The recent upturn in weather has been greatly welcomed and has underpinned a resurgence in field activity with farmers busy making hay and silage while the tillage harvest is also getting under way.
The pressure to complete these and other farm tasks brings its own safety risks and I am asking farmers to continue to be mindful of the dangers of working near electricity wires.
All I can ask is that you always take a few minutes to look out and look up for electricity wires, poles and stays and to make sure it is safe before carrying out your daily farming tasks.
It is vital that anybody coming on to the farm is also made aware of any potential safety risks. With electricity, the most important precaution is to keep a safe distance from overhead wires and poles.
The extensive nature of farming activities means there is always risks we need to be mindful to. A quick review of some of the most common incidents gives a flavour of these risks and also outlines that we can never rest on our laurels when working in the vicinity of electricity wires.
In a recent incident, a young farmer hit a pole which caused the overhead electricity wires to fall across the tractor cab. Thankfully, the young man had the presence of mind to remain calm and to stay inside the cab.
He then called the ESB Networks Emergency Number at 1800 372 999 and from there we were able to make the situation safe. His actions in this incident prevented a bad situation from getting worse. The message here is always contact ESB Networks if you damage an ESB pole or stay.
Electric fence risk
Our Network Technicians have discovered many examples where electric fence wire has been tied on to a pole. The most common risk identified is wire fastened close to the overhead live wires in order to get clearance for the electric fence over their yard for delivery or other farm tasks.
Using ESB Network poles and live wires to support or carry electric fencing wire is highly dangerous and on no account should wire ever be fastened to poles. The visible danger notice on all ESB Network poles clearly says “DANGER – KEEP AWAY”.
We continue to have too many incidents where farm machines crash into poles and stays. For example, a farmer who was topping a field got distracted and struck a 20kV pole and knocked it to the ground and the wires tripped out.
The line could easily have come down on the cab and remained live, putting both the driver and anyone nearby at risk of electrocution.
The advice is to make sure you focus on the task at hand and to always steer clear of poles and stays. If the worst happens, stay in the cab, keep others away and contact ESB Networks immediately on 1800 372 999.
Slurry spreading risk
In another case, a farmer was spreading slurry with the splash plate facing upwards and the liquid came close to the overhead power line. This could have resulted in the electricity jumping from the wires and travelling back to the vehicle using the liquid as a conductor.
The advice is to look out and look up for electricity poles and wires, to keep clear and always ask yourself the question “Am I sure it’s safe?”
Tree and hedge-cutting risk
A hedge cutter hit the stay wire causing the pole to lean forward. This resulted in the height of wires crossing a road reducing significantly, with the real danger of causing a road traffic accident along with putting people at risk of electrocution.
The advice here is to clear the area around the pole and the stay wire first before using the machine. Always contact ESB Networks before you carry out timber or hedge-cutting if the wires are too close or there is any risk at all that a tree or branches could fall on the wires.
Social media and smartphones are great ways to communicate and get your message across. Equally, they can spread dangerous practices that could put you or your family or colleagues at risk. Recent examples of dangerous behaviour have circulated on social media showing ESB Networks poles and wires being deliberately interfered with using farm machinery.
In one example, a tractor was shown pushing up against a pole to lift live 20,000 volt wires higher in the middle of the span, so that a forager harvester could pass under without dropping its chute.
The harvester made contact with the live overhead wires. In another recent incident, a contractor is seen lifting live wires up by using a trailer. Both incidents were very serious and could have had potentially fatal outcomes but, thankfully, they were very lucky and no injuries were incurred.
We would ask anyone working on a farm to always report any concerns of low wires to ESB Networks immediately on 1800 372 999 and to never ever interfere with the electricity network in any way.