While irrigation equipment helps farmers combat dry spells and summer heat, it also introduces electrical hazards, including contact with overhead power lines, short circuits, and lighting strikes. Safe Electricity wants farm owners and workers to be aware of potential hazards and take steps to stay safe.
Take time to survey your surroundings. Look up and around, and make note of any power lines that could be close enough to come into contact with equipment. Maintain proper clearances.
The combination of water and electricity is also hazardous. The sprays of water from irrigation systems should not be near overhead power lines. Because the impurities in water serve as conductors of electricity, a stream of water reaching non-insulated wires will become the path for the deadly voltage and can energize the entire irrigation system.
Wiring maintenance should also be a safety priority. Read all operator manuals and follow the manufacturer’s suggestions for inspection and maintenance. When working on the system, always turn off the power first. Also, make sure all equipment is grounded. Call a professional electrician to check the pump and wiring and to complete any needed repairs.
Storms can also pose dangers for irrigation systems and those who operate them. Stay away from the piping during lightning activity. Keep an eye on weather forecasts, so that you can plan to stay safely indoors during a thunderstorm.
Safe Electricity provides these additional precautions to help ensure the safety of those working around irrigation equipment:
- If fuses continually blow or circuit breakers repeatedly trip, have a professional check the wiring. This could indicate a potential electrical hazard.
- Avoid moving irrigation equipment on windy days when pipes could blow into nearby power lines. Keep pipes horizontal to the ground rather than vertical to minimize the risk of contact with power lines.
- Store unused irrigation pipes far away from power lines or electrical equipment.
- Position irrigation pipes at least 15 feet away from power lines.
- Position the water jet streams so that there is no chance of them spraying onto power lines. If this happens, the entire system could become energized, creating a danger for anyone nearby.
If an irrigation pipe comes in contact with a power line, never try to remove it yourself. Stay away from the pipe, and call your local electric utility for help.
For more information on electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.