Farm workers must pay attention to overhead power lines

Farming safety photo. Picture by Adam O'Sullivan.
Farming safety photo. Picture by Adam O'Sullivan.

Farm workers are urged to be vigilant about overhead power lines during harvest time.

The warning comes from Western Power Distribution (WPD) following an incident near Allestree in which a high voltage overhead line was brought down after being hit by a farm vehicle.

Every year, the electricity network operator responds to hundreds of incidents in which farm workers and/or vehicles have come into contact with electricity, usually overhead lines.

Most farming incidents involving electricity are linked to vehicles with elevating equipment, such as spray booms or cabbage harvesters, which make contact with overhead lines.

Others are caused by vehicles using GPS steering, which may not take into account obstacles such as electricity poles, resulting in potentially catastrophic collisions.

The latest figures show that at least one agricultural accident involving overhead lines is reported every day – up by more than 100 a year, from 263 in 2013 to 378 in 2018.

Eddie Cochrane, WPD safety adviser, said: “Accidents like these, involving harvesting machinery or similar equipment, and GPS, can all be avoided, if farm workers are vigilant.

“WPD is happy to give advice to farmers on working around our network. If a farmer suspects the lines across his or her land may be a bit low, we’ll come out and measure them for free and work with the farmerto maintain safety.”

Top tips on safety include:

n Never raise elevating equipment, such as spray booms, cabbage harvesters and trailer bodies, under or close to overhead power lines;

n Never store or move materials under, or close to, overhead power lines, as this reduces the safe clearance distance beneath the lines;

n Know the maximum reach and height of any vehicle you are operating;

n Be vigilant when using GPS;

n The area around a fallen line, including soil, equipment and other objects, could be live – so stay away.

n If contact is made with a power line, workers are advised to stay in the cab and try to drive clear. If that is not possible, the driver should stay in the cab and call 105, only leaving the machine in an emergency. When leaving the vehicle, they should take care not to hold the machine and touch the ground at the same time; they should take leaping strides or ‘bunny hop’ away so that one foot is off the floor at all times.