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Farmers, ranchers urged to avoid electrical hazards

Harvesting is well underway in many rural communities Pacific Power serves. The busy fall harvest season is one of the most productive, but also one of the most dangerous times of the year for farmers, ranchers and their work crews.

“As the Northwest’s largest rural power supplier, we know how busy it is for our agricultural customers this time of year,” said Gene Morris, Pacific Power’s director of health, safety and environment.

“Safety needs to be top of mind for everyone working during the harvest season and any time,” says Jeff Lutz, safety director for the Washington Farm Bureau. “We advocate that members have safety procedures for all their machinery and give special safety briefings to any seasonal workers they may have. Keeping up to date about any potential hazards related to electricity is equally important and we join Pacific Power in urging special vigilance during this busy season.”

Pacific Power’s Electrical Safety on Your Farm or Ranch brochure, Alerta! Fuera de Casa brochure in Spanish and “Look Up and Live” irrigation safety stickers in English and Spanish – are available to assist with the effort. Also available are free safety presentations by calling Pacific Power at 1-800-375-7085 or visiting pacificpower.net/safety.

Here are a few tips offered by Pacific Power and the farm bureau:

Power Line Safety

  • Be aware of overhead power lines. Lower augers or other equipment to transport level to ensure adequate clearance when near power lines. Know the height of cultivators or planters in the fold-up position; the equipment may be taller than during field use.

  • If a tractor comes in contact with a power line, remain seated until help arrives. If there is danger of fire, jump as far away from the tractor as possible and keep your feet together when landing. Do not allow any part of your body to touch the equipment and the ground at the same time. Many injuries have occurred when equipment operators attempted to get back on or touch equipment after dismounting.

  • Never attempt to raise or move a power line.

  • Watch for guy wires, which support utility poles. Damaging a guy wire can weaken a pole and bring live power lines down, creating an extremely hazardous situation.

  • Do not erect fence wire along the same route as an overhead line, and do not string fence wire where it may come into contact with an overhead line.

Electrical Safety

  • Make sure all outlets are three-hole, grounded outlets with faceplates.

  • Install a lock-out switch that can turn off all electricity to one area.

  • If there are any doubts about the state of electrical circuits, wiring or equipment on a farm, have a licensed electrician inspect them.

  • Ground the entire electrical system, and protect ground wires and rods from damage.

Grain Bin Safety

  • If it is necessary to enter a grain bin, shut off and lock out electricity before entering. Use a safety harness and safety line, and have people available outside the bin in case of an emergency.

  • Know the National Electric Safety Code requirements for horizontal clearance between the side of the grain bin and adjacent power lines and the vertical clearance above the bin to the nearest line. Make sure the wiring on the property complies with all codes.

If a line has fallen on the ground or on some other object or piece of equipment, always assume it’s energized. Stay clear, keep others away and call 911 and Pacific Power toll free at 1-888-221-7070.

“By being extra careful and refreshing everyone on safety reminders, especially with an expanded workforce on hand, we can all work together and enjoy a safe and bountiful harvest,” said Morris.

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