In an incredibly unfortunate turn of events last week, two southern Illinois teens died in a tragic accident on a farm, the victims of electrocution. Our thoughts and prayers center on the affected families at this time. In this time of loss, IL Corn hopes that everyone will remember the price paid by these two young men and invest in your own families and employees the time needed to properly handle on-farm safety issues.
Yesterday marked the beginning of National Farm Safety Week. “Growing the Most Important Crop,” this year’s theme, focuses on making farms and ranches safer for farmers, their family members and employees with special emphasis on children.
People of all ages, but particularly children, are at risk of injuries on the farm. With more than 1 million youth living on farms, reaching out to adults with information on how they can reduce risks to the children in their care is critical to preventing farm and ranch incidents and fatalities.
More than half of young people living on farms and ranches pitch in doing chores, with those age 10 to 15 helping the most. Another 307,000 youth not living on farms are hired as employees each year.
According to the National Children’s Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety, the rate of childhood agricultural injuries has declined by nearly 60 percent over the last decade or so but many children still die in farm accidents every year in the U.S. and others are injured, often seriously. Youth fatalities on farms were most often attributed to machinery (including tractors), followed by motor vehicles including all-terrain vehicles. Falls accounted for 40 percent of non-fatal youth injuries on farms.
The tragic electrocution death of the southern Illinois teenagers is drawing national attention to the need for safety precautions when working with long and tall equipment near overhead power lines. The southern Illinois 18 year- olds were working to free a raccoon, which had crawled inside an aluminum pipe used for irrigation, when the pipe touched an overhead electric wire. When the teens hoisted the 31 foot pipe into the air, the wind pushed it into the wire. They became the path to the ground for the electricity and both were fatally injured from the deadly voltage.
The increasing size of farm equipment raises the risk of contact at field entries and along end rows, where overhead electric wires may be present. The taller equipment may not always allow the recommended 10 foot separation when passing beneath or near the power lines. In agricultural areas the vertical clearance required is less than the clearance over roadways and streets. Never assume that because the machinery passed under the lines in one area means it will adequately clear another area.
Any part of an implement that can touch a power line offers a potential path to the ground for the electric current. Farm equipment operators who are working on the ground with the equipment can become the path for the deadly current flow. Such equipment not only includes large tillage equipment, but antennas, grain augers, auger wagons, and truck beds with hydraulic lifts.