We don't need to stress the importance of being careful around overhead power lines, especially in rural settings.
The problem is – after a while, overhead power lines just become part of the scenery and when you've got your head down and your mind on the job, it's easy to forget the power lines are there.
Follow these simple rules to reduce the risks when working around power lines:
- Keep your distance – when working close to overhead power lines it is important to maintain a minimum safe working distance of 4 metres. You don't even need to contact the lines, as high voltage electricity can arc over to you.
- Prevention – is the best strategy. As far as possible you should either avoid working too close to overhead power lines or have them disconnected.
- Park machinery or trucks away from overhead power lines. Farm workers and transport contractors have been seriously injured or killed clambering around on the upper level of stock trucks or large loads.
- Before using machinery – plan a route that keeps you clear of power lines. Tractors with raised drills or implements all too often contact overhead power lines.
- Handling pipes – the classic situation, where metal pipes come into contact with power lines. When you are loading or unloading pipes make sure you know what's above you.
- Fencing wire – fence wire flicking upwards and touching, or even simply coming close to, overhead power lines has accounted for several accidents and deaths in recent years. If you simply can't avoid working near overhead power lines or passing under them, be on your guard.
- Safety switches – also known as RCD or Residual Current Devices, when properly installed can help protect you or anyone working on your farm. If something goes wrong they can trip the power in less than 30 milliseconds. That's about a thirtieth of the time taken for a single heartbeat and fast enough to prevent injury.