Ag Safety

Ag Safety

A Little Thought and Planning

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 368 farmers and agricultural workers died from a work-related injury in 2020. Approximately 30 to 40 people a year are electrocuted and each day, agricultural workers experience 100 non-fatal lost-work-time injuries. We find these numbers alarming, especially the number of electrical contacts.

When the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) looked at the root causes of these numbers, their findings were not entirely surprising. Other than unforeseen acts of nature, the contributing factors to these fatalities could have been avoided.

Sometimes we can learn valuable lessons from other industries. There are a few practices from our industry that can be particularly beneficial. Those are job hazard analysis, work plans and job briefings.

According to OHSA, job hazard analysis is a technique that focuses on job tasks to identify hazards before they occur. It focuses on the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment. This does not have to be complicated, especially when it comes to electricity.

Simply assess your tasks, the work area where these tasks are carried out and identify where they could potentially intersect with powerlines and why there could be a safety issue. Is it a matter of location of a task, are there topography issues, or what happens when inclement weather arises? Think it through.

Plus, we are talking about all forms of electrical delivery, not just the high voltage overhead powerlines; more workers are injured and/or killed by contacting lines carrying 500 volts less. For the safety of our linemen, it is a practice at Vigilante Electric not to work on 480-volt services while energized. Also, contacting an underground line can be just as dangerous as contacting an overhead line, which is why any form of excavation requires a dig-line notification.  This simple process can be performed by calling “811”.

Work plans look at things that need to be accomplished over time. For example, at the start of every irrigation season, inspect your equipment. Ensure that your system breakers operate properly, check the seals on enclosures to ensure water is not getting to the electrical wiring and important electron controls. Check for damaged or improper wiring. If you find issues, have them repaired.

We also utilize job briefings. Start each day by outlining the work for that day, taking time to discuss all potential hazards. The location of power lines is particularly important if you are working around or moving implements under them. Do not assume that everybody knows where all the power lines are located. Make sure that everybody is on the same page.

Again, this does not have to be complicated. By working together and learning from each other we can ensure that everybody goes home safely at the end of the day.