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Safety experts urge farmers to take care around electrical equipment

Safety experts from electricity firm UK Power Networks will be urging farmers at the week’s two-day Cereals agricultural show to take extra care when working close to power lines and other electrical equipment.

From Press releases - 10 June 2014 12:00 AM

Safety experts from electricity firm UK Power Networks will be urging farmers at the week’s two-day Cereals agricultural show to take extra care when working close to power lines and other electrical equipment.

The firm, which delivers electricity to the East of England, London and the South East, has a stand at the event at Chrishall Grange, near Duxford, Cambridgeshire, tomorrow (Wednesday) and Thursday. The event is the leading technical event for the arable industry in the country, attended by around 26,000 visitors over the two days.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), agriculture is Britain's most dangerous industry. On average two people are killed and many more are injured every year in the UK when they come into contact with overhead power lines and cables during agricultural work.

Although only 1.5 per cent of the working population is employed in agriculture and death rates are falling, it is still regarded as the most dangerous sector to work in.

With this in mind, UK Power Networks is asking farmers and agricultural workers to be vigilant when working, highlighting the dangers of ploughing, using irrigation pipes and ladders, using combine harvesters, loading or unloading vehicles, using tipper wagons or trailers in fields and stacking materials.

If a piece of machinery or equipment gets too close to or comes into contact with an overhead cable, electricity will be conducted through the metal machine or equipment to earth. It may also pass through anyone who is touching it.

Electricity can arc - jump across gaps - so farm workers do not have to actually touch the lines to get a serious or fatal shock.

Ros Forbes, public safety and education advisor at UK Power Networks, said: “We want farmers to be extra vigilant and be aware of the potential risks. Accidents often happen when people are tired - for example, at the end of a long day. Taking these simple precautions can help significantly reduce the risk of death or serious injury. “

Top tips for agricultural staff to keep agricultural staff safe while working in the fields include:

• Make sure you know the location of underground electricity cables and overhead electricity power lines on your land

• Contact UK Power Networks for copies of plans showing where equipment is and consider putting this information on your farm map

• Tell visitors, contractors or casual workers about the presence of electricity cables and lines

• Be extra careful when ploughing, using irrigation pipes and ladders and combine harvesters

• Check around you when loading or unloading vehicles, using tipper wagons or trailers in fields or stacking materials.

UK Power Networks has published detailed guidance for farm workers on how to stay safe near overhead power lines in the form of downloadable leaflets. The farming help sheet is available here.