I was browsing through the National Ag Safety Database and came across an article on electrical safety. Since a lot of us deal with electricity on a daily basis in the form of electric fences, lighting, electrical systems in machinery, electric water pumps, etc I thought I’d share. Electrical systems don’t hold up well in the farm environment, so it’s good to keep reminding yourself how to avoid getting shocked. I’d like to add that even if you’re not working on an electrical system, keep an eye out for any wires that might be in the area, and if at all possible make sure that any electrical systems in the area are totally shut off. I know a few people who have gotten shocked fixing equipment because mice had damaged the insulation on some of the wires that were in the same area as whatever they were fixing. Another hazard to be aware of that the article doesn’t mention is capacitors. Capacitors are round or cylinder shaped devices (see picture for some examples) used to store then output charge in electrical systems. The amount of time a capacitor can store a charge depends on the size and the quality of the capacitor, to the point where some of the nicer ones can hold a charge for years. Err on the safe side and always assume that a capacitor is charged if you encounter one!
A farmer in Michigan was rescued unharmed after power lines fell on his tractor. This is a great example of a near-miss where the farmer could have been killed or seriously injured but got out unharmed because he responded correctly to the situation, so I thought I’d write up a quick overview.
What happened: A farmer was discing his field and hit a power pole. The power lines dropped on top of his tractor and equipment. The farmer called 911 from his tractor and first responders shut off the power so that he could get out safely. A fairly large area briefly lost power but no one was harmed.
What went wrong: Basically the only thing that went wrong in this situation was the farmer hitting the power pole. Obviously avoiding obstacles in the field is important and if the farmer had avoided the pole none of this would have been necessary, but after that point their response to the situation was perfect and no one was hurt.
The hazards involved:Live electrical wires are extremely dangerous, and can cause death and severe injury if someone touches them while the power is flowing. Additionally, because the tractor and equipment are made of metal, the equipment itself may have been carrying a charge depending on where the cables landed.
What went right: Most importantly, the farmer didn’t try to get out of the tractor or touch the door handle or the outside of the tractor. They called 911 and waited for the power company to turn off the power so that they could get out safely. Carrying a cell phone with them was critical in this case because they were able to get help quickly and didn’t risk either leaving the tractor themselves or someone finding them and getting electrocuted in the process of getting out. Emergency services did a great job handling this too. They got the power shut off and let the people whose power got shut off for a while know what was happening. They didn’t send any of their people in until they were sure the power was off.
The bottom line: Power lines and electricity in general is very dangerous and because you can’t see it, it’s easy to accidentally touch something that is live and get shocked. If you are ever in a situation where there are downed power lines don’t touch them, call 911, and if you’re in a vehicle stay inside until you get the all-clear. This situation could have gone from equipment damage to someone being severely injured or killed very easily, but the way that the farmer and emergency services responded to the situation prevented a bad situation from getting much worse.