LOCAL farmers are being warned to put safety first and avoid a potential tragedy as they make a start to this year’s harvest season.
With nights starting to draw in and some farmers still working late into the evening, Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) has emphasised the vital importance that workers remember to check the whereabouts of overhead lines, not just in their fields but around the roads and tracks they use to access them.
In some cases, machines such as combine harvesters and forklifts can reach heights of up to seven metres when their equipment is fully extended and with darkness falling much earlier, possibly combined with operators’ fatigue, it can be very easy to miss obstacles such as power lines or electricity poles.
Ronnie MacDonald, operations manager for Tayside and Central said: “What many people forget is that electricity can jump through the air, so it’s crucial that anyone operating agricultural equipment is aware of the optimum height they can open their equipment at and be aware of where overhead lines are situated before they move on to the next field.
“People should also be aware of the dangers caused by CB aerials which protrude above the machine. A report reached us of one farmer who had an extremely lucky escape when his aerial touched an overhead line. The resulting shock blew the on-board computer and the cab caught fire. On this occasion he was very lucky indeed, especially considering he had to jump out and run.”
Mr MacDonald also said that if a vehicle comes into contact with an electricity line, the best course of action is to stay inside and contact the SHEPD immediately for advice.
He said: “If any part of the vehicle touches an overhead line you should not get out of the cab because, once outside, you no longer have the protective shield of the machine around you.
“The best advice is to ‘phone our emergency telephone line from the cab and you will be put through to our control room. We will then advise you what to do, while we make the wires safe for you to jump out.
“Night time working is particularly dangerous. Our advice to operators is to avoid fields with overhead lines when harvesting after dusk, or when the driver is particularly tired – that is so important at this time of the year when farmers are working even harder to get as much done as they can before darkness arrives.
“Even in broad daylight it is all too easy to miss lines when you are concentrating on your computer or what the header is doing.”
SHEPD provides a free safety sticker for the cabs of agricultural vehicles, reminding drivers to check the height of their equipment when operating, as well as giving them the emergency number 0800 300 999 to contact if they see danger.
More than 30,000 of these stickers have already been distributed among the farming community around the UK and are available from www.ssepd.co.uk.