A Cornish farmer who was lucky to survive a horrific overhead power line accident has relived the moment 11,000V surged through his body, shattering the bones in his arm.
A last-minute decision Ian Davey made during harvest had near-fatal consequences when the grain trailer he was towing touched a power line and sent a high-voltage electric current through him as he climbed out of his tractor.
The ordeal made him change the way he works on the farm after the father-of-two realised how close he came to leaving behind his wife and young family.
Arriving at the field with his tractor and trailer to collect the grain from the combine, Ian had a few minutes to spare and decided to tip his trailer into the air, facing towards the sun to dry the floor and help stop the harvested grain from getting damp.
“As I stepped out of the tractor cab holding the metal door, 11,000 volts shot through my body. I was literally stuck to the spot,” said Ian.
“It was about three or four minutes after that when the front tyre of the tractor caught fire. Even though the power hadn’t killed me, if I hadn’t managed to break free then the fire would have.”
The power surge dislocated his shoulder and shattered his arm – Ian was in hospital for nearly a week and was then recovering for another six weeks.
“Doctors told me that it looked as though somebody had smashed the bone with a sledgehammer.”
He now takes extra care when working on the farm and urges other farmers to do the same.
“Farming can be a dangerous occupation and there is so much to do that we rush – but that is when accidents happen.
“It took almost leaving behind my two children and wife to mean I’m now careful and cautious on the farm, always thinking twice before doing anything.”
Ian and his wife Helen support the HSE’s power line safety campaign [PDF]. “Things could have been different for me had I known the advice. If the campaign helps even one farmer avoid a potentially fatal contact with an overhead power line, then it is absolutely worth it,” said Ian.
Power line safety – advice for farmers
- Risk assess – know where overhead power lines are and mark them on a map. Find out the height and reach of your equipment and how this compares to the maximum working height under overhead power lines. Share this information with workers and contractors.
- Control measures – don’t work near an overhead power line if you don’t have to. Speak to your electricity network operator for advice. Select suitable machinery and equipment and use it safely.
- Know what’s safe, and what isn’t – certain work should be avoided within 10m of overhead power lines, such as stacking bales and potato boxes, operating telehandlers and moving irrigation pipes.
- Call 105 – if an incident occurs where power lines are damaged or fall to the ground, contact your network operator by calling the national 24 hour emergency number 105.
- Contact – if contact is made with a power line when you’re in a vehicle, stay in the cab and try to drive clear. If that is not possible, jump clear of the machine, move away and don’t touch it once you’re on the ground.