For many farmers across Iowa, the harvest season is a flurry of activity with long hours and little rest. The pressure to harvest as much as possible, in combination with fatigue and looming deadlines, can result in too little attention to potential hazards. Safe practices should never be compromised for the sake of speed. Doing so could potentially end in tragedy.
Farmers and agricultural workers have a dangerous occupation. One of the causes of injury and death in the agricultural industry is electrocution. Of those injuries, overhead powerlines are the most common cause of electrocution.
Large farming equipment is vulnerable to hitting power lines because of how often lines run parallel to county roads. Every farm worker should keep an eye out for low-hanging lines when entering or leaving a field and learn what to do if their equipment comes into contact with an overhead line.
If you are a farm operator or worker, keep the following safety guidelines in mind during the harvest season:
- Always use a spotter when operating large machinery near lines.
- Keep equipment at least 10 feet from lines - at all times, in all directions.
- Inspect the height of the farm equipment to determine clearance.
- Always remember to lower extensions to the lowest setting when moving loads.
- Never attempt to move a power line out of the way or raise it for clearance.
- If a power line is sagging or low, call PCEA immediately.
- If your equipment does hit a power line, do not leave the cab. Immediately call 911, warn others to stay away, and wait for the PCEA utility crew to cut the power.
The only reason to exit equipment that has come into contact with overhead lines is if the equipment is on fire, which is very rare. However, if this is the case, jump off the equipment with your feet together and without touching the group and vehicle at the same time. Then, still keeping your feet together, hop to safety as you leave the area.
To help ensure a safe harvest, stay alert for power lines, exercise caution, and always put safety first.