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Opinion: Farmers ­— don’t harvest trouble this fall

For farmers, it’s the most eagerly anticipated time of year: harvest.

But it also poses a big danger: electrical accidents.

The best to avoid such accidents: Look up. “When you’re working long hours or rushing to beat the weather, it’s easy to overlook power lines and related equipment,” said Eric Hamm, manager of safety services for Otter Tail Power Company. “But it’s important to caution employees and family members working with you about potential hazards. A little planning can help keep everyone safe and productive.”

Otter Tail Power shared these important harvest-time safety tips:

  • Always have a spotter when moving large equipment, such as combines, grain augers, beet lifters, and tillage, spraying, excavation, or irrigation equipment, near power lines.
  • Pay special attention when hoisting truck boxes or folding tillage equipment for transport. Might that truck box contact an energized line? Will tillage equipment folded for road travel clear the overhead electrical lines that cross the field approach?
  • When extended, might tillage equipment snag that nearby pole or transformer? Allow ample room around all utility equipment. If an electric line were to fall on your equipment the operator would be at risk of serious injury or even death. The cost of replacing one pole, for example, and repairing your damaged equipment would outweigh by far any benefit of farming right next to that pole. If your equipment is equipped with GPS you may want to take advantage of marking power poles as an additional reminder to steer clear.
  • Lower portable augers or elevators to the lowest possible level before moving or transporting them, and use care when raising them.
  • Steer clear of power lines, guy wires, junction boxes, and transformers that may be along the edges of fields, in farmyards, and at grain-handling sites.
  • Be careful when entering or leaving a field and traveling over an approach. That’s where farmers may encounter unexpected power lines.
  • Maintain adequate clearance between an electrical line and the top of any equipment. Don’t guess; know the height of the lines and the height of your equipment, including antennas.
  • Be careful not to snag electrical equipment on the tractor’s rear wheels or with harvesting, spraying, or tillage equipment in tight turns at the ends of fields.
  • Don’t build new storage bins near overhead electrical lines.

Hamm said to be aware of what might be in the ground as well. Before tilling an unfamiliar field or doing any excavating (to install drain tile, for instance), use the One Call service to locate buried utilities. The national number to call is 811. Or call Minnesota’s One Call center at 1-800-252-1166.

Other things to keep in mind this harvest season:

If you’re in a vehicle or equipment that’s accidentally contacted an electrical source, Hamm says to remain there until help arrives. But if you’re in danger of fire or explosion, jump with both feet together and shuffle away. Do not allow contact with the vehicle or equipment and the ground at the same time.

If you encounter an electrical accident, make sure the electrical source no longer poses a threat before assisting a victim. If in doubt, call 911 and wait until help arrives. And remember, even victims who don’t appear to be injured should seek medical advice because injury from an electrical shock may not be immediately apparent. — Alexandria Echo Press