Planting season is a physically and mentally draining time for farmers, and in the rush to get the seed in the ground, focus on safety can fade to the background. Overhead power lines present a life-threatening risk for those working with large machinery. It is important to exercise caution and respect the power of electricity. Safe Electricity encourages farmers to sow seeds of safety this season and take recommended safety precautions.
Before beginning work in a field, take time to note the location of power lines and equipment. Before getting out of the cab, look up and double check the area around your machinery to make sure it is not in contact with overhead lines. Always be aware of how close tractors, loaders, antennas, extended arms, and other equipment are to electrical lines. Remember to lower extensions to the lowest setting when moving loads.
Even if using an auto-guidance system, stay focused on the location of the tractor and its equipment while in the field, and be ready to take action yourself if necessary. Do not simply rely on the estimations of a GPS system, but also consider using a spotter to alert you if you come close to making contact. A spotter can see sagging wires that would not be visible on a GPS and provide additional verification that you can pass safely.
Your machinery does not have to touch electrical lines for electrocution to occur, so keep at least 10 feet of space between machinery and overhead lines. Assume that all lines are energized, and if you come across a downed pole or wire, never attempt to move it yourself.
If your equipment does make contact with a power line, do not leave the cab. Immediately call 911 to have the utility notified. Warn others to stay away, and wait for the utility crew to cut the power. Never try to disentangle equipment on your own.
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 ground and vehicle at the same time. Then, still keeping your feet together, hop to safety as you leave the area.
For more safety information, visit SafeElectricity.org.