“As a child I remember standing in the front yard with my siblings watching the neighboring farmer drive his small tractor down the road. As I grew in size, I noticed his tractors did too. Today, agricultural machinery has continued to increase in size and it often comes close to overhead lines. Closer than it ever has before," said Donnie Worley, WFEC Manager of Loss Control & Risk Management. “It's important for local farmers to remember that farm machinery is vulnerable to hitting power lines because of its large size, height and extensions,” he continued.
Harvest season is one of the busiest times of year for farmers – but it can be among the most dangerous as well. Before heading to the fields for harvesting this year, WFEC urges farmers and farm hands to be aware of overhead power lines and keep combines, grain augers, pickers, bailers and front-end loaders at least 10 feet away from lines above, below and to the side – a 360 degree rule.
Local farmer, Randy Crutchfield, has been farming for around 30 years. Each year, he plants and harvests about 1,100 acres of cotton and 650 acres of peanuts often utilizing large equipment such as peanut and cotton pickers, sprayers and large tractors. He says that he and his farm hands believe that safety comes first and they try to maintain a common sense approach to farming and electrical safety on his operation. 84512002
“One of the first things we do at a field is locate the power lines and poles, we follow the lines and pay close attention to where they cross each field. We constantly watch those lines and poles when picking peanuts or cotton because that machinery is so tall, it can easily get hung up in a line,” said Crutchfield. “We make sure to keep all trucks and farm equipment a safe distance away from these lines – at least 10 feet,” he continued.
Keep in mind that although the size of agricultural machinery has increased substantially over the years, the clearance underneath our power lines might not have. Combines and grain augers can reach well into the 10-foot radius around a power line. Farm vehicles with wireless communication system antennas can also make contact and energize the vehicle with deadly electricity.
“It is very important to be aware of your surroundings while farming or working outside,” said Crutchfield.
If your farm equipment or vehicle becomes energized – do you know what to do? Stay on the equipment, warn others to stay away and call 911. Do not get off the equipment until the utility crew says it is safe to do so.
“If the line is energized and you step outside, touching the vehicle and the ground, your body becomes the path and electrical shock is the result. Even if a power line has landed on the ground, there is still potential for the area to be energized. Stay on or inside the equipment unless there’s a fire,” said Worley.
If a fire occurs, jump off the equipment with both feet together, without touching the ground and the vehicle at the same time. Then, keeping your feet together, hop or shuffle away as you leave the immediate area. Never attempt to get back on or touch the equipment once you are free of it.
Another important thing to remember when harvesting, is to watch the roads as you’re moving farm equipment from one field to another. Overhead power lines crossing roads should be at least 15.5 feet from the ground to make sure tractors, combines and other harvesting equipment don’t touch the lines and put lives in danger. If a line seems low, contact West Florida Electric Cooperative. In the meantime, plan your routes between fields and on public roads to avoid low-hanging power lines. 81993001
Here are some additional tips to keep you safe on the farm:
• Examine work areas carefully for power lines and utility poles.
• Double and triple check clearances.
• Store large equipment properly if near or under power lines. When planning new construction, always
factor in existing power lines.
• Be careful when working around trees and brush – they can make it difficult to see power lines.
• Be aware of underground power lines. If you intend to do any excavation, be sure to call 811 to have utility lines located to prevent accidents.
• Train all farm workers to be vigilant and keep an eye out for overhead power lines.
• Plan ahead. When planning your crop rotation, pay attention to the location of power lines and poles. You may want to plant something that will be easy to harvest without your largest equipment.
More than 400 electrical fatalities occur every year and electrocutions on farms are the fourth highest of any job classification, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Most of those deaths could have been prevented.
“Be conscious of your surroundings and keep your eyes open when working with large farm equipment – double and triple check to see what's above you,” said Worley. “Use a spotter with a broader view when working with extensions or tall equipment near power lines.