Spring into safety on the farm

Tractor spraying soybean field at spring

Spring has sprung in the Hoosier state. It’s planting season for many of the state’s roughly 58,000 farmers. While you prepare to plant the crops that keep the world fed, Indiana Electric Cooperatives reminds you to spring into safety — especially when working around electricity.

According to a 2014 report from TIME magazine, farming is the sixth most dangerous job in the United States.

“Every year, 62 farm workers are electrocuted in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration,” said Tom VanParis, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “These deaths can be prevented by practicing some simple safety measures.”

Here are some helpful safety tips for farmers to keep in mind this season:

  • To prevent electrocution, make sure farm equipment (including planter arms and sprayers) safely clear overhead power lines. This tall equipment can easily become entangled in power lines. Keep a minimum of 10-foot distance from power lines in all directions. Consider asking your electric co-op to move or bury overhead lines around buildings or busy pathways. If building a new farm structure or building, consult your cooperative for information on minimum clearances and the location of overhead lines.
  • Keep a safe distance from power poles and guy wires when working the land or planting crops. Contact 911 immediately if your equipment comes into contact with a guy wire or power pole. Don’t try to fix it yourself. Leave that to the experts.
  • Danger also lurks around grain bins. The National Electrical Safety Code requires power lines to be at least 18 feet above the highest point on any grain bin with which portable augers or other portable filling equipment are used. Contact your REMC if you’re concerned about the proximity of power lines to grain bins.
  • Water, dust and farming often go hand-in-hand. Install waterproof and dustproof electrical boxes and outlets at the farm.
  • If a standby generator is used on a single-phase system, it must be connected to the farm’s wiring system through a double pole, double-throw switch. The switch disconnects the farm’s electrical system from the electric cooperative’s lines during an outage and prevents backfeed – keeping linemen safe from the risk of electrocution.
  • Finally, make sure full-time and seasonal farm workers are educated to stay safe on the farm. Each worker should be aware of the dangers and utilize proper safety procedures.

If contact with electricity occurs, contact 911. Keep others away and remain calm. DO NOT try to exit the machinery or touch someone who has had electrical contact. If you must exit your equipment for life-threatening reasons — jump out and away from the machinery, making sure to land with your feet together and touching. Then, shuffle at least three tractor lengths away with your feet touching. NEVER attempt to get back into or touch machinery that is in contact with a power line.

Indiana Electric Cooperatives stresses the importance of staying safe around electricity this season. It could save a life.

SOURCES: TIME Magazine, U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Virginia Cooperative Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Safe Electricity