SP Energy Networks has joined forces with the Energy Networks Association (ENA) to help those working in the agricultural industry in Powys understand the dangers of working near power lines in a bid to reduce the number of incidents that take place each year.

Despite potentially fatal consequences, over 85 per cent of those surveyed never worry about getting too close to an overhead power line, according to the latest research from ENA.

Data from the Health & Safety Executive reveals that in the last five years there were five deaths associated with power lines in the UK. In addition, there were also 1,140 near-miss incidents – an average of more than four a week - involving machinery and equipment contacting overhead electric power lines where serious injury or death was a possibility.

The risk to farm workers is not only during harvest time but all year round. Annually, approximately 225 reported incidents occur where farm vehicles and machinery make contact with overhead lines – typically these incidents involve equipment such as tipping trailers, lorry mounted cranes, combine harvesters and telehandlers. Not only does each incident have the potential to kill or seriously injure those workers involved, there are also financial costs in terms of damaged and destroyed equipment and lost time.

SP Energy Networks, which owns and maintains the power lines throughout the Powys region, is supporting the launch of a new campaign – Look Out Look Up! – in response to the scale of incidents involving overhead power lines in farms and fields. Look Out Look Up! is encouraging people to plan ahead to avoid contact with overhead power lines and to know what to do if contact is made.

A hard-hitting new film showing the potentially fatal consequences of working near overhead power lines has been created to highlight the risks and can be found at http://www.energynetworks.org/electricity/she/safety/safety-advice/overhead-power-lines-safety-campaign.html

Stephen Stewart, director at SP Energy Networks said: “The dangers surrounding electricity can often to be hidden or be at the back of mind in the agricultural industry, but the statistics shared today help to confirm the fact that they are very much present and should be front of mind.

“SP Energy Networks already does lots of work to raise awareness of working safely near power lines, particularly at agricultural shows across our operating area but the Look Out Look Up! campaign is a great opportunity to continue this great work and to raise awareness of the dangers to watch out for in Powys, how to stay safe around electricity and what to do if you do find yourself in an emergency situation.”

· Risk assess – know where overhead power lines are and mark them on a map. Find out the height and reach of your equipment and how this compares to the maximum working height under overhead power lines. Share this information with workers and contractors.

· Control measures – don’t work near an overhead power line if you don’t have to. Speak to your electricity network operator for advice. Select suitable machinery and equipment and use it safely.

· Know what’s safe, and what isn’t – certain work should be avoided within 10 metres of overhead power lines, such as stacking bales and potato boxes, operating telehandlers and moving irrigation pipes.

· It is crucial that farmers, farm workers and contractors understand that when overhead power lines are damaged or fall to the ground, they should stay well away and contact their local electricity network operator by telephoning 105, or, if it’s in Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and North Shropshire we can still be reached directly on 0800 001 5400.

· Know what to do if you come into contact with an overhead power line - if contact is made when you’re in a vehicle, stay in the cab and try to drive clear. If it is not safe to stay in the vehicle, jump clear of the machine, move away and don’t touch it once on the ground.

· Call 105 – if an incident occurs, contact your network operator by calling the national 24 hour emergency number 105 or the direct numbers above. According to the ENA, over four in five people do not know the number to call in case of an abnormality in electricity supply in their home or workplace.

Stephen Wilkinson is a farm worker from Cheshire who came close to death when his tractor caught an 11,000 volt power line in 2000. He lost four toes and a finger in the accident.

Mr Wilkinson said: “I’ve always been aware of the dangers on the farm involving electricity, often moving my vehicle out of the way before using its functions to avoid colliding with power lines, but at the time of the accident, I just hadn’t realised that I was right underneath a power line.

“I began to see smoke coming out from underneath the tractor and I stepped out of the tractor to check it over, which was of course, my error in this situation. As soon as my foot touched the floor, I was thrown through the air and I honestly thought my time was up. I count myself so lucky to have come away with only the injuries I have – loss of toes to one foot and the loss of a finger on one hand.

“I think the work that SP Energy Networks and the Energy Networks Association are doing with The Look Out Look Up! campaign is absolutely fantastic. Only last week I was on the farm and spotted two farmers in potentially dangerous situations with electricity. The advice we need to know to keep safe on the farm is basic, but so many people in the agricultural industry either aren’t aware of it, or don’t keep it front of mind. Hopefully this campaign will help prevent more injury or even worse, death.”

More information about the Look Out Look Up! campaign can be found here: http://www.energynetworks.org/electricity/she/safety/safety-advice/overhead-power-lines-safety-campaign.html