Doors have rolled open on many farm machine sheds, as farmers prepare tillage equipment, sprayers, and planters for spring field work. Getting ready for planting, not only includes equipment adjustments, but also looking for any potential electrical hazards such as inadequate clearance for equipment entering and leaving fields.
Overhead power lines are needed to deliver electricity to farmsteads and rural homes, but the electricity can be deadly if wires are touched by large equipment. Although we get used to seeing power lines along rural roads and the edge of fields, awareness of their placement and height of the electric wires must be a priority. With larger equipment used for spring tillage, usually folded in a transit configuration until it reaches a field, farm operators should beware of how close it may come to overhead utility wires.
Field cultivators can be more than 12 feet in the air, and that means it may enter the 10 foot danger radius around power lines which safety authorities warn everyone to avoid. Many sprayers that will be used for crop chemical application will also have booms that could come in contact with overhead power lines.
Such was the case when the late Jim Flach was applying herbicide to farm fields in Central Illinois and his sprayer arms unfolded into an overhead power line. He was fatally burned by the deadly voltage when he climbed off the sprayer and became the path to ground for the electricity. The mishap, which occurred in March during the field preparation season, is a tragic reminder that overhead power lines should be observed and avoided.
Safe Electricity and the surviving members of the Jim Flach family warn everyone to avoid power lines, but if you do become involved in an accident with one, stay in the cab of the equipment or your vehicle and call for help. Do not attempt to exit because of the potential for serious or fatal injury.
Farm operators should inspect entrances to fields to ensure there is adequate clearance for equipment without jeopardizing the safety of the equipment operator. If there is insufficient clearance, do not attempt to correct the problem, but alert your local utility which will dispatch professional linemen to raise the wire to a safe height above the ground.
If clearance seems to be adequate, increase your level of safety with the use of a spotter who can also verify there is sufficient clearance from a better vantage point.