Northern Powergrid has joined forces with fellow UK electricity network operators and the Energy Networks Association (ENA) to ensure those working in the agricultural industry understand the dangers of working near power lines.
According to latest research by the ENA, which represents network operators including Northern Powergrid, more than 85 percent of people never worry about getting too close to an overhead power line, despite the potentially fatal consequences.
Data from the Health & Safety Executive reveals that in the last five years there were five deaths. In addition, there were also 1,140 near-miss incidents involving machinery and equipment contacting overhead electric power lines where serious injury or death was a possibility.
On average in the UK, one farm worker dies each year as a result of contact with overhead power lines. There have been five such fatalities in the last five years.
There were 39 contact incidents in just four weeks during the 2017 harvest period and with each of these a potential for the vehicle operator or persons standing nearby suffering a fatal electric shock. That’s a risk during harvest of more than one fatality per day.
However, the risk to farm workers is all year round and not just during harvest.
Annually, approximately 225 reported incidents occur where farm vehicles and machinery make contact with overhead power lines – typically these incidents involve equipment such as tipping trailers, lorry mounted cranes, combine harvesters and telehandlers. Not only does each incident have the potential to kill or seriously injure those workers involved, there are also financial costs in terms of damaged and destroyed equipment and lost time.
The electricity network operators are today launching a new joint national campaign – Look Out Look Up!
The campaign aims to raise awareness and help reduce the number of incidents that take place each year. It is also encouraging people to plan ahead to avoid contact with overhead power lines and know what to do if they come too close or contact is made. A new film has been created to highlight the potential risks and can be viewed at http://www.energynetworks.org/electricity/she/safety/safety-advice/overhead-power-lines-safety-campaign.html
Advice for the agricultural and other sectors, such as construction and road haulage, whose work may take place near overhead power lines includes:
Risk assess – know where overhead power lines are and mark them on a map. Find out the height and reach of your equipment and how this compares to the maximum working height under overhead power lines. Share this information with workers and contractors.
Control measures – don’t work near an overhead power line if you don’t have to. Speak to your electricity network operator for advice. Select suitable machinery and equipment and use it safely.
Know what’s safe, and what isn’t – certain work should be avoided within 10 metres of overhead power lines, such as stacking bales and potato boxes, operating telehandlers and moving irrigation pipes.
It is crucial that farmers, farm workers and contractors understand that when overhead power lines are damaged or fall to the ground, they should stay well away and contact the local electricity company by telephoning 105.
Know what to do if you come into contact with an overhead power line - if contact is made when you’re in a vehicle, stay in the cab and try to drive clear. If it is not safe to stay in the vehicle, jump clear of the machine, move away and don’t touch it once on the ground.
Call 105 – if an incident occurs, contact your network operator by calling the national 24 hour emergency number 105. According to the ENA, more than 80 per cent of people do not know the number to call if they have a power cut or an electrical emergency.
Fatal incidents involving farm workers in 2016/17 include a 36-year-old who was killed when a trailer he was tipping hit an overhead power line, and an 18-year-old who was electrocuted when he stepped out of his tractor cab after his tipping trailer came into contact with an overhead line. A 28-year-old died when a vehicle mounted crane he was using came into contact with an overheard line.
Ian Davey, a UK farmer who had a near fatal incident when a snap decision during combining had life-changing consequences, commented: “Farming can be a dangerous occupation, and there is so much to do that we rush – but that is when accidents happen.
“The trailer I was in had touched a power line and, as I stepped out of the tractor cab holding the metal door, 11,000 volts shot through my body. I was literally stuck to the spot.
“The power surge dislocated my shoulder and shattered my arm. Doctors told me that it looked as though somebody had smashed the bone with a sledgehammer.
“It took almost leaving behind my two children and wife to mean I’m now careful and cautious on the farm, always thinking twice before doing anything.
“Things could have been different for me had I known the advice within Look Out Look Up!.
“If the campaign helps even one farmer avoid a potentially fatal contact with an overhead powerline, then it is absolutely worth it.”
Nick Summers, Head of Safety, Health & Environment at Energy Networks Association, said: “There are too many incidents involving overhead power lines and agriculture workers. When incidents happen, they are serious. If a person comes into contact with an overhead power line, it will result in death or serious injury.
“Our research also showed that there is a misunderstanding surrounding the dangers of overhead power lines, with over two thirds (68%) of people not knowing the minimum distance between the ground and an overhead power line.
Geoff Earl, Northern Powergrid’s Director of Safety, Health and Environment: “Over the years we’ve carried out our own campaigns as well as engaging with farmer through local agricultural shows. Coming together as an industry is welcome as it will strengthen our work to drive home these vital safety messages across our operating area and beyond.
“The campaign and film will raise awareness so we can help prevent deaths and injury by ensuring people know about the risks of working near overhead power lines and what action to take to stay safe.”
National Farmers Union’s Environment and Land Use Adviser, James Copeland said: “Every year there are accidents involving power lines on farms – all of which are totally avoidable by taking a few simple steps.
“We advise all farmers in the region to make sure everyone knows where the lines crossing your land are. This means the farmer, their staff and visitors – especially delivery drivers and harvest staff.
“Don’t stack under or near lines.
“Lastly check the height of lines on your land. Overhead lines should be at a minimum clearance from the ground of 5.2 metres (17 feet). If there is a problem call Northern Powergrid on 105.”
The Look Out Look Up! Campaign was launched to coincide with LAMMA ‘18 - the UK’s largest agricultural show.
For more information about Look Out Look Up! visit http://www.energynetworks.org/electricity/she/safety/safety-advice/overhead-power-lines-safety-campaign.html