The shocking truth about spring planting

A farmer hitches the sprayer to the tractor for the annual ritual of preparing the fields for spring planting. The familiar, muddy path from the barn to the field crosses under several sets of aging power lines. Even though the lines look lower than they did last spring, the farmer drives the tractor and sprayer under the lines. The end of the sprayer catches the line, knocking down the live electrical line. The farmer is trapped until the utility company can cut power to the line.

Utility-line claims on farm equipment are common every spring, but your planting season does not need to be a shocking experience. As you prepare your equipment and fields this spring, be mindful of the routes you take, and the utility lines you'll need to navigate

Look up. Survey your route from barn to fields for overhead power lines. Are any of the power lines sagging? If you notice lines getting lower, call the local utility company to check them. 

Review the route and potential hazards with everyone who will drive farm equipment so they can steer clear of power lines.

Obey the 10-foot rule. Never get closer than 10 feet to an overhead power line. If overhead lines are present, OSHA recommends calling the utility company to find out what voltage is on the lines. Consider all overhead lines as energized until the utility company indicates otherwise, or an electrician verifies that the line is not energized and has been grounded. 

Don’t leave the vehicle. If an overhead wire falls across your vehicle or equipment while you are driving, stay inside it and continuing to drive away from the line. If the engine stalls, do not leave your vehicle. Avoid touching metal on the vehicle and warn people not to touch the vehicle or the wire. Call or ask someone to call the local utility company and emergency services. Never touch a fallen overhead power line.

No one likes a shock, even when it comes to insurance coverage. Call your Grinnell Mutual agent and make sure you're protected.

Materials in this article are adapted from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.