In recognition of National Farm Safety and Health Week, Sept. 18-24, Ameren Illinois is joining with Safe Electricity to share tips on how farmers can avoid dangers when working in the field.
“The harvest season is one of the busiest times of the year and the long hours can present hazardous situations for farmers who are not familiar with the risks,” said Karen Boulanger, director of safety for Ameren Illinois. “National Farm Safety and Health Week provides a great opportunity to remind farmers to stay aware of their surroundings while working outdoors.”
Direct contact with electrical lines is a hazard that is easily overlooked in the fields. Every year, an average of 62 farm workers are electrocuted in the United States, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The most common causes of electrocutions are portable grain augers, oversized wagons, large combines and other tall equipment that inadvertently make contact with overhead power lines.
“There are many steps farmers should take to help keep themselves and workers safe when operating in the vicinity of electricity,” said Kyla Kruse, communications director for the Energy Education Council and its Safe Electricity program. “Farmers can easily find themselves in dangerous proximity to overhead lines when using large equipment. Noting the location of those wires before beginning any work can help reduce and prevent accidents.”
Safe Electricity provides the following tips to help keep farm workers safe:
- Beware of working with tall equipment near power lines. These lines are most often on the edge of fields and roadways, where equipment may pass entering the field and where equipment may be parked. Consider using a spotter when operating large machinery near these lines.
- Always follow safe work practices, even if it takes a bit of extra time. To prevent accidents, start by making sure everyone knows to maintain a minimum 10-foot clearance from power lines - in all directions, at all times. Even coming too close to a power line without making contact is dangerous as electricity can suddenly arc to conducting material.
- When operating equipment that uses auto-guidance or a GPS with auto-steering, keep your focus and don’t lose track of your surroundings.
- Contact Ameren Illinois or the local electric utility if the power line is low or sagging. Don’t try to fix it on your own. Electric distribution lines along rural roads can carry thousands of volts and only professional utility line workers are qualified to make any adjustments.
- Steer clear of power poles. Unintended contact can weaken the integrity of the pole, increasing the potential for contact with low-hanging or downed lines.
- If equipment does come into contact with power lines, stay in the cab and call for help. Don't try to maneuver out. Warn others who may be nearby to stay away and wait until the electric utility arrives to cut the power.
- Recognize when you need to take breaks so you can be active and engaged in the farm work.
- For more tips on electric safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.
Farmers are also reminded to be mindful of natural gas and other underground facilities that may be located on or near their property. Before digging or installing new facilities, property owners are required by state law to call JULIE (Joint Utility Location Information for Excavators) by dialing 811 at least two working days before the start of any project. This free service may help prevent an interruption to service or avoid damaging underground facilities while digging.
About Ameren Illinois
Ameren Illinois delivers energy to 1.2 million electric and 816,000 natural gas customers in downstate Illinois, and our mission is to power the quality of life. Our service territory covers more than 1,200 communities and 43,700 square miles. For more information, visit AmerenIllinois.com. Follow us on Twitter @AmerenIllinois and Facebook.
About the Energy Education Council
The Energy Education Council is a 501(c 3) non-profit organization dedicated to promoting electrical safety and energy efficiency. Established in 1952, the Council is headquartered within University of Illinois Extension and serves as a forum for diverse utility and energy organizations to collaborate on the mutually vital issues of efficiency and safety. Learn more at EnergyEdCouncil.org and SafeElectricity.org.