Individuals who work for agricultural operations are essential to their communities and the nation. Without farming, we would lack crucial resources like food and textiles. If you've worked on a farm, you know the agricultural industry constantly requires overcoming challenges to yield a crop.
Electrical equipment, power lines and agricultural electrical installations can present certain electrical hazards. It’s of the utmost importance that farmers follow certain safety practices when working around power lines and wiring in barns and other outdoor buildings.
In this article, we’ll discuss several electrical safety tips for those who work in agriculture.
Safety tips to avoid hazards
Agricultural work and farming are some of the most dangerous careers in the U.S. You must take every precaution when you're on the job. Understanding where the dangers lie is the best place to start. For most farmers, two examples where electrical hazards exist are:
- Overhead and underground power lines: Power lines that you see every day can oftentimes fade into the background. This poses a threat to operators of heavy machinery, like tractors, backhoes and earth displacement vehicles. Even for careful operators, heavy farming equipment can easily come in contact with these lines if they are distracted for even a second. If these machines contact power lines, the results can be hazardous.
- Outdoor electrical equipment: Outdoor electrical wiring and equipment on farms are more likely to have wear and tear than indoor electrical equipment. Weather conditions, dust and animal interference can make this equipment unsafe to use.
Here are some of our most important tips for electrical safety on the farm.
Our Electric Safety Tips
- Be aware of overhead power lines when using heavy machinery. Any contact with a power line is a safety hazard to the vehicle operator and those nearby. If you are moving a tractor, backhoe, plow or another large vehicle under a powerline, ask a spotter to make sure you don't touch or take down a line. Make sure to maintain at least 10 feet of clearance between your equipment and the line.
- Call before you dig. If you are part of a project where you will need to till up the land or dig, you need to call 811 first. Locators will mark the approximate location of underground lines, pipes and cables. Utility location services are free of charge. Not only is it essential for your safety, but it's against the law to start digging before you call.
- Inspect electrical equipment before use. Farming tools and equipment take a beating. Harsh weather conditions, dust and animal entanglement can wear down cords and other electrical components. Look at power equipment before using it to make sure there aren’t any exposed wires, loose connections or fraying.
- Protect equipment and wiring from the elements. Use outdoor equipment and weatherproofing to protect wiring and cords from wind and moisture. You can find cord connector covers at a local hardware store or online retailer.
- Don't try to use "quick fixes" for wiring or electrical issues. While farmers are known for their independent, hard-working attitudes, it's best to call for help from a licensed professional to fix any outdoor wiring issues. If you have a power line sagging on your property, contact your local electric cooperative. They can send a team to your location to safely raise the line back to an appropriate height.
- Use caution around downed power lines. If you see downed power lines on your property, contact your local electric cooperative immediately. If you are operating a vehicle that comes in contact with a power line, stay in your vehicle and call emergency services. Utility workers will come to your location and let you know when the line is de-energized. Then, it's safe for you to exit your vehicle.
Want more information on outdoor electrical safety? Visit our safety page and blog for more safety advice. For tips on planting around overhead powerlines, listen to our podcast about farm planting safety.