixtures away from combustible materials.
- Be sure to turn off and unplug equipment before cleaning or repairing. Turn off the power at the service panel when checking outlets, switches and light fixtures.
P = Clearance 5.5 meters (18 feet) required by Rule 234F1a
H = Horizontal clearance 4.6 meters (15 feet) required by Rule 234F1b
T = Transition clearance
V1 = Vertical clearance above a building required by Rule 234C (Table 234-1)
V2 = Vertical clearance required by Rule 232B (Table 232-1 or 232-2)
Clearance envelope for grain bins filled by permanently installed augers, conveyors, or elevators
Clearance envelope for grain bins filled by portable augers, conveyors, or elevators
Grain bin regulations
The National Electrical Safety Code requires that power lines be at least 18 feet above the highest point on any grain bin with which portable augers and other portable filling equipment is used. The clearance must be maintained a specified distance around the bin. Contact Alliant Energy for assistance in planning before the bin site is confirmed.
Generators can come in handy if you experience a power outage, but these devices must be used with extreme caution. When purchasing or using this type of equipment, check your local safety codes and read the manufacturer’s directions carefully. As a property owner, you are responsible for the safe installation and use of the equipment, and you can be held liable for any injuries or damage.
Only a qualified electrician should install a permanent standby generator. This will help ensure that the unit is sized properly and wired correctly.
Always read and follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully before using a portable or standby generator.
- Make sure the area is well ventilated. It is recommended that portable generators not be operated indoors. If air isn’t circulating, deadly carbon monoxide fumes can quickly build up.
- Generator connections must be installed in a manner to prevent electricity from feeding from the generator back on to the utility system. This is accomplished with a transfer switch.
- The generator must be rated to have a sufficient wattage for the electrical load it will operate.
If an electrical emergency occurs, it’s important to know how to respond.
Electrical contact accidents
- If someone comes in contact with an energized wire or power line, do not touch the victim until you’re sure the current has been turned off – you could become part of the circuit and be injured or killed. Unplug the device or cut power at the service panel first.
- When you’re sure the power has been turned off, call for emergency assistance. If the victim isn’t breathing, administer CPR until help arrives. If the victim is in shock, loosen clothing and keep him or her horizontal and warm. Burns should be treated only by medical professionals.
- Always seek medical help for an electrical contact accident, no matter how minor it appears. Electricity burns from the inside out, so injuries might not be visible. In addition, the heart can be affected several hours later.
- If possible, unplug the device or shut off the power at the main service panel.
- Never use water on an electrical fire – use a multipurpose fire extinguisher.
- When calling 911, be sure to tell the dispatcher it’s an electrical fire.
Downed power lines
- Report downed power lines to your electric company immediately.
- Never let anyone touch or drive over a downed line – even experienced utility personnel can’t tell if a line is energized just by looking at it.
- Avoid touching anything a downed line is contacting, especially metal fences and equipment. Remember that the area around the downed line, including the soil, equipment or other objects, could also be energized.
- If a downed line comes in contact with a vehicle or farm equipment, instruct the driver to stay in the vehicle until help arrives. If there is an immediate danger of a vehicle fire, the driver should jump out of the vehicle, landing with both feet together and avoiding touching both the car and the ground at the same time. The driver should then shuffle away from the vehicle without raising his or her feet.
Smell gas? Move fast.
Since natural gas is colorless and has no scent, a strong odorant that smells like rotten eggs is added to help you detect a possible gas leak.
If you suspect a leak call 1-800-ALLIANT (800-255-4268) immediately. We will investigate for free.
Signs of a leak
- Smell the odor of rotten eggs. If you don’t know the scent, contact us for a free scratch and sniff card.
- Hear hissing or whistling sounds near a gas appliance, meter or pipeline.
- See blowing dirt, bubbling water or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area.
- Make sure gas appliances are turned all the way off.
- Turn off and abandon machinery.
- Leave the area and keep others away until Alliant Energy allows you to return.
- Call 1-800-ALLIANT (800-255-4268) from a remote location.
- If you hear blowing gas, which is a more serious issue, evacuate to a remote location and call 911.
- Try to find, repair or extinguish a burning leak
- Move appliances or machinery
- Strike matches or create a flame/spark of any kind
- Use a telephone or cell phone until you are out of the area (these can ignite gases or vapors)
- Turn on or off any light or electrical switches or use garage door openers (these may also ignite airborne gases)