Focus On Danger Of Working Near Overhead Power Lines – Farm Safety Week

Today marks the last day of Farm Safety Week, with one Fife farmer talking about the dangers of overhead powerlines.

Farm Safety Week, launched in 2013, reminds those working in agriculture that farm safety is a lifestyle and not a slogan. Agriculture remains as the industry to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK and Ireland.

This year’s Farm Safety Week focusses on not just physical safety, but also the importance of mental health and wellbeing too with the slogan Your Health. Your Safety. Your Choice. Throughout this week farmers and organisations have been speaking about accidents on farm, as well as what they have done to change practices.

Peter Brown, an arable farmer and contractor from Fife almost found out the hard way how important safety and caution is when working on farm, when he and his team were cutting grass silage and ran into difficulties, with one worker being electrocuted.

“It was our second time being in the field, so we were familiar with it,” explained Peter.  “It hadn’t been a good day for us. We’d had a lot of problems with the forager, we’d had the metal detectors going off because there were old fences lines lying about.
“We knew about the overhead power lines but obviously as things started deteriorating, it was a long day, heads were down, the problems were never-ending and we were just at the stage of giving up.”

Unfortunately for Peter and his team, in their haste to get more work done and to salvage the day they forgot about the overhead powerlines which were in the field. As they went to move off, they found the machines caught under the lines.

“The machine shut down manually after that,” said Peter. “There were a couple guys on the ground who went to clear the forage. They cleared it and they all moved away, and I fired the machine up and moved again. I’d only moved five yards and the same thing happened again.
“We went through the same routine; shut the machine down, made it safe but before I knew it there was already someone at the front of the machine. And because there had been a list of problems, there was someone at the front of the machine a lot quicker than if had been a normal situation.
“Before we knew it he had touched the front of the machine and it was at the point that the machine was in contact with the overhead wires.”

The worker on the ground got electrocuted and thrown backwards, slamming onto the ground a few yards away. All the while Peter was stuck in the forager’s cab, completely helpless.

“Thankfully we soon realised that the machine was touching the lines above. I was about to climb out, but the worker who had been thrown backwards stopped me from doing so. That’s when I looked up; it looked like the machine was still clear of the cables, but it was actually touching, there was contact made.
“The worker hadn’t actually touched the machine though, it was the grass in front of it, which was maybe just as well as it could have been worse.
“I remained in the cab as I couldn’t make a clear jump from the cab, and I phoned the emergency services from there.”

Thankfully no one was seriously injured following the incident. The worker on the ground regained consciousness by the time the emergency services arrived, and Peter managed to get out of the vehicle safely after waiting for Scottish Power.

Peter has now highlighted the importance of taking a minute and calming down when things are not going well. Rushing a job only causes more problems.

Over the past five years the Farm Safety Week initiative has grown and is now UK-wide, with a specific Farm Safety Partnership Scotland.

NFU Scotland Chief Executive, Scott Walker, speaking on behalf of the Farm Safety Partnership Scotland, commented: “One death within the industry is far too many, and it is not just the initial impact but the long-term effect it can have on families, friends and on the business.

“We need Scotland’s farmers and crofters, and those working right across the industry, to take simple, yet effective measures to reduce death and injuries happening on our farms and crofts.
“Farms and crofts can be dangerous places to live, work and visit, so it is important that everyone takes the necessary steps to stay safe. Thank you to all those who have given their time to tell their stories this week.”

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