Electrical Safety Tips for on the Farm & Ranch
There are many moving pieces to keep a farm running, and even though you have a lot to be attentive to, you know to keep safety top of mind. Electrical power is a necessary resource on the farm, but it can also cause problems if not managed properly. Most electrical accidents are a result from unsafe equipment, installation, environment or work practices. Understanding electrical safety on the farm is vital in order to avoid hazards and potential harm to you and other employees.
Keep these key electrical safety tips in mind to help maintain a safe working environment.
Proper grounding. One of the most important things you can do to ensure safety and reliability is to ground your entire electrical system. According to OSHA, “grounding an electrical system means intentionally creating a low-resistance path that connects to the earth. This prevents the buildup of voltages that could cause an electrical accident.” A properly grounded electrical system helps keep your transformer and equipment protected from damage — which ultimately keeps you safe from damage as well.
Overhead powerlines. Powerlines are common on farms rural building sites, and you’ll especially want to exercise caution around them when using your machinery. Know the height of your equipment in case you have to go under a powerline and need high clearance. Identify all the powerlines on the farm site and stay at least ten feet away or park equipment under them, since electricity has the capacity to jump to you or your equipment if you come too close.
Downed powerlines. If you see a downed or damaged powerline, stay away and call 911 or your electric utility so a professional can respond. Never try to raise or move a power line on your own.
Watch for guy wires. A guy wire is the tensioned cable that adds stability to a free-standing structure, like a utility pole. Though the guy wire isn’t energized, damaging one can bring down a live power line. Fencing the area off or flagging by wires can help prevent running into the guy wire.
Caution with equipment. If any equipment you’re operating comes into contact with a powerline, stay put until help arrives and the electricity is turned off. Do not allow any part of your body to touch the equipment and ground simultaneously. If you do need to get off the equipment due to danger, such as fire, jump far away from the machinery and keep your feet together when you land. Don’t touch or get back on the equipment once you’ve dismounted since electrical injuries could occur.
Keep wiring covered. To prevent electrical wiring from damage, you’ll want to protect them from the elements by using underground electric cable. If you do have wiring above ground, cover them with watertight covers to avoid accidental electrocutions.
Regularly inspect power tools. You probably work with power tools frequently — make it a habit to check that the connections are secure and power cords aren’t frayed.
Electrical outlets. Use grounded, three-hole electrical outlets with faceplates, make sure to have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt (GFCI) protection around all potentially damp locations, and hire a certified electrician to do all the electrical work.
Lockout switch. Installing a lockout switch gives you the capability to turn off all electricity on the farm from one spot. Lockouts are important because they help prevent equipment from accidentally being started and injuring someone when it’s being serviced or repaired, or if there’s an emergency and all electricity needs to be turned off.
Electricity and grain bins. If you have to enter a grain bin, shut off and lockout electricity before entering the bin. Never enter without a spotter and don’t forget to use a safety harness and safety line for protection.
Your farm relies on a good working, properly installed and maintained electrical supply system to keep things running smoothly and to help keep everyone safe. The above tips are just a short list of safe practices to put in place when dealing with electricity on your farm or ranch. Take the time to understand the electrical supply system on your farm rural sites to ensure that you’re taking cautionary steps to keep everyone safe.
Take a look at these 11 farm safety tips for more ways to put safety first on your farm. And don’t forget one of the most proactive ways to keep your farm safe from the unexpected — farm insurance. Connect with an agent today to build a policy that’s as hardworking as you are.