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Farmers urged to make harvest time a festival - not an emergency

Overhead power lines pose a real danger to farm workers at harvest time, particularly while using lifting equipment or GPS steering.

Every year, we respond 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.

“At WPD, we are always happy to give advice to farmers on working around our network and send safety literature upon request. 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 farmer to maintain safety.”

Top tips on farming safety:

  • Never raise elevating equipment, such as spray booms, cabbage harvesters and trailer bodies, under or close to overhead power lines
  • Never store or move materials under, or close to, overhead power lines, as this reduces the safe clearance distance beneath the overhead lines;
  • Know the maximum reach and height of any vehicle you are operating;
  • Be vigilant when using GPS – accidents can still happen;
  • You cannot see electricity – the area around a fallen line, including the soil, equipment and other objects, could be live – so stay away.
  • If contact is made with a power line, farm 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.

For more information, visit our Farming Safety page here.

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