Spring into safety on the farm

Posted on Feb 22 2023 in Safety
Farm scene

Planting season is at hand for many of Indiana’s roughly 94,000 farmers. While you prepare to plant the crops that keep the world fed, Indiana Electric Cooperatives reminds you to keep safety in mind — especially when working around electricity.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 62 farm workers are electrocuted each year in the United States. “Farm worker deaths and injuries can be prevented by practicing some simple electrical safety measures around the farm,” said Jon Elkins, vice president of safety, training and compliance at Indiana Electric Cooperatives.

Here are some helpful safety tips for farmers to keep in mind this season:

  • Make sure farm equipment like planter arms and sprayers safely clear overhead power lines. Some clearances may have changed since the last time you entered the field. The tall equipment can easily become entangled in power lines and pose an electrocution risk. Keep a minimum of a 10-foot distance from power lines in all directions. Consider asking your electric cooperative to move overhead lines around buildings or frequently used pathways. 
  • Keep a safe distance from power poles and guy wires. If your equipment strikes and damages a guy wire or power pole, do not try to fix it yourself. Call your electric cooperative to make the repair.
  • If your farm equipment becomes entangled with power lines, call 911 immediately. Keep others away and remain calm. DO NOT try to exit the equipment or touch someone who has had electrical contact. If you must exit the equipment for life-threatening reasons, jump out and away from the equipment and make sure to land with your feet together and touching. Then, shuffle at least three tractor lengths away with your feet touching. NEVER attempt to get back into or touch equipment that is in contact with a power line.

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Virginia Cooperative Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Evergy, Kansas State University

Keep your planned burn under control

Controlled burns can be a beneficial way to clear a field of debris. But they must be planned carefully and correctly. Here are safety tips if power lines are nearby:

Mow and remove vegetation at least 15 feet around any pole and apply fire retardant to the area as recommended by the manufacturer prior to burning. Do not directly spray or treat the pole.

Do not allow the fire to cross under power lines in large areas. Smoke contains carbon particles which can conduct electricity. If the concentration gets high enough around power lines, an electrical discharge from the line to the ground, similar to lightning, can occur. When working below power lines with water hoses, extreme care must be taken to keep water streams out of overhead lines. Water will conduct electricity and the water stream will act as a conductor. 

Should a burn get out of control and endanger poles or other electrical equipment, call 911 immediately.