"Equipment contacting overhead power
lines is the leading cause of farm electrocution accidents in the
Midwest," says Bob Aherin, University of Illinois agricultural
safety specialist. "Many of these accidents occur near grain bins,
when augers make contact with power lines."
To prevent tragic accidents, the public
awareness program Safe Electricity joins Extension Services in
urging farm workers to review farm activities and work practices
that take place around power lines.
"Take note when moving equipment like
portable grain augers, oversized wagons and large combines. Everyone
who works on the farm should know the location of power lines and
keep farm equipment at least 10 feet away from them," says Molly
Hall, director of Safe Electricity.
"The minimum 10-foot distance is a
360-degree rule -- below, to the side and above lines. Ensuring
proper clearance can save lives."
Moving portable grain augers poses the
greatest risk because those who are on the ground moving the
equipment would provide a direct path for electricity if there's a
contact with overhead wires.
"Always lower grain augers before
moving them, even if it's only a few feet. Variables like wind,
uneven ground, shifting weight or other conditions can combine to
create an unexpected result," Aherin said. "Also use extreme caution
when raising the bed of a grain truck. It can be difficult to
estimate distance, and sometimes a power line is closer than it
looks. A spotter or someone with a broader view can help."
Farm workers also are advised not to
use metal poles when breaking up bridged grain inside and around
bins and are advised to use qualified electricians for work on
drying equipment and other farm electrical systems.
Some equipment safety considerations:
- Always lower portable augers or
elevators to their lowest possible level -- under 14 feet --
before moving or transporting; use care when raising them.
- When moving large equipment or
high loads near a power line, always use a spotter or someone to
help make certain that contact is not made with a line.
- Be aware of increased height when
loading and transporting larger modern tractors with higher
- Never attempt to raise or move a
power line to clear a path!
[to top of second column in
"It's also important for operators of
farm equipment or vehicles to know what to do if the vehicle comes
in contact with a power line," Hall says. "It's almost always best
to stay in the cab and call for help. Warn others who may be nearby
to stay away and wait until the electric utility arrives to make
sure power to the line is cut off."
"If the power line is energized and you
step outside, your body becomes the path and electrocution is the
result," Aherin said. "Even if a power line has landed on the
ground, the potential for the area nearby to be energized still
exists. Stay inside the vehicle unless there's fire or imminent risk
In that case, the proper action is to
jump -- not step -- with both feet hitting the ground at the same
time. Do not allow any part of your body to touch the equipment and
the ground at the same time. Continue to hop or shuffle to safety,
keeping both feet together as you leave the area.
Once you get away from the equipment,
never attempt to get back on or even touch the equipment. Many
electrocutions occur when the operator dismounts and, realizing
nothing has happened, tries to get back on the equipment.
As in any outdoor work, be careful not
to raise any equipment such as ladders, poles or rods into power
lines. Remember, nonmetallic materials such as lumber, tree limbs,
tires, ropes and hay will conduct electricity, depending on dampness
and dust and dirt contamination.
It is very important that all farm
workers and seasonal employees are informed of electrical hazards
and trained in proper procedures to avoid injury. For more
information on farm and home electrical safety, visit
Spanish versions of farm electric safety information also are
available on that site.
Electricity is an electrical safety public awareness program
comprised of several dozen Midwestern organizations, including the
University of Illinois, electric cooperatives and investor-owned
electric utilities dedicated to promoting electric safety and
of Illinois news release]