Harvest time a busy time – but look up and look out for overhead power lines

September 19, 2011

Columbus, Neb. - Harvest season is one of the busiest times of year for farmers – and among the most dangerous. Before taking to the fields, Nebraska Public Power District and its wholesale public power partners urge farm workers to be aware of overhead power lines and to keep equipment and extensions far away from them.

“Electrical equipment around the fields, such as power lines in the end row areas, may get overlooked during this busy time of year,” says John Humphrey, NPPD’s transmission and distribution manager. “However, failure to notice overhead power lines can be a deadly oversight.

“As a rule of thumb, we ask that farm workers look up and look out for overhead power lines.”

NPPD urges farm workers to heed these safety measures:

  • Each day, review all farm activities and work practices that will take place around power lines and remind all workers to take precautions.
  • Know the location of power lines and when setting up the farm equipment, be at least 20 feet away from them. Contact your local power provider if you feel this distance cannot be achieved.
  • Use care when raising augers or the bed of a grain truck. It can be difficult to estimate distance, and sometimes a power line is closer than it looks. When moving large equipment or high loads near a power line, always use a spotter to make certain that contact is not made with a line.
  • Always lower portable augers or elevators to their lowest possible level – under 14 feet – before moving or transporting them. Variables like wind, uneven ground, shifting weight, or other conditions can combine to create an unexpected result.
  • Be aware of increased height when loading and transporting larger modern tractors with higher antennas.
  • Never attempt to raise or move a power line to clear a path!
  • As in any outdoor work, be careful not to raise any equipment such as ladders, poles, or rods into power lines. Remember, non-metallic materials such as lumber, tree limbs, tires, ropes, and hay will conduct electricity depending on dampness and dust and dirt contamination.

Humphrey added that everyone involved in harvesting work should understand that any contact with power lines carries the potential for a serious or even a fatal accident, and should understand that electricity can arc to the equipment if it comes close to the line.

“With good planning, looking up and looking out, we can all have a safe harvest season,” he added.

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