NORTHERN Ireland’s erratic wea-
ther means it is rare that contractors and farmers aren’t working under time pressure at silage time, but that shouldn’t mean you can drop your guard.
Overhead powerlines are a major hazard and without the proper precautions can endanger lives on the farm.
Although they may seem well out of the way, it is easy for tipped trailers to make contact with overhead powerlines, sending high voltages through the machinery and causing serious injury or death to drivers and those who come to their rescue.
Busy drivers lowering trailers as they drive away from the silo or silage tipping area are particularly at risk, especially contractors who may not be aware of where overhead lines exist.
Loading shovels or telehandlers, buckraking at the silo or loading round bales in the field are also a risk, while the ever-increasing height of trailers and harvesters means clearance under overhead lines or around pylons is reduced.
The risks are significant, but with just a little vigilance and a planned approach to silage time it can be reduced – in particular for contractors working in farms or fields they are unfamiliar with.
Firstly, identify any overhead powerlines on your farm or any land or building you might be farming which may be a risk.
Secondly, make sure anyone operating machinery on the farm – family members, employees and particularly contractors – know exactly where those lines are. Note also how much distance needs to be left between machinery and lines.
The Health and Safety Executive guidance ‘Avoiding danger from overhead powerlines’ provides information for anyone working below overhead lines and NIE Networks can help provide details if anyone is in any doubt.
Such caution is obviously also essential outside harvest, and indeed when working near underground electricity cables.
Larger modern machinery such as harrows, ploughs, excavators and other similar equipment have the ability to work at deeper depths and run the risk of finding high voltage electricity cables and putting operators and others in danger.
These are simple precautions which don’t take much extra effort on behalf of the farmer but will keep you and everyone who comes to work on or visit the farm safe.
Familiarity of the electricity network can be carried out on the off season or during periods of wet weather and will give peace of mind when the busy silage season kicks off.
Farms are some of the most dangerous workplaces but with just a little vigilance they can be made considerably safer.
So, don’t wait for an accident to happen, make sure your farm is a safe place to work for everyone this and every other silage season.
n For more information on farm safety visit www.nienetworks.co.uk/safety.
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