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Demos to teach safety near power linesDemos to teach safety near power lines

As farm equipment gets larger, the risk of coming in contact with powerlines is heightened.

Kevin Schulz

August 23, 2021

3 Min Read
Technicians at the hot-line demonstrations
IT’S HOT: Technicians at the hot-line demonstrations explain the importance of safety around power lines on the farm. The orange ember at the bottom of the pole show what happens when metal comes in contact with electric wires. Mindy Ward

Look out, look up, live.

A simple phrase that is the underlying message warning of overhead danger wherever farmers and overhead power lines coexist.

“We can’t get it out enough about avoiding contact with electrical lines that have fallen on the ground,” says Todd Bailey, safety director and purchasing manager for the Southern Public Power District based in Grand Island. “Prime examples: As farmers return to their fields in the spring, we know that they’re getting out there with the disk or cultivator. We seem to always have individual farmers that hit a guy wire or a pole, and that wire comes down.”

After a hot wire falls is when the trouble can begin. Bailey stresses the importance of staying in your vehicle or the cab of your farm equipment to wait for a utility company to show up.

Bailey says too many unknowns in such situations can lead to injury or death. The risk potential is increased as more and larger agricultural equipment is on the roads and in the fields.

“Now we have agricultural sprayers, along with airplanes spraying, that may come in contact with the lines,” he says.

Linemen from multiple electrical utilities that make up the Southern Public Power District will be at the south end of the show grounds to demonstrate the power that is in the overhead lines, and why farmers and motorists need to avoid it.

Repetition breeds familiarity

“A lot of what we talk about out there might seem repetitive to folks who have been there time and time again,” says LeAnne Doose, public relations coordinator with Southern Public Power District. However, “our local farmers will sometimes employ people from a nearby town who is not on the farm daily and exposed to our messages constantly. … It’s always necessary to bring that information forward, because there are those occasions when there’s somebody to whom this is brand-new information. And we know that the more our local farmers and customers hear our safety information, the more likely they are to remember when they are working hard on their farm.”

Hot dog under fire

Utility linemen will have a hot-line trailer to demonstrate the damage that 7,200 volts can do to multiple items, such as a hot dog. A lineman, using proper safety equipment, will lay a hot dog on the power line, and unlike a hot dog hot off a grill, the tube steak will not have grill marks on the outside, but rather “when you break that hot dog open, there’s a burn line that goes right through the center,” Doose says.

“What that demonstrates to people is that when you touch a power line, it burns you on the inside,” she adds.

Bailey says other demos, that occur every 15 to 20 minutes depending on crowd flow, will show what happens when a variety of items such as a kite string, irrigation pipe or critters come in contact with a power line.

“We show how every service that we have has a primary cutout, which is called a fool’s door, and we show that exploding when it comes in contact with, maybe, a squirrel or a ’coon,” he says. “What you see on this trailer is a complete small version of a line feeding into a residential home.”

Visit them on Lot 1155 during Husker Harvest Days, Sept. 14-16, in Grand Island, Neb.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

senior content specialist, The Farmer

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