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Don't let electrical accidents crop up this spring during planting season

Planting season is one of the busiest times of the year, especially this year when the season has been delayed by weather. Yet, farmers and their helpers need to pay as much attention to what's above their heads and within reach of their machinery as they do to their tillage and planting work, says Eric Hamm, manager of safety services for Otter Tail Power Company.

"We've had several instances this spring of farm machinery damaging electrical equipment," said Hamm. "When you're working long hours or rushing to beat the weather, it's easy to overlook power lines and related equipment. But it's important to be careful so you don't snag electrical equipment on the tractor's rear wheels or with planting, spraying, fertilizing, or tillage equipment."

Here are some additional planting season safety tips.

Always have a spotter when moving large equipment, such as planters, sprayers, seed and fertilizer tenders with augers, and tillage, excavation, or irrigation equipment, near power lines or related equipment.

Pay special attention when hoisting truck boxes or folding tillage equipment for transport. Might that truck box contact an energized line? Will tillage equipment folded for road travel clear the overhead electrical lines that cross the field approach?

When extended, might tillage or spraying equipment snag that pole, guy wire, junction box, or transformer that may be along the edge of the field or in the farmyard?

Lower augers to the lowest possible level before moving or transporting them, and use care when raising them.

Maintain adequate clearance between an electrical line and the top of any equipment. Don't guess; know the height of the lines and the height of your equipment, including antennas.

Caution employees and family members working with you about potential hazards. A little planning can help keep everyone safe and productive.

Don't build new storage bins near overhead electrical lines.

Hamm adds that an electrical outage caused by mishandled farm machinery can impact a number of customers and poses a threat not only to the farmers involved but also to others who rely on electricity for critical systems. "You pay for the repairs if you're responsible for the damage," says Hamm. "Replacing a pole, for example, easily can cost thousands of dollars. And that doesn't make up for the power outage or safety hazard created when electrical equipment is damaged."

Hamm says to be aware of what might be in the ground as well. Before tilling an unfamiliar field or doing any excavating (to install drain tile or irrigation systems, for instance), use the One Call service to locate buried utilities. The national number to call is 811. Or call your state's One Call center: 800-252-1166 in Minnesota, 800-795-0555 in North Dakota, 800-781-7474 in South Dakota.

If you're in a vehicle or equipment that's accidentally contacted an electrical source, Hamm says to remain there until help arrives. But if you're in danger of fire or explosion, jump with both feet together and shuffle away. Do not allow contact with the vehicle or equipment and the ground at the same time.

If you encounter an electrical accident, make sure the electrical source no longer poses a threat before assisting a victim. If in doubt, call 911 and wait until help arrives. And remember, even victims who don't appear to be injured should seek medical advice because injury from electrical shock may not be immediately apparent.