Here are four key words of advice Nebraska Public Power District wants farmers to remember as harvest season races forward: “Look Up, Look Out.” Nebraska’s largest electrical utility wants farmers to “look up” so they can spot the power lines that may be present in the fields they’ll be harvesting. Also, it’s a matter to keeping safe to “look out.” Once a power line has been spotted, remember to avoid it — and we’re not just talking about avoiding contact.
NPPD cautions that farmers need to maintain a distance of at least 20 feet from power lines. That’s because electrical energy can leap from the power line to farm machinery, even if there’s no contact.
It’s called arcing, and it’s a danger for any large equipment that gets too close or hits a power line, said Scott Walz, NPPD’s transmission, distribution, construction and maintenance manager.
“If equipment operators don’t take the extra time to check for power lines where they are operating their equipment, it can be easy to make a mistake that results in severe injury — or even a fatality,” Walz said. “If large equipment gets too close to a power line, electricity can arc from the line to the equipment.” NPPD issues annual reminders about harvest safety. As we said, this year’s focus is to look up, look out and keep at least 20 feet of separation between power lines and equipment.
Walz said to call 911 if a piece of equipment comes into contact with a power line. Remain inside the equipment until a trained lineman can de-energize the line.
When a power line is touching a vehicle, it can electrify both the vehicle and the ground in the surrounding area.
“If a fire forces you to exit the vehicle, then do so by jumping away from the vehicle, landing on two feet, and shuffling as far away from the area as possible,” Walz said.
NPPD recommends farmers review the following safety steps before entering the fields:
Each day, review all farm activities and work practices that will take place around power lines and remind all workers to take precautions.
Know locations of power lines and when setting up the farm equipment, be at least 20 feet away from them. Contact your local public power provider if you feel this distance cannot be achieved.
Use caution when raising augers or the bed of a grain truck or wagon. It can be difficult to estimate distance. Sometimes a power line is closer than it looks. For large equipment, use a spotter to ensure the equipment stays a safe distance from the line.
Always adjust portable augers or elevators to their lowest possible level — under 14 feet — before transporting them. Variables like wind, uneven ground, or shifting weight can cause unexpected results.