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A stark reminder to watch for power lines

A farmer in southwest Manitoba is recovering at home for the next few weeks after he was electrocuted when his sprayer contacted an overhead power line.

“We’re just thankful he’s still here,” a family member said recently.

The man was working in late June in a field near his home when a wing on the sprayer, used to apply herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers on crops, snagged a power line and pulled it down.

Within seconds, the still-energized line caused one of the sprayer’s wheels to catch fire. The man, thinking the fire was due to mechanical failure, stepped out of the sprayer to check. Always careful, he had no idea about the downed line.

By stepping out of the sprayer’s cab, he instantly became a “bridge” for the electrical current from the downed line to travel. The severe jolt knocked him down as the current travelled from one of his hands to his foot.

Luckily, when he stepped out of the sprayer, he had his cell phone. When he gathered his senses, he called a nearby neighbour, who called 911. Emergency services arrived quickly and rushed him to hospital. He was later transferred to hospital in Winnipeg to be treated for burns to his hand and foot. He was released three days later.

Fortunately, serious injuries involving farm equipment and power lines are not common. When accidents do happen, it can result in severe injuries, burns — even death.

If power lines contact your vehicle, stay inside it, and call 911 or your local emergency services at once. Wait for help to arrive. Always assume all downed power lines are energized. Do not drive over them.

If — as in this case — it’s too dangerous to stay in your vehicle:

  • Keep your feet together and hold your arms tightly at your sides. Do not step out of the vehicle one foot at a time — you make a path for electricity to ground — as this can cause severe injuries or death.
  • Jump clear without touching the vehicle and the ground at the same time, and land with both feet together.
  • Shuffle or hop away while keeping your feet together.
  • Move at least 10 metres away from the downed lines and wait for help to arrive.

Farm machinery contacting power lines can also damage property and cause a power outage to an entire community.

Make sure everyone who works on your farm follows these tips to make it home safely:

  • Plan your route ahead of time and be aware — the height of a power line can change depending on weather conditions.
  • Always lower equipment before passing under power lines.
  • Never try to raise a power line yourself to pass under it. Only Manitoba Hydro employees can lift power lines.
  • Proceed cautiously and check constantly to keep at least 3 metres clearance between equipment and power lines.
  • Stay alert while operating equipment with autosteer technology. It may not warn you of a hazard until it’s too late.
  • Never transport or lift metal structures, ladders, or irrigation pipe near power lines or let anyone ride on top of farm equipment that is in operation or on hay bales.
  • Obtain a Farm Equipment Clearance Permit online from Manitoba Hydro for each piece of equipment that exceeds 4.8 metres in height.

Read more farm safety information.