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Farmers Urged To Look Up During Harvest Season

 Farmers Urged To Look Up During Harvest Season

Harvest brings long, grueling hours in the field, which can make workers weary and prone to neglect safety precautions that can prevent serious or fatal electrical injuries. Every year, an average of 62 farmworkers are electrocuted in the U.S., and many more are injured by shocks, according to Department of Labor statistics.

Among those electrocution victims was Jim Flach, a farmer killed as he climbed down from his equipment that was in contact with overhead power lines. Learn more about his accident at safeelectricity.org.

Sam Houston Electric Cooperative urges farm operators, their family members and farm employees to beware of overhead power lines, to keep farm equipment safely away and to know what to do if accidental contact is made with power lines.

The increasing size of farm equipment, particularly grain tanks on combines that have become higher with extensions, allows operators to come perilously close to overhead power lines over entrances to fields. It is vital to keep equipment safely away from these lines. Maintain a minimum 10-foot radius around electric lines.

Portable augers are the No. 1 cause of electrocution on the farm. Augers being maneuvered by hand around bin sites have caused the deaths of many farmworkers who became the path to ground for electricity when the top of the auger touched overhead power lines. Always retract or lower augers when moving or transporting.

Other equipment commonly involved in power line accidents include oversized wagons, large combines and other tall equipment.

Harvest is the most likely period for farm-related injury accidents and fatalities. Combines and other equipment loaded onto trailers can contact power lines and cause electrocutions, as can raising the bed of a truck to unload. That’s exactly how a 53-year-old Michigan truck driver was tragically killed, when he raised the bed of his semitrailer truck while parked beneath a power line at the edge of a field. Colleagues said he was attempting to clean out the bed, and when he touched the truck bed, he became the path to ground for the electricity.

Farm operators, their family members and farm employees are urged to take these safety measures:

Use a spotter when moving tall loads near power lines.

Inspect farm equipment for transport height and determine clearance with any power lines under which the equipment must pass.

Make sure everyone knows what to do if accidental contact is made with power lines. These accidents are survivable if the right actions are taken.

It’s almost always best to stay in the cab, call for help and wait until electric utility workers arrive to make sure power to the line is cut off. If the power line is energized and you step out of the cab, your body becomes the path and electrocution is the result. Even if a power line is on the ground, there is still the potential for the area nearby to be energized. Stay inside the vehicle unless there’s fire or imminent risk of fire.

In that case, the proper action is to jump—not step—with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Jump clear, without touching the vehicle and ground at the same time and continue to shuffle or hop to safety, keeping both feet together as you leave the area. Be sure that at no time you or anyone touches the equipment and the ground at the same time. Never should an operator simply step out of the vehicle—the person must jump clear.