Farm Talk on the Front Porch
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Three ways to prevent spring planting from being a shocking experience.
Apr 01, 2014
A farmer hitches the sprayer to the tractor for the annual ritual of preparing the fields for spring planting. The farmer climbs in the cab and starts the motor. The familiar, muddy path from the barn to the field crosses under several sets of aging power lines. Even though the lines look lower than they did last spring, the farmer drives the tractor and sprayer under the lines. The end of the sprayer catches the line, knocking down the live electrical line. The farmer is trapped until the utility company can cut power to the line.
"Every year we see a tremendous number of claims on farm equipment due to utility lines, both on the farm and the roadway," said Vicky Hartgers, farm claims manager at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company. "There’s no exception. It’s there every year."
The 2014 planting season does not need to be a shocking experience. As you prepare your equipment and fields this spring, follow these tips from Grinnell Mutual to avoid contact with overhead power lines on your farm.
1. Look up.
"Farmers often take the same routes to fields each year," said Hartgers.
Survey your route from barn to fields for overhead power lines. Are any of the power lines sagging?
"It’s difficult to get out and measure a line. I think the awareness has to be there," said Hartgers. "The best way to do that is to watch. If you notice they are getting lower, call the local utility company to have them check those lines. They will send someone out."
Review the route and potential hazards with everyone who will drive farm equipment so they can steer clear of power lines.
"I think farmers are in the habit of assuming," said Hartgers. "The best advice is don’t ever assume that the line will always be in the same place.
2. Obey the 10 foot rule.
Never get closer than 10 feet to an overhead power line. If overhead lines are present, OSHA recommends calling the utility company to find out what voltage is on the lines. Consider all overhead lines as energized until the utility company indicates otherwise, or an electrician verifies that the line is not energized and has been grounded.
3. Don’t leave the vehicle.
If an overhead wire falls across your vehicle or equipment while you are driving, Grinnell Mutual recommends staying inside it and continuing to drive away from the line. If the engine stalls, do not leave your vehicle. Avoid touching metal on the vehicle and warn people not to touch the vehicle or the wire. Call or ask someone to call the local utility company and emergency services. Never touch a fallen overhead power line.
"Report the power poles you see leaning along the highways and roadways. Someone from your local utility can check those," said Hartgers. "They are very good about responding. They also recognize the situation when the lines are low. They know there’s a risk so they get somebody out there."
Materials in this article are adapted from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.