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Spring into safety on the farm

Updated: Mar 16, 2023

Planting season is at hand for many of Indiana’s roughly 94,000 farmers. While you prepare to plant the crops that keep the world fed, Southeastern Indiana REMC reminds you to keep safety in mind — especially when working around electricity.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 62 farm workers are electrocuted each year in the U.S. “Farm worker deaths and injuries can be prevented by practicing some simple electrical safety measures around farm,” said Brandon Linville, Director of Operations, Southeastern Indiana REMC.



Here are some helpful safety tips for farmers to keep in mind this season:


  • Make sure farm equipment like planter arms and sprayers safely clear overhead power lines. Some clearances may have changed since the last time you entered the field. The tall equipment can easily become entangled in power lines and pose an electrocution risk. Keep a minimum of 10-foot distance from power lines in all directions. Consider asking your electric cooperative to move overhead lines around buildings or frequently used pathways.

  • Keep a safe distance from power poles and guy wires. If your equipment strikes and damages a guy wire or power pole, do not try to fix it yourself. Call your electric cooperative to make the repair.

  • If your farm equipment becomes entangled with power lines, call 911 immediately. Keep others away and remain calm. DO NOT try to exit the equipment or touch someone who has had electrical contact. If you must exit the equipment for life-threatening reasons, jump out and away from the equipment and make sure to land with your feet together and touching. Then, shuffle at least three tractor lengths away with your feet touching. NEVER attempt to get back into or touch equipment that is in contact with a power line.

  • If you are planning a controlled burn, mow and remove vegetation at least 15 feet around any pole prior to burning and apply fire retardant to the area as recommended by the manufacturer prior to burn period. Do not directly spray or treat a pole. Should a burn get out of control and endanger poles or other equipment, call 911 immediately.

  • Do not allow the fire to cross under power lines in large areas. Smoke contains carbon particles which can conduct electricity. If the concentration gets high enough around power lines, an electrical discharge from the line to the ground, similar to lightning, can occur. Such discharges have killed firefighters. When working below power lines with water hoses, extreme care must be taken to keep water streams out of overhead lines. Water will conduct electricity and the water stream will act as a conductor.

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Virginia Cooperative Extension, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Evergy, Kansas State University



Know what to do if electrical contact occurs

If you’re inside machinery that comes in contact with a downed power line:

  • If you can, drive safely away from the downed power line and the source of electricity. Travel at least three tractor lengths, or about 40 feet, before stopping.

  • If you can’t drive or you are injured, stay where you are inside the equipment until help arrives.

  • If you must get out of the machinery because of a life-threatening reason such as a fire, don’t touch the machinery and the ground at the same time with any part of your body or clothing.

  • With the door open, prepare to jump. Stand up, elbows tucked into your stomach and your hands held close to your chest.

  • Jump out and away from the machinery, taking care to land with your feet together and touching. Don’t stumble.

  • Shuffle away with your feet touching each other and the ground. Don’t stop until you’re at least three tractor lengths away from the machinery.

  • Call 911 and ensure that no bystanders come within 40 feet of machinery.

  • Once away from the equipment, never attempt to get back on or even touch the equipment.

If you’re outside the machinery when you notice a farmer comes in contact with a downed power line:

  • Stay at least three tractor lengths away.

  • Tell the person on the machinery to stay where he or she is.

  • Call 911 and ensure no bystander moves within 40 feet of machinery.


Keep your planned burn under control


Controlled burns can be a beneficial way to clear a field of debris. But they must be planned carefully and correctly. Here are safety tips if power lines are nearby:

  • Mow and remove vegetation at least 15 feet around any pole and apply fire retardant to the area as recommended by the manufacturer prior burning. Do not directly spray or treat the pole.

  • Do not allow the fire to cross under power lines in large areas. Smoke contains carbon particles which can conduct electricity. If the concentration gets high enough around power lines, an electrical discharge from the line to the ground, similar to lightning, can occur. When working below power lines with water hoses, extreme care must be taken to keep water streams out of overhead lines. Water will conduct electricity and the water stream will act as a conductor.

  • Should a burn get out of control and endanger poles or other electrical equipment, call 911 immediately.


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