Remember to be vigilant around utility equipment
As we enter the busy harvest season, Otter Tail Power Company reminds farmers to pay special attention to what’s above their heads and within reach of their machinery while completing harvest work.
“When you’re working long hours or rushing to beat the weather, it’s easy to overlook power lines and related equipment,” says Greg Overland, the company’s Safety Services Manager. “But it’s important to plan ahead and caution employees and family members working with you about potential hazards. Know the size of your machinery. And always remember to check your surroundings—including the areas above your equipment.”
Overland offers these additional tips to help keep everyone safe and productive this harvest season.
- Use a spotter when moving large equipment, such as combines, grain augers, beet lifters, and tillage, spraying, excavation, or irrigation equipment, near power lines.
- Pay special attention when hoisting truck boxes or folding tillage equipment for transport so they don’t contact energized lines. Be careful when entering or leaving a field where you may encounter power lines that cross the field approach.
- Allow ample room around all utility equipment. Might your tractor’s or combine’s rear wheels snag a guy wire in a tight turn at the end of a field? When extended, might tillage equipment strike a nearby pole? If an electric line were to fall on your equipment, you could be at risk for serious injury or even death. And the cost of replacing one pole and repairing your damaged equipment would far outweigh any benefit of farming right next to that pole. If your machinery is equipped with GPS, you may want to take advantage of marking power poles as an additional reminder to steer clear.
- Lower portable augers or elevators to the lowest possible level before moving or transporting and use care when raising them.
- Maintain adequate clearance between an electrical line and the top of any equipment. Don’t guess; know the height of the lines and the height of your equipment, including antennas.
- Steer clear of power lines, guy wires, junction boxes, and pad-mount transformers that may be along the edges of fields, in farmyards, and at grain-handling sites.
- Never build storage bins near overhead electrical lines.
- Note what might be in the ground. Before tilling an unfamiliar field or doing any excavating (to install drain tile, for instance), use One Call to locate buried utilities. The national number to call is 811.
If you’re in a vehicle or equipment that’s contacted an electrical source, remain there until help arrives. But if you’re in danger of fire or explosion, jump with both feet together and shuffle away. Don’t allow your body to contact the vehicle or equipment and the ground at the same time.
If you encounter an electrical accident, make sure the electrical source no longer poses a threat before assisting a victim. If in doubt, call 911 and wait until help arrives. And remember, even victims who don’t appear to be injured should seek medical advice because injury from an electrical shock may not be apparent immediately.
Overland adds that an electrical outage caused by mishandled farm machinery can impact several customers and poses a threat not only to you but also to others who rely on electricity for critical systems. “We want everyone to safely return home each night,” said Overland.
Photo caption: A farmer outside Fergus Falls, Minnesota, works to finish combining before stormy weather arrives. Photo courtesy of Brause Farms.