Farming is the sixth most dangerous job in the United States, according to a 2014 report from TIME magazine. Missing important safety steps can result in farm workers being killed or injured when farm equipment makes contact with overhead power lines.
These deaths can be prevented. It’s important those who live and work on farms know the risks and understand how they can unknowingly come into contact with electricity.
The most common risk of electrocution for farm workers, according to the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, comes from overhead power lines because tall equipment such as grain augers, combines and raised dump truck beds can easily become entangled in the lines. Everyone who works on a farm should know the location of power lines and keep farm equipment at least 10 feet away from them. The minimum 10-foot distance is a 360 degree rule below, to the side and above power lines.
Moving portable grain augers poses the greatest risk because those on the ground moving the equipment would provide a direct path for electricity if contact occurs with overhead wires. Always lower grain augers before moving them, even if it’s only a few feet. Variables like wind, uneven ground, a shifting weight or other conditions can combine to create unexpected results.
Use extreme caution when raising the bed of a grain truck. It can be difficult to estimate distance and sometimes a power line is closer than it looks. A spotter or someone with a broad view can help.
It’s also important to operators of farm equipment or vehicles to know what to do if the vehicle comes in contact with a power line. It’s almost always best to stay in the cab and call for help. Warn others who may be nearby to step away and wait until the electric utility arrives to make sure power to the line is cut off. If the power line is energized and you step outside, your body becomes the path to ground and electrocution is the result. Even if a power line has landed on the ground, the potential for the area nearby to be energized still exists.
Stay inside the vehicle unless there’s fire or imminent risk of fire. In that case, the proper action is to jump, not step, with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Do not allow any part of your body to touch the equipment and the ground at the same time. Continue to shuffle or hop to safety, keeping both feet together as you leave the area. Once you get away from the equipment, never attempt to get back on or even touch the equipment.
Kankakee Valley REMC wants you to have a successful harvest season. Please take the necessary steps to make sure you are looking up and down when moving or using farm equipment.