For many farmers, the harvest season is a flurry of activity with long hours and little rest. The pressure to harvest as much as possible — in combination with fatigue and looming deadlines — can result in too little attention being paid to potential hazards. Safe practices should never be compromised for the sake of speed. Doing so could potentially end in tragedy.
Farmers and agricultural workers have dangerous occupations. One of the causes of injury and death in the agricultural industry is electrocution. Of those injuries, overhead power lines are the most common cause of electrocution. The best way to avoid problems is to keep equipment a safe distance from power lines. Equipment and vehicles, such as augers and grain trucks, around grain bins are particularly at risk of coming into contact with overhead power lines. It is important that bins be built a safe distance from power lines to help ensure the safety of all farm workers.
If you are a farm operator or worker, be aware of the location of power lines and keep the following safety guidelines in mind during the harvest season:
• Always use a spotter when operating large machinery near lines.
• Use care when raising augers or the bed of grain trucks around power lines.
• Keep equipment at least 10 feet from lines — at all times, in all directions.
• Inspect the height of the farm equipment to determine clearance.
• Always remember to lower extensions to the lowest setting when moving loads.
• Never attempt to move a power line out of the way or raise it for clearance.
• If a power line is sagging or low, call the local utility immediately.
• If your equipment does hit a power line do not leave the cab. Immediately call 911, warn others to stay away, and wait for the utility crew to cut the power.
The only reason to exit equipment that has come into contact with overhead lines is if the equipment is on fire, which is very rare. However, if this is the case, jump off the equipment with your feet together and without touching the ground and vehicle at the same time. Then, still keeping your feet together, hop to safety as you leave the area.
To help ensure a safe harvest, stay alert for power lines, exercise caution, and always put safety first. If you or someone you know would like more information on electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.