After working in a field on a neighbor's farm, Jim Flach parked his equipment and stepped out of the vehicle. Flach received a severe electric shock that ultimately resulted in his death a few months later. His equipment was unknowingly touching an overhead power line, and he became a path to ground for an electrical current as he set his foot onto the ground. Safe Electricity urges farmers and agricultural workers to take precautions around power lines.

"Electrical equipment, such as power lines near the end rows, may get overlooked during such a hectic time of year as harvest," says Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council's Safe Electricity program. "However, failure to notice overhead power lines can be a deadly oversight."

National Farm Safety and Health Week is coming up on September 20-27, and draws attention to the importance of safety in such a dangerous occupation as farming. In particular, power lines can pose a major hazard for farmers. Typically, power lines over streets and rural areas have a minimal clearance of 18 feet and 12.5 feet over residential private property.

The simple movement of a portable grain auger from one bin to another can have tragic results if the individuals involved are not extremely careful. Today's farm equipment has a long reach when extended. A daily check of where equipment will be moving should be conducted to ensure that it will clear power lines. If you cannot safely pass under a power line, choose a different path.

Safe Electricity advises farm operators and workers to:

  • Always use a spotter when operating large machinery near lines.
  • Use care when raising augers or the bed of grain trucks around power lines.
  • Keep equipment at least 10 feet from lines-at all times, in all directions.
  • Inspect the height of the farm equipment to determine clearance.
  • Always remember to lower extensions to the lowest setting when moving loads.
  • Never attempt to move a power line out of the way or raise it for clearance.
  • If a power line is sagging or low, call the local utility immediately.

If contact is made with a power line, remember, it is almost always safest to stay on the equipment. Make sure to warn others to stay away, and call the local utility provider immediately. The only reason to exit is if the equipment is on fire. If this is the case, jump off the equipment with your feet together and without touching the ground and vehicle at the same time. Then, still keeping your feet together, "bunny hop" away.

If you see someone's equipment in contact with a power line, the best help you can give is at a safe distance. During one of these situations, make sure to yell out to, signal, or call the equipment operator to make sure he remains in the vehicle, and notify the local utility.

Always keep in mind that electricity does not allow mistakes, and neither should you. For more information on electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.

 

Jim Flach was a respected farmer, 4-H leader, and champion livestock showman who readily shared his knowledge with others.  But a tragic farm accident claimed his life when his crop sprayer touched an overhead electric line.  His widow Marilyn tells about the accident that claimed the life of her husband and their three sons, who are carrying on his livestock work, share their thoughts about their late father.  All of them urge farmers and operators of large equipment to be more aware of the presence of electric lines and know what to do, should you be involved in a similar accident.