Farmers: Be aware of electrical hazards on the job

Posted on Aug 30 2019 in Steuben County REMC

National Farm Safety and Health Week is Sept. 15-21

Farmers and farm family members face dangers every day. Although tragedies such as tractor rollovers and grain bin suffocation receive the most attention, electrocution and electrical burn accidents are frequent on farms. 

The simple movement of a portable grain auger from one bin to another can have tragic results if the individuals involved are not extremely careful. The use of tractors with large cabs and antennas, and oversized grain wagons can also result in preventable electrocution incidents.

Electrical equipment around fields, such as power lines in the end rows, may get overlooked during harvest season. Failure to notice overhead power lines can be a deadly oversight.

Careful inspection of electric lines

Most farmsteads could use a very careful overhead visual inspection of electric lines. The service may no longer meet the proper height codes because of age and/or damage to poles and pole guy wires. The sag may have increased over the years, while the height of the machinery being used today may be much higher.

Utility regulators require power lines to be 18.5 feet or more above the ground to provide adequate clearance. However, even when collapsed for roadway transport, many pieces of equipment may exceed that 18.5 foot height. 

Daily, check where the equipment will be moving to ensure that it will clear power lines. But never undertake the height measurement of the lines without the on-site help of utility officials.

Always maintain a 10-foot separation from a power line — above, below and on the sides — whether you are driving underneath or passing a grain auger near it. 

Know how to stay safe

In addition to a field survey of power lines, farmers should obtain safety information for the benefit of their workers and they should make sure everyone knows how to stay safe.

Where possible, install electrical safety warning signage to prevent equipment and personnel’s contact with power lines. This will also be beneficial to your suppliers who may be making deliveries to your farm. Always keep in mind that electricity doesn’t allow mistakes — and neither should you.