Harvesting can be an exciting and exhausting time, the culmination of a season of hard work. However, the rush to harvest can also yield tragic outcomes. Each year, dozens of farm workers are killed and hundreds are injured in accidents involving power lines and electrical equipment.
Even if you are well aware of power lines and the dangers they pose, that awareness can fade from your memory during the stresses of harvest. Failure to notice or remember these dangers is often deadly.
To keep yourself and your workers safe, review the farm activities that take place around power lines. Inspect the height of farm equipment to determine clearance. Keep equipment at least 10 feet away from power lines–above, below and to the side–a 360-degree rule.
Stay safe by following these procedures
- Use care when raising augers or the bed of grain trucks around power lines.
- Always lower grain augers before moving them, even if it’s only a few feet, as variables like wind, uneven ground, shifting weight or other conditions can combine to create an unexpected result.
- Use a spotter when operating large machinery near power lines. Do not let the spotter touch the machinery while it is being moved anywhere near power lines.
- As with any outdoor work, be careful not to raise any equipment such as ladders, poles or rods into power lines. Remember, non-metallic materials such as lumber, tree limbs, ropes and hay will conduct electricity depending on dampness, dust and dirt contamination.
- Never attempt to raise or move a power line to clear a path!
- Don’t use metal poles to break up bridged grain inside bins. Know where and how to shut off the power in an emergency.
- Use qualified electricians for work on drying equipment and other farm electrical systems.
If equipment comes in contact with a power line
Operators of farm equipment or vehicles must also know what to do if the vehicle comes in contact with a power line: Stay on (or inside) the equipment, warn others to stay away and call 911. Do not get off the equipment until the utility crew says it is safe to do so.
That’s because if the power line is energized and you step outside—touching the vehicle and ground—you can be electrocuted. The only reason for leaving the vehicle is if there is a fire or the possibility for a fire to start. If this is the case, jump off the equipment with your feet together, without touching the ground and vehicle at the same time. Then, still keeping your feet together, hop to safety as you leave the area.
Once you get away from the equipment, never attempt to get back on or even touch the equipment. Some electrocutions have occurred after the operator dismounts and, realizing nothing has happened, tries to get back on the equipment.
For more information on farm electrical safety, visit www.SafeElectricity.org