You need to be particularly alert to the dangers of working near overhead power lines year round. Contact between farming equipment and electric transmission and distribution lines could cause electrocution.
John Humphrey, Nebraska Public Power District urges farm workers to review farm activities and work practices that take place around any power lines. "Everyone who works on the farm should know the location of power lines and keep farm equipment at least 20 feet away from them," says Humphrey, who is NPPD transmission and distribution manager. "The minimum 20 foot distance is a 360-degree rule--below, to the side and above lines.
"It may take a little more time, but ensuring proper clearance can save lives and reduce the possibility of creating a power outage that impacts more than just the farm, but also can create an outage in a local community."
Humphrey urges farmers not to raise or move a power line under any situation and to be aware of underground lines before digging and contact the Digger's Hotline (dial 811) before work begins.
Many farm electrical accidents that involve power line contact happen when loading or preparing to transport equipment to fields, or while performing maintenance or repairs on farm machinery near power lines." It can be difficult to estimate distance and sometimes a power line is closer than it looks. A spotter or someone with a broader view can help," Humphrey says.
Safety tips to avoid contact with power lines include:
•Do not raise the arms of planters, cultivators or truck bed when moving vehicles.
•Be aware of increased height when loading and transporting larger modern farm machinery.
•Watch for radio antennas that extend from the cab to fifteen feet above the ground that could make contact with power lines.
•Be careful not to raise any equipment such as ladders, poles or rods into power lines. Non-metallic materials such as lumber, tree limbs, tires, ropes and hay will conduct electricity depending on dampness and dust and dirt contamination.
•Do not try to clear storm-damage debris and limbs near or touching power lines or near fallen lines.
The overhead electric wires are not the only electrical contact that can result in a serious incident, according to Humphrey. Pole guy wires are grounded to the neutral; but, when one of the guy wires is broken, it can cause an electric current disruption. This can make those neutral wires anything but harmless. If a guy wire is struck with farm equipment and breaks, or when making contact with electrical poles and wires, always contact your local rural public power district or electric co-operative.
"It is also important for operators of farm equipment to know what to do if the vehicle comes in contact with a power line," Humphrey explains. "It is always best to stay in the cab and call for help. Warn others who may be nearby to stay 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 the individual steps outside, they become the path and electrocution can be the result. Even if a power line has landed on the ground, there is still the potential for the area nearby to be energized.
Remain 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, Humphrey says. "Continue to shuffle or hop to safety, keeping both feet together as you leave the area."
Once away from the equipment, never attempt to get back on or even touch the equipment. Many electrocutions occur when the operator dismounts and, realizing nothing has happened, tries to get back on the equipment. Alert the local rural public power district or electric cooperative that have highly-trained linemen to assist.