Farmers urged to 'look up, look out'

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As the main harvest season gets underway, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is urging everyone across the agricultural industry to stay safe and ‘look out, look up!’ when working near overhead power lines and poles.

SSEN’s network in England includes Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire and over the last year the company recorded an increase in the number of incidents on farms and fields with 910 callouts, compared to 865 in the year before.

These reported incidents (which occurred across the whole of the company’s network in central, southern England and the north of Scotland) were the result of third-parties coming into contact with poles, overhead lines and cables. They resulted in local electricity supplies being disrupted and had the potential to cause serious injury, or worse, to those involved.

Ian Crawley, SSEN’s network operational safety manager, said: “We know that farmers, their staff and contractors are working harder than ever to maintain and manage their crops while adhering to current Government guidelines on working during the coronavirus pandemic, and here at SSEN we want to do all we can to help them stay safe at the same time.

“The agricultural landscape - and the farm machinery used on it - can change throughout the year and that’s why we always advise taking the opportunity to carry out a risk assessment before starting any work. It’s a small addition to your day that could make all the difference to staying safe.”

Risk assessing each job before starting work and knowing the maximum height of your machinery - new and old - is key. Fields with poles or pylons that may be tricky to work around should be cut first, during daylight hours.

SSEN has also issued guidance to help farmers and their teams stay safe in the field, and deal with an incident if one occurs.

The advice from SSEN is:

• ‘Look up, Look out’ before you start work in any areas where electricity lines are present
• Be aware of the height of machinery that will be in use near lines and ensure there’s plenty of clearance – remember that electricity can ‘jump’ if an object comes near enough
• If you do come in to contact with an overhead line or cable, stay in your cab or vehicle and try to avoid touching anything metal within it
• Call 105 – the UK-wide single emergency number for power companies and is the quickest way to put you through to the correct network operator
• If the situation is too dangerous to stay put, i.e. if the machinery is affected by fire, then it’s advised that you leap out of the vehicle as high and as far as you can to avoid touching any part of it

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