Staying safe when working around electric lines

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)– Planting and construction season are underway, and with that there is an increase in electrical line accidents involving equipment.

Terry Ebright, Safety Coordinator at Sioux Valley Electric, says every year they have issues with farmers and construction workers contacting the overhead power lines, hitting the polls and digging into their underground lines.

According to a news release, Sioux Valley Electric system had four public contacts last Thursday alone, ranging from farm equipment hitting an overhead line to a sanitation truck hitting a street light pole. They also saw contractors digging into an underground cable.

Spring is typically when they see the most power line accidents, Ebright says. This is because planting season and construction season are both starting, causing more digging and things. They also see an increase in the fall when harvest season is underway.

Photo courtesy of Sioux Valley Electric

“It doesn’t really seem to go away,” Ebright said. “During the time of the planting season or during a time of harvest, it’s been a constant. The statistics when we look back through the years, there’s always about the same amount.”

In the last week, Ebright says they have had poles hit, lines torn down, underground enclosures run over and underground cables dug up.

So far, Ebright estimates they have seen about 25 to 30 accidents like these since the first of the year, with most of them coming in the last three to four weeks.

These accidents impact the productivity of the individuals and businesses and outages will often occur, Ebright said.

Photo courtesy of Sioux Valley Electric

This is a typical amount of accidents for this time frame, Ebright says, and that is what is scary.

“We’ve gotten really lucky that we’ve had no serious injuries or fatalities from them yet,” Ebright says.

Ebright says he urges farmers and contractors to be more vigilant and watch out for the power lines, whether they are over-head, on poles or buried equipment with above ground pedestals.

Photo courtesy of Sioux Valley Electric

Farmers especially get used to the powerlines being on the edge of their fields, Ebright says, whether they are over-head or underground. They also get used to going in and out of their fields using their approaches.

But, when farmers purchase a new piece of equipment, it may be larger than what they are used to and they can end up hooking a line or hitting a pole.

“They get to the point where they get used to it being there and they don’t bother to check when they get a new piece of equipment,” Ebright said. “It’s something that anytime you’re going in and out of a field, be aware of what’s around you so that you don’t hit it.”

Photo courtesy of Sioux Valley Electric

Ebright also mentioned to pay close attention when using GPS and precision agriculture systems in your equipment to avoid accidents.

If you do hit a power line, the best thing to do is stay in or on the equipment, Ebright says, never exit or jump off unless you absolutely have to. They only reason you would need to get off the equipment is if it was on fire, then you need to jump clear of the equipment, never touching the ground and the equipment at the same time, because you do not want to become the path to ground for the electric current.

Once you jump clear of the equipment, you need to hop or shuffle your feet, Ebright says, you never want to pick one foot off the ground until you are at least 30 feet from the equipment. The electricity will radiate out into the earth for about 30 feet, which is why they suggest hopping to take both feet off the ground at the same time, or short shuffle stepping away from the equipment.

Photo courtesy of Sioux Valley Electric

This helps to prevent step potential, Ebright says, which is when you pick up one foot, you are breaking contact with the ground and the electricity can come up out of the earth and into your body and then travel back into the earth again when you put your foot back down.

Promotional pieces from Sioux Valley Electric

Sioux Valley Electric does a lot of promoting to help educate people on safety around power lines and underground electrical equipment, Ebright says, including ads, poster contests and promotional handouts.

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