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ScottishPower Energy Networks Encourages Farmers To Stay Safe And Avoid Potential Fatal Risks Of Working Near Power Lines

20/06/2013

With the harvest approaching farmers and farm workers are being encouraged to put safety first when working near to overhead electric power lines, in a joint effort by ScottishPower Energy Networks, The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland and the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

In a bid to raise awareness of the risks associated with working close to power lines and as part of its ongoing safety awareness programme with the agricultural sector throughout the UK, ScottishPower Energy Networks is partnering with the Royal Highland Show to engage directly with farmers ahead of heightened activity over the harvest period.

ScottishPower Energy Networks will hold a series of shows over the four day agricultural event illustrating the potential devastating consequences of a cable strike with a visual pyrotechnic demonstration of machinery colliding with an overhead power line.

ScottishPower Energy Networks manages more than 100,000 km of cables and over 30,000 substations across its network. Accidental contact with live overhead power lines can be potentially fatal or cause serious injuries, with risks higher in industrial sectors such as agriculture.

Frank Mitchell, CEO of ScottishPower Energy Networks, said: “We have a seen some serious incidents involving farm workers across our network in the last few months, most of which were avoidable. As well as the risk of serious injury, incidents like this can also affect power supplies to local homes and businesses.

“All year round our engineers work closely with local farmers as part of our ongoing campaign to reduce accidents - and we hope that our partnership with RHASS will help ScottishPower Energy Networks continue to increase safety awareness.”

Alastair Mitchell, an Inspector with the HSE’s Agricultural Safety Team points out the dangers. “Working near power lines can prove fatal if the right precautions are not taken. With the increasing height of modern farm machinery such as telescopic handlers and combine harvesters, the risk of contacting a power line is much more likely now than ever before.”

A common problem is that farmers and the general public alike mistake electric power lines for telephone wires. Everyone should make themselves aware of the yellow and black triangle ‘Danger of Death’ warning sign that is displayed on poles, pylons and equipment – look up and look out for the sign and work safely when near it, it means what it says. 

With many harvest activities taking place directly below power lines, Mr Mitchell offers some timely advice to workers who operate farm machinery. “I would encourage farmers and farm workers to watch the ScottishPower demonstration at the Royal Highland Show and to read HSE’s guidance on how to work safely.  Operators should know what action they need to take in the event of a cable strike to ensure they minimise risks to themselves and others.”

It is not only equipment and machinery that presents a danger. A jet of water or slurry can cause discharge of electricity and a high risk of fatal or severe injury.

Stephen Hutt, Chief Executive of The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland said: "We are pleased that the Royal Highland Show is providing a valuable platform to support ScottishPower's aim to promote the dangers of farmers working close to power lines."

Direct contact with live electrical equipment, even at the lowest voltage, can be fatal. Overhead lines can typically carry electricity at voltages up to 400,000 volts.

Guidance on working safely near overhead power lines can be found on:

ScottishPower Energy Networks - http://www.spenergynetworks.co.uk/safety/pdf/safety_overhead.pdf

HSE - http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ais8.htm

For further information, photography or interviews please contact:
Stephanie Robertson 07739 326 546 / Adele Thomson  07718 700 765, Stripe Communications scottishpower@stripecom.co.uk

Notes to editors:

Incidents recorded by ScottishPower in the last month include:

  • Farmer using a forage harvester in his field to make silage when the chute of the machine struck the overhead line. Supplies to 7 customers were disrupted for more than 3 hours.
  • An 11,000 volt power line was grounded in a farmer’s field due to machinery
  • A tractor hit a wooden pole and brought the overhead line down. Engineers were required to re-erect the line to restore supply to two customers.
  • A Farmer damaged a cable using a farm digging machine – no injuries reported.
  • A Farmer made contact with an 11,000 volt line using an excavator whilst constructing a trench.
  • A broken pole and line down were discovered in a field by staff investigating a fault. The incident had not been reported, and the field had very recently been ploughed.

ScottishPower Energy Networks owns and operates the electricity transmission and distribution network in the south of Scotland and the distribution network in Cheshire, Merseyside and North Wales.

As the network operator it maintains and repairs the electrical equipment and network assets that transport electricity to around 3.5 million homes and business.

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