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Look up and stay safe

Overhead power lines are some of the most common 
causes of farm accidents. Be prepared on your farm

hydroelectric power pole

Do you have overhead power lines and guy wires around your farm? Do you know how high they really are from the ground? Are you confident that your equipment is low enough to avoid contact when transporting? How about in the fields or along the roads you travel?

Some of the most common accidents in farm country involve contact between high voltage lines and farm equipment. You might be surprised to know that it isn’t just augers either. According to Fortis there were contacts with high voltage lines 35 times in 2013 and the list of equipment include: air seeders, sprayers, grain trucks and silage trucks.

Summer, spring, winter and fall — each busy season provides opportunity to identify unique hazards and be proactive for the safety of your family, friends and workers.

Knowing how high your equipment is as important as knowing how wide it is. Conditions may change your clearance and you need to consider them. Things like snow pack or frozen mud can make your clearance much smaller. In winter lines can sag, making them lower than they normally are. Taking a few minutes to look around and assess the hazards can be a lifesaver.

Getting under lines can become a matter of life and death if you haven’t measured properly. A good rule of thumb is to be between 4.1 and seven metres from the line. If you are moving equipment and have to go under lines, let your local utility company know so they can be there to lift the lines if needed.

If you come in contact

If you happen to come into contact with high voltage lines here are some things to remember:

  • If possible, move your vehicle or equipment at least 10 metres away from the line
  • If you are unable to move your vehicle or equipment stay inside, and call 9-1-1. If anyone approaches open the window and shout for them to stay away. Have them call 9-1-1 from a safe distance.
  • If you are in danger from fire or need to exit the vehicle do the following: jump down and land with your feet together, never touch the vehicle/equipment and the ground at the same time, hop or shuffle away from the contact, do this for at least 10 metres.
  • Remember: never exit into water or snow, stay away from downed lines, remain calm.

Other hazards

A hidden hazard you may not have considered is your stack yard. Are your bales stacked close enough to lines that moving them with a loader, or having someone up top tarping could contact with a line? Not all line contacts involve moving equipment. Pruning trees, stacking bales and construction projects can all bring you dangerously close to overhead lines.

Most power utility companies will come and flag lines which may be low enough for contact in your yard or at field entrances as reminders of the overhead lines. It is relatively inexpensive to have ground mounted signs made as reminders. Utility company linesmen will also come, often for free, to measure the height of your lines so you know exactly how high they are.

Utility companies will come and do training and orientation for farmers — organize one for your community or your staff. They provide excellent training materials and will share just how deadly contact can be. Provide materials for anyone who operates your equipment, and be sure to make everyone aware of the location of all overhead lines in your yard, and by your fields.

About the author


Shanyn Silinski is a writer, published author, speaker, rancher, farm wife, mom and agvocate. She loves working in agriculture, currently in primary production, and sharing about agriculture on social media. Find her on Twitter @MysticShanyn or on Facebook at Photos by Shanyn.

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