The Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) says that ESB Networks is seeking the support of its members to raise awareness of the dangers posed by overhead power lines.

Arthur Byrne, public safety manager at ESB Networks, has now issued an advisory message to silage contractors, saying: “A major risk is working near overhead electricity wires.

“Coming close to these live wires is extremely hazardous.

Very serious electrical accidents have taken place involving silage machinery, both in the field and at the silage pit. Contact, or even near contact, with overhead lines can be fatal.

He says that the minimum safe distance is 3m – horizontally and vertically. This figure increases where higher-voltage lines are involved.

Arthur noted the following points – particularly for contractors during this busy period:
  • Watch out for poles and ‘stay’ wires. Identify where these are in the field and avoid coming within 3m of them. You may need to physically ‘red flag’ them;
  • Avoid (repeatedly) crossing beneath overhead lines. Work parallel to the lines.

Arthur says that poles and overhead lines must not be in close proximity to a silage pit. If they are closer than 6m he says that farmers must contact ESB Networks to re-locate these.

He added: “Do not work until ESB Networks advises that it is safe to do so.”

In the unfortunate event of an accident, whereby any part of a machine is in contact with electricity lines/equipment, he outlined the following steps:
  • Stay in the cab;
  • Keep everyone else clear of the scene – at least 5m away;
  • Phone ESB Networks immediately;
  • If possible, reverse out of the ‘contact’ situation;
  • If you must exit the cab (e.g. because of fire), jump clear and take short steps until you are 5m clear and do not return to the cab;
  • Do not, under any circumstances, touch the line or anything the line may be in contact with.