‘Look up and around’ during harvest season

September 19, 2014

Electrical safety important, says NPPD

Columbus, Neb. – Husker Harvest Days have passed and farm equipment will begin moving into local fields making this one of the busiest times of the year for Nebraska farmers. It’s also a time to look up and around, according to the Nebraska Public Power District.

“Looking up and around when working in the fields this harvest season is important,” explained NPPD Transmission and Distribution Manager John Humphrey. “Taking a few minutes to look for overhead electric lines may be life-saving time well spent.”

Before taking to the fields, NPPD 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,” Humphrey added. “However, failure to notice overhead power lines can be a deadly oversight.”

That is when farm equipment can accidentally become entangled in the power lines. Remaining inside the equipment until help arrives is critical to everyone’s safety. Humphrey said that those involved in harvesting work should understand any contact with power lines carries the potential for a serious or fatal accident, and should understand that electricity can arc to the equipment if it comes close to the line.

“It’s almost always best to stay in the cab, call for help, and wait until the local electric utility arrives to make sure power to the line is cut off. If the power line is energized and you step outside, your body becomes the path and electrocution could happen,” Humphrey said. “Even if a power line is on the ground, there is still the potential for the area nearby to be energized. Stay inside the vehicle, unless there’s fire or imminent risk of fire.”

If you must exit, the proper action is to jump – not step – with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Jump clear, without touching the vehicle and ground at the same time, and continue to shuffle to safety, keeping both feet together as you leave the area.

“Like the ripples in a pond or lake, the voltage diminishes the farther out it is from the source,” Humphrey pointed out. “Be sure that at no time you or anyone touches the equipment and the ground at the same time. Never should the operator simply step out of the vehicle — the person must jump clear.”

As a rule of thumb, NPPD asks farm workers to routinely look up and look out for overhead power lines, Humphrey explained. He also urged farm workers to heed these additional 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 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!
  • 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.

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

Editor’s Note: More information on harvest electrical safety can be found at https://www.nppd.com/energy-education/farm-safety/.

A video concerning the same topic can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIjIYq6BoNc&list=UUyGw38lIj6YRaQmLQCeZ1xw

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