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Electricity has been rated as the number one invention of all time. We all depend on electricity to power our lives, but accidents can happen when electricity is improperly used.

Woodbury County REC's concern for safety extends beyond our employees. We care deeply about the safety of our members and we encourage you to "plug into" safety. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, thousands of people in the U.S. are critically injured and electrocuted as a result of electrical fires, accidents and electrocution in and around their own homes. 

Safety During Harvest

During harvest season, many farmers reap the benefits of advancement in agricultural technology. With the help of GPS auto-steer devices, farmers are able to decrease driver error and maximize productivity. Yet despite these advances, safety risks remain. To help farmers stay out of harm’s way, Safe Electricity.org shares tips for a safe harvest.

GPS with auto-guidance provides farmers with real-time location data about a field, which can be used for crop planning, map making, navigation assistance and machinery guidance. During harvest, this technology allows drivers to have their hands off the steering wheel as the combine maneuvers itself through the field. Thanks to this technology, farmers can more easily and efficiently maintain accuracy even during low-light conditions, which enhances productivity.

“One critical part of safety around electricity is awareness,” explains Kyla Kruse, communications director of the Safe Electricity program. “It’s important to remember that farm machinery is vulnerable to hitting power lines because of its large size, height and extensions. Being aware of the location of overhead power lines and planning a safe equipment route can help reduce accidents.”

In equipment with auto-guidance systems, less focus is needed on steering, which may lead some drivers to think that they do not need to be as aware of navigation issues. However, even while using a GPS with auto-steering, farm workers need to keep safety in mind and stay focused on their surroundings. 

Putting safety first requires alertness, focus and knowledge of potential hazards and safety steps. Varying pass-to-pass accuracy levels and potential issues, such as power poles not being correctly plotted in the system, reinforce the need for drivers to stay focused on the location of the farm equipment while in the field and to be ready to take action if necessary.

Regardless the technology used on the farm, keep the following electrical safety guidelines in mind:

  • Use a spotter when operating large machinery near power lines.
  • Keep equipment at least 10 feet from power lines—at all times, in all directions.
  • Look up and use care when moving any equipment such as extending augers or raising the bed of grain trucks around power lines.
  • Inspect the height of farm equipment to determine clearance.
  • Always set extensions to the lowest setting when moving loads to prevent contact with overhead power lines. Grain augers should always be positioned horizontally before being moved.
  • Never attempt to move a power line out of the way or raise it for clearance.
  • If a power line is sagging or low, contact us.

If your equipment does make contact with a power line, do not leave the cab. Immediately call 911, warn others to stay away and wait for the utility crew to cut the power. The only reason to exit equipment that has come into contact with overhead lines is if the equipment is on fire, which is rare. However, if this is the case, jump off the equipment with your feet together and without touching the ground and machinery at the same time. Then, still keeping your feet together, hop to safety as you leave the area. 

[Source: Safe Electricity]

How to Survive Accidents Involving Power Lines

Instincts tell us to flee danger. Unfortunately, in vehicle accidents that bring down power lines, these natural inclinations can lead to tragic results.

If your car hits a power pole, or otherwise brings a power line down, stay in your vehicle and wait until the local electric utility arrives on the scene and ensures that lines have been de-energized. If you come upon or witness an accident involving toppled power poles and lines, don’t leave your vehicle to approach the  scene.

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, tens of thousands of accidents each year occur where power poles are struck by cars or large equipment. Each one of these accidents has the potential to bring down power lines. Surviving the accident itself might not be enough to stay alive without awareness of the right moves to make.

In the vast majority of those incidents, the safest place to remain is inside the car. Only in the rare instance of fire should people exit a vehicle. Then, they must know how to do so safely, jumping free and clear, landing with feet together, and hopping away. It’s difficult to get out without creating a path for current to flow, which is why one should get out only if forced to.

“When people are involved in a car accident, electricity is usually the last thing on anyone’s mind,” Safe Electricity Executive Director Molly Hall notes. “We’re often more concerned about whether anyone was injured, or how badly the vehicle is damaged. We forget that by exiting the vehicle, we’re risking bodily exposure to thousands of volts of electricity from downed power lines.”

[Source: Safe Electricity]

Power Line Safety

Severe weather happens year-round. Tornadoes, hurricanes and other storms can seriously damage power lines and other electrical equipment. Storm damage causes dangers that lurk after a storm has passed. Safe Electricity encourages you to be aware of and prepared for those dangers.

When you see power lines on the ground following a storm, stay away, warn others to stay away and contact the electric utility. Lines do not have to be arcing or sparking to be live. Any utility wire, including telephone or cable lines sagging or down could be in contact with an energized power line making they also very dangerous, so stay away from all of them.

Be alert to the possibility that tree limbs or debris may hide an electrical hazard. A downed power line can energize things around it, such as chain link fences and metal culverts.

Keep in mind that a line that’s indeed “dead” could become energized during power restoration efforts or improper use of generators.

If you are driving and come upon a downed power line, stay in your vehicle, warn others to stay away and contact emergency personnel or the electric utility. Never drive over a downed line. It could cause poles or other equipment to come crashing down.

If you are in a car that has come in contact with a downed power line, stay in your vehicle. Wait until the utility has arrived and de-energized the line. Warn others not to approach the car. If you must leave your car, only in the case of fire, jump free from the car and hop away from it with both feet together.

