Columbus, Neb. – It’s harvest season in Nebraska. And Nebraska Public Power District is reminding farmers to “look up and around” for power lines when harvesting this fall.
A little over a week ago, a grain trailer came into contact with an NPPD power line, resulting in damage to the tires on the grain trailer and to the line itself. “It was very fortunate that no one was injured,” commented Transmission and Distribution Manager Art Wiese, about the contact with the power line. “We have had a few other power line contacts this year and are urging farm operators to look up and around in order to be aware of overhead power lines.”
Wiese noted that taking a few minutes to look for overhead electric lines may be life-saving time well spent.
While avoiding any contact is the best way to stay safe, NPPD wants everyone to know what to do if there is contact with a power line. If contact is made, remaining inside the equipment until help arrives is critical to everyone’s safety. Those involved in harvesting work should understand any contact with power lines carries the potential of a serious or fatal accident. And remember that the equipment doesn’t have to actually touch the power line to be in danger. Electricity can arc to the equipment if it comes close to the line.
“It’s always best to call for help first, and wait until the local public power utility arrives to make sure the line is de-energized,” said Wiese. “If the power line is energized and you step outside, your body becomes the path and electrocution could happen. Even if a power line is on the ground, there is still the potential for the area nearby to be energized.”
If farm operators must exit the vehicle, the appropriate action is to jump – not step – with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Jump clear, do not touch the vehicle and ground at the same time, and continue to shuffle to safety, keeping both feet as close together as possible as you leave the area. Never simply step out of the vehicle — the person must jump clear.
NPPD recommends that farmers review the following safety precautions before entering the fields to begin harvest operations including:
- Each day, review all farm activities and work practices that will take place around power lines and remind all workers to take precautions. Start each morning by planning the day’s work during a tailgate safety meeting. Know what jobs will happen near power lines, and have a plan to keep the assigned workers safe.
- Know the location of power lines, and when setting up the farm equipment, be at least 20 feet away from them. Contact your local public power provider if you feel this distance cannot be achieved.
- Use caution when raising augers or the bed of a grain truck or wagon. 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 contact is not made with the line.
- Always adjust 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. If power lines near your property have sagged over time, call your public power utility to repair them.
- As in any outdoor work, 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.