Sad tales sometimes get your attention. Bill Field had everyone's attention when he told of a real case where not only a farmer, but his entire field crew was electrocuted in a field during harvest.
The problem boils down to being aware of power lines in the field, and remembering where you are with your equipment in relation to them. A couple of years ago we reported that a sprayer operator hooked his boom in lines. The tires melted, but he jumped off instead of stepped off his rig, and was burned but survived and lives a functional life today – in another career.
The people in this story weren't as fortunate, says Field, a Purdue University Extension farm specialist. A farmer had purchased a newer, bigger combine. He was operating with the grain spout out as many people do. His total height to the top of the extended grain spout was about 14 feet. There was a power line with 7,000 volts running nearby less than 13 feet off the ground. When the spout contacted the line, the tires began to melt on the combine. Apparently thinking his combine was on fire, not realizing what had happened, he got out, but stepped onto the ground. Once the stepped onto the ground he completed the circuit and was electrocuted. His grain cart driver, also not aware of what was causing the smoking tires, tried to free him and was electrocuted. The semi driver, watching this happen but still not aware of the cause, tried to rescue them both and was also electrocuted.
The moment you complete the circuit, electricity flows through you to the ground, electrocuting you, Field explains. The sprayer driver survived with injuries because he jumped off the sprayer and didn't contact the ground squarely while still holding on firmly to the sprayer. He let go.
Aluminum ladders are also excellent conductors of electricity.
"This is just a reminder to be aware of your surroundings, and look for possible dangers before it's too late," Field says.