Seeding a dangerous time on farms

In the period of April to June many broad-acre farmers will be working to get their crops underway. While it is a promising time it is also a dangerous moment on the farm.

Powerlines are a common sight across South Australian farms and rural properties, with SA Power Networks’ distribution network comprising sub-transmission lines at 66,000 Volts and 33,000 Volts, and Single Wire Earth Return, or SWER lines, which carry 19,000 volts and constitute about 30% of the SA electricity distribution network.

These SWER lines are difficult to see as they are thin, single lines tightly strung between poles that are often hundreds of metres apart.

“People would be surprised how often we respond to outages that occur during preparation and seeding activity on farms,” said Paul Roberts, Corporate Affairs Manager for SA Power Networks.

“We record about 20 on-farm incidents a year where equipment contacts power lines or Stobie Poles. Seeding seems to be the most significant time for incidents, any of which could prove fatal.”

Mr Roberts said a new issue that had emerged in recent years was the use of GPS for guiding ever-larger farm machinery.

“Equipment, such as seeders and harvesters, is getting wider and that needs to be factored in when navigating around electricity infrastructure.”

There are a number of practical things you can do to minimise the risks when working around power lines.

  • Download the Look Up and Live app or visit the website which provide overhead powerline locations via an interactive geospatial map
  • Make it a habit to always check for power lines whenever you move or use farm machinery like grain augers and harvesters, or when moving long or tall loads such as irrigation pipes.
  • Design access to sheds, haystacks and silos so it is located away from powerlines to minimise the risk of injury.
  • 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 accurately programmed into the system.
  • Water is a conductor of electricity so be careful when using water irrigation or water jets near powerlines.
  • If you’re crop dusting, make sure you (or your contractor) identify where the power lines are located before commencing the job.

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