Avoiding tragedy on your farm

Power lines are one of the most hazardous things on rural properties and just one moment of carelessness around them could have tragic consequences for you, workers on your farm or even your family.

Rural properties across South Australia are traversed by a mix of power lines, including high voltage transmission lines mounted on steel towers and managed by Electranet and a variety of distribution lines of various voltage on Stobie poles and operated by SA Power Networks.

Many of the distribution power lines that stretch across regional South Australia are difficult to see as they are thin, single lines strung between poles that are often hundreds of metres apart,” said Paul Roberts, Stakeholder Relations Manager for SA Power Networks.

“These Single Wire Earth Return, or SWER lines, carry electricity at 19,000 volts and constitute about 30% of the SA electricity distribution network.”

Mr Roberts said contacting wires or even getting too close to them could be fatal.

“Contact with overhead powerlines often involves tip trucks, augers, headers, excavators, spray booms, irrigation pipes, elevating work platforms, scissor lifts and even scaffolding,” he said. “However, a few simple precautions can help ensure everyone on your farm stays safe.

“You should always carry out a safety check before you start work. While you might have checked the location of lines a year ago, things may have changed, so that includes re-familiarising yourself with the location of electricity infrastructure and the heights of lines where you will be moving equipment or working,” Mr Roberts said.

“And, as a day progresses, in extreme heat or windy conditions, power lines may sag or sway, so you need to stay on your toes to ensure you maintain safe clearances.

“Never raise truck trays, augers or spray booms underneath power lines and store all bulk deliveries well away from them. Try to avoid using or moving tall machinery near power lines and make sure all workers on your farm know where electricity infrastructure is located and what are the safe clearances.

“We often think ‘it won’t happen to me’ but the reality is that it can and will if we are complacent and fail to undertake a proper risk assessment before we start a job. Or it might happen if we don’t remind a family member, farm worker, or contractor of the risk posed by power lines and their location on the farm.”

Check list

  • Regularly remind everyone who lives or works on your farm of the location of powerlines.
  • If you are using GPS-guided equipment, make sure the location of electricity infrastructure on your property is programmed into the system.
  • If you’re crop dusting, make sure you (or your contractor) identify where the powerlines are located before commencing the job.
  • Always check for powerlines whenever you move or use farm machinery like grain augers and harvesters, or when moving long or tall loads such as irrigation pipes.
  • Sheds, haystacks and silos and access to them should be located away from powerlines to minimise the risk of injury.
  • Water is a conductor of electricity so be careful when using water irrigation or water jets near powerlines.

What to do if you contact a powerline

When an object or vehicle comes into contact with power lines there is a high risk of electric shock. If this happens, you should immediately contact SA Power Networks on 13 13 66 and do not move until the power is switched off.

If a vehicle strikes a powerline, it may be necessary for everyone to evacuate the vehicle to prevent injury. Several steps must be followed to maximise your safety, including:

  • Jump out and clear of the vehicle, ensuring you do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time.
  • Calmly walk away using small steps.
  • Call SA Power Networks immediately on 13 13 66.
  • Do not return to the vehicle until after the area has been made safe.
  • Keep other people well clear.

If you remain in your vehicle, others in the vicinity should keep well clear of you or the vehicle until SA Power Networks staff have made the line safe.
In an emergency call 13 13 66. For an ambulance or police assistance, call 000.

Article kindly provided by SA Power Networks.