A spate of potentially fatal incidents where farm machinery has hit overhead power lines has prompted a warning to farmers.
Electricity firm Southern Electric issued the safety plea after power lines were brought down on six separate occasions in recent weeks, causing power cuts.
Giant combine harvesters and silage machines with boom arms and elevators or diggers, brought down the lines and poles.
See also: Take care when working under power lines
Although there were no injuries, these incidents could all have had fatal consequences. Independent contractors hired by farms caused some incidents.
Therefore Southern Electric is urging farmers who use contractors to make them aware of power lines on their land, and to take precautions so that their equipment does not come into contact with live power lines.
The use of agricultural machinery, such as combine harvesters, tipping trailers, boom sprayers and loaders, and equipment, such as irrigation pipes and ladders, as well as activities like stacking can often bring farmers and agricultural contractors close to such power lines.
Craig Gilroy, Southern Electric’s head of operations, said: “We were so fortunate that we did not get serious injuries or fatalities on these occasions.”
Further north, Northern Powergrid has urged farmers to “look up and stay safe” this harvest season.
The company delivers electricity to doors of 3.9m homes and businesses across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire.
It recommends farmers always carry out risk assessments on land prior to starting work, especially before harvesting crops and if they have contracted in staff who may not be familiar with the land.
The NFU is supporting the safety pleas.
Tom Ormesher, NFU South East environment and land use adviser, said: “Any incident where farm machinery comes into contact with overhead power lines is one too many as it could end in tragedy.
We urge farmers to take extra care at this busy time of year when working near power lines, with silage making under way and harvest due to start in July.
“Farmers are reminded that the risk is not just from direct contact with lines as electricity can jump a gap. They are urged to ensure that a safe working distance from lines is maintained at all times. Employers should also take time to remind their employees and any contractors about the risks.”
Southern Electric has produced a Farming Safety Leaflet for agricultural workers and farmers. Its emergencies services centre can be contacted on: 0800 072 7282 or 0345 072 1905 from mobiles.