Farmers urged to look up and around for power lines

May 4, 2018

Avoiding contact eliminates potential injuries, outages

Columbus, Neb. – It’s a nice spring morning and a local farmer is operating his boom sprayer in his field. He makes a turn and without warning there is a sudden jerk, and something comes falling down on the cab of the vehicle.

Lights in nearby homes start blinking and power is temporarily lost in the area. The farmer has a portion of an overhead power line wrapped around his equipment – a line that may still be energized.

“This is a scenario that occurs every year, so it’s important that all farm workers look up and around and determine where power lines are before moving large pieces of equipment under them,” said Nebraska Public Power District Director of Delivery Art Wiese. “We want all farmers and their crews to be safe when doing their work and we want to be able to keep the lights on.”

Wiese explained that if a piece of farm equipment gets tangled in a power line, the first thing to do is contact 911 and remain with the vehicle as the line may still be energized. Law enforcement can contact NPPD or one of the many rural public power districts to respond with trained and experienced crews to remove the line and safely extract the individual from the equipment.

If there is imminent danger, such as a fire, the driver should jump as far away as possible from the equipment, making sure that no part of the body touches the tractor and the ground at the same time. When jumping, it is important to land standing up with both feet together. The individual should then shuffle their feet a few inches at a time, making sure to never break contact with the ground or cause separation between the feet. Do not attempt to return to the equipment and always wait for emergency responders and the power utility to respond.

“A few years ago we had a farmer with a boom sprayer make contact with an 115,000-kilovolt transmission line and fortunately was not hurt,” Wiese explained. The contact created an outage that affected several hundred NPPD customers and at least two rural public power districts. “The farmer, who was pretty startled and was not hurt, did not realize the length of the boom sprayer and made contact with the transmission line. That’s why it is important to look up and around.”

Some additional safety tips for farm workers include:

  • Everyone who works on the farm should know the location of power lines and keep farm equipment at least 20 feet away. The minimum 20-foot distance is a 360-degree rule – below, to the side and above lines. That’s where look up and around comes into play.
  • Farmers and their equipment should always be 10 feet away from power lines on all sides. Field cultivators and equipment such as sprayers can often reach as high as 12 feet in the air. Practice extreme caution and use a spotter to make sure you stay far away from power lines when using tall equipment.
  • If you have purchased new equipment, be aware of antennas or other attachments that may pose new hazards. A newer, bigger piece of equipment may no longer clear a line. In addition, shifting soil may also affect whether or not machinery avoids power lines from year-to-year.
  • Power lines also sag over the years. If power lines on your property are sagging excessively, contact your electric cooperative to repair the lines. Never try to move or raise a power line.
  • Overhead power lines are not the only electric hazard on the farm. Pole guy wires, used to stabilize utility poles, are grounded. However, when one of the guy wires is broken, it can become charged with electricity. If you break a guy wire, call the utility to fix it. Don’t do it yourself.
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