Staying Safe on the Farm

by Daetta Jones, Ameren Illinois

Reports of farm equipment coming into contact with electric lines and natural gas equipment increase during harvest season. Ameren Illinois is reminding farmers to take safety precautions year-round to avoid accidents. 

Making contact with power lines—or even getting too close to power lines—can cause the equipment and surrounding area to become energized. If electrical contact occurs, farmers should immediately call Ameren Illinois at (800) 755-5000 and wait calmly inside the cab until the energy company's crews can de-energize the line. If a farmer exits a cab while a power line is energized, the body can become a path to ground for the electricity, resulting in electrocution. 

Auto-guidance GPS systems found in most modern farm vehicles cannot detect every overhead hazard. As a rule of thumb, farmers should maintain a minimum 10-foot clearance radius in all directions while operating equipment in the vicinity of overhead power lines. 

In addition to overhead hazards, farmers need to be mindful of energy infrastructure that is not easily visible. To prevent contact with natural-gas equipment, farmers should keep a vigilant eye out for above-ground piping. Ameren Illinois offers the following safety tips:

  1. Look up, down, side to side, and constantly scan for hazards. Awareness is the key to mitigating the potential for a dangerous situation. 
  2. Always utilize a spotter when operating or moving equipment. A spotter can help identify hazards that may not be visible in your line of sight.
  3. Remember to lower raised machinery when exiting the field, as many overhead power lines border roads. 
  4. Proactively call Ameren Illinois at (800) 755-5000 if you notice power lines that appear to be drooping or sagging. Never try and remedy the situation yourself. 
  5. The electric transmission and distribution power lines near farmland often carry thousands of volts, and should only be handled by qualified utility personnel. 
  6. The sole scenario in which occupants should exit the cab before Ameren Illinois arrives is in the rare event the equipment begins to smoke or catch fire. If this happens, jump clear of the vehicle without touching it and the ground at the same time. Land with both feet together on the ground. Then hop with both feet still together so there will not be a voltage difference between your feet, which would give the electricity the chance to follow through the body. Hop as far away as you can. 
  7. Calling 811 before beginning any projects that require deep digging (e.g. tile plowing and setting fence posts) can reduce the potential for underground facility strikes. In the event of an inadvertent pipeline strike accompanied by the smell of natural gas (rotten egg scent), blowing dirt or bubbling water, clear the area immediately and call 911, followed by Ameren Illinois, and then 811.

Agriculture is a critical industry in our state, and Ameren Illinois service territory encompasses a significant amount of farmland. We're committed to doing all we can to ensure the safety and well-being of the hard-working farmers in central and southern Illinois. iBi

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