Farmers are being warned by the Nebraska Public Power District to be mindful of overhead power lines as they carry out their daily tasks. Keeping farming equipment away from these lines is vital, but so is knowing what to do in an emergency if contact is accidentally made.
As you walk through the fields, pay attention to the lines above you. End rows are a particularly notorious danger zone where farm equipment can more easily get tangled with power lines. If that occurs, remain inside the cab of the heavy equipment until help arrives. This reduces the risk of receiving a fatal shock from the energized lines.
But contact does not have to be made for danger to lurk. Electricity can arc to equipment if it gets within close proximity to the lines.
The Transmission and Distribution manager for NPPD says, "It's always best to call for help, and wait until the local electric utility arrives to make sure the line is de-energized." When power lines are energized and a person steps outside, one's body is now in the path and he or she risks electrocution. This applies to downed power lines on the ground, which can energize the surrounding ground area.
If fire is a threat an exiting the equipment is imperative, never step out. Instead, jump with both feet coming into contact with the ground simultaneously. You should jump as far away as you can from the equipment and never touch the ground and the heavy equipment at the same time. Don't walk away normally; shuffle your feet together, with both fully in contact with the ground, until you get to safety.
Voltage from downed power lines is much like ripples on the water, diminishing in strength the farther one gets from the power source.
Farmers can decrease the risk of fatal hazards by reviewing safety practices each morning with workers, reminding them to give power lines a wide berth. All equipment should be at least 20 feet from power sources.
Spotters should be used when moving equipment and high loads near power lines. Augers should always be reduced to the lowest level when in transport. Antennae, ladders, rods or poles should all be moved laid flat. Even non-metal materials can conduct electricity if damp or dirty. Reducing workplace accidents should be the goal of all farm workers.
Source: North Platte Bulletin, "Watch for power lines, know what to do in event of contact," accessed Oct. 14, 2016