Dangers of overhead power lines

DESPITE potentially fatal consequences, only 14 per cent of people worry about getting too close to an overhead power line and 40 per cent don’t even think about it.
Over two thirds (68 per cent) of people do not know the minimum distance between ground and overhead power line.
Over four in five people do not know that the number to call is 105 in case of an abnormality in electricity supply in their home or workplace.
88 per cent of Great British farmers surveyed had not heard of the ‘105’ number and 72 per cent did not know the legal minimum height of power lines crossing farms/farm land.

HSE Guidelines on Overhead power lines

Electricity can arc (jump gaps) in certain circumstances when equipment or machinery gets close enough ‐ you do not need to contact OHPLs to receive an electric shock.

Make sure you know where OHPLs are located on your farm, or where you are required to work. For example, obtain a map showing the routes of the lines, available from your Distribution Network Operator (DNO), or mark the route of the lines on your own farm map.

Ensure that visiting workers such as contractors also have copies and include details of OHPLs in contracts you have with them.

The safest option is to avoid OHPLs altogether if you can. But if you have to work near OHPLs, plan the job carefully and use safe systems of work.

Consult with your DNO and if necessary arrange temporary disconnection.

If OHPLs run across your land, ask your DNO if they can be re‐routed, put underground, or raised.

Risks can be reduced if the following activities are not carried out within a horizontal distance of at least 10m from OHPLs.
* stacking materials eg bales, fertiliser bags, or potato boxes etc * erecting temporary structures eg polytunnels
* folding sprayer booms
* tipping trailers or lorries with tipping bodies
* operating materials handlers or lift trucks
* working on top of combines or other high machinery
* moving ladders, irrigation pipes, or scaffolding
* tree work.
If you cannot avoid carrying out any of these activities closer than 10m, consult your DNO for advice. If the line cannot be moved or made dead, you will need to assess the risks and agree a safe system of work.

What to do if you come into contact with an OHPL

If part of a vehicle or load is in contact with an OHPL, the operator should remain in the cab and inform the DNO immediately (display the number in the cab and keep it on your mobile phone).

If possible, try to drive clear. Electrocution is possible if anyone touches both the machine and the ground at the same time. If you need to get out jump well clear so that no simultaneous contact is made between you, the vehicle and the ground.

Do not return to the vehicle until the owner of the line has confirmed that the line has been de‐energised and made safe.

WARNING: Contact with an OHPL may cause the power supply to ‘trip out’ temporarily and it may be recon‐nected and re‐energised automatically, without warning.

Stay clear and warn others not to approach
Call 105 ‐ if an incident occurs, contact your network operator by calling the national 24 hour emergency number 105. According to the ENA, over four in five people do not know the number to call in case of an abnormality in electricity supply in their home or workplace.

Contact with electricity can kill, cause serious burns and disabling injuries. There are many electrical incidents which damage equipment and thousands of ‘near‐misses’, any of which could have had fatal consequences.

In agriculture, many of these involve contact with overhead power lines (OHPLs). Farm machinery is getting bigger and taller, increasing the chances of a cable strike. Such incidents also cause disruption and costs to farmers, other businesses and the community.

Others involve poorly maintained hand‐held equipment, electrical faults on machinery or extension cables. Poor electrical installations and equipment can also cause fires, resulting in significant losses in buildings, equipment and livestock.

Nick Summers, Head of Safety, Health & Environment at Energy Networks Association, said: “There are too many incidents involving overhead power lines and agriculture workers. When incidents happen, they are serious. If a person comes into contact with an overhead power line, it will result in death or serious injury.

“Our research also showed that there is a misunderstanding surrounding the dangers of overhead power lines, with over two thirds (68 per cent) of people not knowing the minimum distance between the ground and an overhead power line, or the maximum voltage of an overhead power line (69 per cent).”

Electric shock

It is important to know what to do if someone receives an electric shock. Remember always to disconnect the power source first. If that is not possible, never touch the electrocuted person except with non‐conducting items and never use metal. Resuscitation needs training and practice so make sure that you and your workers receive elementary first aid training. You can also display a copy of an ‘electric shock poster’ which shows what to do.

More information can be found at: www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/topics/electricity.htm

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