British Sugar warns of dangers of overhead powerlines

Figures for 2020 show that 18 percent of overhead line incidents were through agriculture
Figures for 2020 show that 18 percent of overhead line incidents were through agriculture

Two of Suffolk's largest employers are working together to drive home the potentially life-saving message of staying safe around electricity when working on the farm.

UK Power Networks, which distributes electricity in the East of England, has joined forces with British Sugar to warn of the dangers of contact with overhead power lines.

Points covered include awareness of risks around the power network and the importance of safe working, including requesting overhead power line plans ahead of harvesting and loading crops onto vehicles.

Touching high voltage cables can be fatal or cause serious injuries if people or an object they are in contact with get too close to a line and a flashover occurs.

Farmers, along with road hauliers, tree surgeons and builders, belong to the most at-risk groups when it comes to overhead power lines.

Figures for 2020 show that 44% of overhead line incidents were through road hauliers, 18% farmers, 16% tree surgeons and self-employed builders 12%.

Ros Forbes, a safety advisor at UK Power Networks, said: “We want to prompt collaborative working and positive conversations about safety which, ultimately, will help save lives.

“Our advice is always to be vigilant, to look up and around to see what electrical equipment is near you if driving or using agricultural machinery.

"British Sugar take safety very seriously and gave us tremendous backing and support to deliver our message.”

Clare Beaumont, beet delivery service manager at British Sugar, added: “Nothing is more important than the safety of our colleagues and partners across the British beet sugar industry.

“Working in collaboration with UK Power Networks is a proven way of ensuring the right messaging about electrical safety can be shared and understood."

Power line advice

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.