If you have a generator, know how to use is safely. If your generator is permanent, call a qualified electrician to install it.

[Source: Safe Electricity]

Summer Safety Tips

When the weather gets hot, we head outdoors for sun and fun. Keep in mind some tips from the Electrical Safety Foundation International to make sure everyone has a safe summer.

Water and electricity don’t mix

Summer is the season for swimming and boating, and awareness of electrical hazards around water can prevent deaths and injuries. Water and electricity don’t mix.

  • Sailboats often have masts of 30 feet or more, which are dangerous when they come into contact with overhead power lines. Look up as you get close to shore, and stay at least 10 feet away from overhead lines. Coming into contact with an energized power line causes serious and sometimes lethal electric shock.
  • Use covers on outdoor power outlets, especially near swimming pools. Keep cords and electrical devices away from the water, and never handle electrical items before you’ve dried off.
  • Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to help prevent electrocutions and electrical shock injuries. These devices interrupt the flow of power when they sense a surge. Portable GFCIs require no tools to install and are available at prices ranging from $12 to $30.

Lightning and storms

Lightning strikes are fatal in 10 percent of victims, and 70 percent suffer serious long-term effects, according to the National Weather Service. Because lightning can travel sideways for up to 10 miles, blue skies are not a sign of safety. If you hear thunder, take cover.

  • If weather conditions indicate a storm, stay inside—away from doors and windows—or seek shelter in a low-lying area away from trees and any metal, including sheds, clotheslines, poles, and fences. If you’re near water, stay as far away as possible.
  • If you’re in a group, spread out—don’t stand close together.
  • Indoors, unplug electronics before the storm arrives, and don’t use corded phones.
  • Avoid plumbing—sinks, bathtubs, faucets.
  • Don’t forget about your pets. Doghouses are not safe from lightning, and chained animals are easy targets.
  • If your home is flooded during a storm, don’t turn on appliances or electronics until given the okay by an electrician. If there’s laying water, don’t go inside. The water could be energized.

Working with large appliances

If your air conditioner goes out, keep a few things in mind before you start poking around. Large appliances, such as air conditioners, are responsible for almost 20 percent of consumer-product electrocutions each year.

  • Understand your electrical system—know which fuse or circuit breaker controls each switch, light, and outlet.
  • Make sure circuits are turned off before starting work and take measures to ensure they’re not turned back on while working.
  • Use a circuit tester—always test before you touch.

Protecting Children and Pets from Electrical hazards

Accidents around the home result in millions of injuries to the most vulnerable members of your family — young children and pets — each year. For example, approximately 2,400 children receive emergency room treatment annually for injuries caused by inserting objects into electrical receptacles, according the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

With a few precautions, these and other injuries can be avoided:

  • Install tamper resistant outlets (TROs) that protect against small children inserting foreign objects into them. Simple plastic caps typically used can be easily removed by some children.
  • Keep electrical cords tied up or out of sight.
  • Unplug all appliances when they are not being used, such as hair dryers or coffee makers.
  • Keep appliances out of children’s bathrooms.
  • Teach children not to touch appliances when they have wet hands and to keep appliances away from water.
  • Teach children other basic safety tips such as staying away from outlets and not touching electrical cords.

Some of the same tips apply to pets:

  • Keep electrical cords away from cats and puppies who love to chew on them.
  • Make sure nightlights and appliances are fully plugged in. Partially exposed prongs can be a temptation to curious critters.
  • Keep halogen lamps away from pet play areas. If knocked over, they could start a fire.
  • Keep appliances in bathrooms away from water. Playful pets can knock radios or curling irons into water, creating a dangerous situation.
  • Discourage cats and dogs from curling up for naps behind electrical equipment such as computers.

Generator Safety

Courtesy of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they also can be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using a generator are carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning from the toxic engine exhaust, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. Every year, people die in incidents related to portable generator use. Incidents associated with portable generators reported to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) most commonly involve CO poisoning from generators used indoors or in partially-enclosed spaces.

Carbon Monoxide Hazard

NEVER use a generator in enclosed or partially-enclosed spaces. Generators can produce high levels of CO very quickly. When you use a portable generator, remember that you cannot smell or see CO. Even if you can’t smell exhaust fumes, you may still be exposed to CO. If you start to feel sick, dizzy, or weak while using a generator, get to fresh air RIGHT AWAY. DO NOT DELAY. The CO from generators can rapidly lead to full incapacitation and death.

If you experience serious symptoms, get medical attention immediately. Inform medical staff that CO poisoning is suspected. If you experienced symptoms while indoors, have someone call the fire department to determine when it is safe to reenter the building.

Follow these safety tips to protect against CO poisoning:

  • NEVER use a generator indoors, including in homes, garages, basements, crawl spaces, and other enclosed or partially-enclosed areas, even with ventilation. Opening doors and windows or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home.
  • Follow the instructions that come with your generator. Locate the unit outdoors and away from doors, windows, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors.
  • Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery back-up in your home, according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions. The CO alarms should be certified to the requirements of the latest safety standards for CO alarms (UL 2034, IAS 6-96, or CSA 6.19.01).
  • Test your CO alarms frequently and replace dead batteries.