Power company warns of harvest dangers

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Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) is issuing a fresh warning to agricultural workers and farmers in the North East to put safety first as they focus on cutting their last few fields to bring the 2013 harvest to a close.

This follows some near misses recently where electricity poles and overhead lines have been damaged in the area, luckily no-one has been hurt.

Recent incidents have taken place in Methlick, Elgin and Cullen where combine harvesters have made contact with the electricity infrastructure.

With the nights drawing in and some farmers still working late into the evening as they take advantage of the good weather, it is vital that operatives remember to check the whereabouts of overhead lines, not just in their fields, but around the roads and tracks they use to access them.

In some cases, machines such as combine harvesters and forklifts can reach heights of up to seven metres when their equipment is fully extended, and with darkness falling much earlier and operatives getting tired, it can be very easy to miss nearby power lines or electricity poles.

Aberdeen-based operations manager Ken Miara said: “We are very concerned that over the past few weeks there have been several near misses in the North East area.

“Thankfully and most importantly there have been no injuries to any agricultural workers but it has resulted in householders having their electricity supply interrupted while repairs were undertaken. “

He added: “Land owners must be aware and also make their staff and contractors aware of all equipment in proximity to any work taking place. A suitable risk assessment should be done to highlight the dangers, how to react in the event of a strike and our emergency contact number. We are also on hand to offer advice and there is additional help from the Health and Safety Executive.”

Many people forget that electricity can jump through the air, so it’s crucial that anyone operating agricultural equipment is aware of the optimum height they can open their equipment at, and also be aware of where overhead lines are situated before they operate equipment.

CB aerials can protrude above the machine. A report showed one farmer had an extremely lucky escape when his aerial touched an overhead line. The resulting shock blew the onboard computer and the cab caught fire. On this occasion he was very lucky indeed, especially considering he had to jump out and run.

If any part of the vehicle touches an overhead line, you should not get out of the cab because once outside, you no longer have the protective shield of the machine around you. The best advice is to phone our emergency telephone line from the cab and you will be put through to our control room. We will then advise you what to do, while we make the wires safe for you to jump out.

Night time working is particularly dangerous. Good advice to operators is to avoid fields with overhead lines when harvesting after dusk, or when tired – that is so important at this time of the year when farmers are working even harder to get as much done as they can before darkness arrives. Even in broad daylight it is all too easy to miss lines when you are concentrating on your computer or what the header is doing.

SSEPD has designed a free safety sticker for the cabs of agricultural vehicles, reminding drivers to check the height of their equipment when operating, as well as giving them the emergency number 0800 300 999 to ring if they see danger. More than 30,000 of these stickers have been distributed around the UK among the farming community.