Safe Electrical Feeds and Outlets for Farms

Technology has significantly transformed Indiana’s farms. It reduces the need for physical labor and gives farmers the ability to operate much larger and more sophisticated farms. Electricity is one of the farmers’ most helpful technologies, as long as it’s used safely, suggests Rick Coons, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives.

“From lengthening the workday to providing healthier conditions for animals, electricity has been a blessing for Hoosier farmers,” says Coons. “However, it’s easy to take electricity for granted, and to forget that it has hazards.”

The agricultural environment creates a variety of special challenges for electrical systems, Coons notes. “For example, humidity and vapors from animal waste can cause corrosion. That’s why it’s especially important to ensure that all feeds and outlets have been designed and installed to operate safely.”

Indiana Electric Cooperatives recommends that local farmers begin the harvest season by checking their electrical systems, with special attention to feeds and outlets. Verifying the safe operation of a farm’s electrical system involves several basic checks:

  • Seal any open connections with electrical tape to prevent against moisture and corrosion.
  • Make sure that all extension cords are in good shape, with no fraying or loose connectors. They should be plugged into properly grounded outlets. If a cord feels warm, replace it.
  • If extension cords will be used in an area where equipment may roll over them, protect them. You can feed the cord through a steel pipe below ground level.
  • Know the location of all underground service lines. Be sure to mark them before performing any trenching or digging nearby.
  • Check to see that circuit breakers and fuses are properly sized for the circuits they protect. Never bypass a fuse or install the wrong size fuse.
  • Examine and tighten the breaker and lug connections in electrical panels and disconnects. (Be sure to shut the main power off first.)
  • Check junction boxes to ensure that connections are tight and properly grounded.
  • Use an electrical tester to verify that all outlets are properly grounded.
  • Make sure that ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are used outdoors and in any areas where moisture or high humidity may be present.
  • If you don’t already use a lockout program to ensure that equipment cannot be started while it is being serviced, establish a program. Ensure that all workers understand that only the worker who locks out a circuit can restore it.

“Never take electrical safety and the condition of your electrical equipment for granted,” Coons advises. “Spending just a little time to verify that everything is in correct working order can minimize damage and injuries, and even save lives.”

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Cornell University