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'Look out, look up, look after yourself' – SSEN farm safety campaign switches tack over powerline risk


By Hector MacKenzie

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An incident in the north-east.
An incident in the north-east.

As farmers begin harvesting their crops over the coming weeks and months, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution is urging the agricultural community to stay safe when working near overhead power lines and poles.

In the past year, SSEN has seen a reduction in the number of incidents on farms and fields across its network area in the north of Scotland, with 448 callouts compared to 505 the year before.

These reported incidents on agricultural land were the result of third-parties coming in to contact with the distribution operator’s poles, overhead lines and cables, resulting in local electricity supplies being disrupted and potentially causing serious injury, or worse, to those involved.

This year, SSEN carried out a research project with farmers operating across arable and livestock farms to explore safety behaviours, understanding of its annual campaign and the dangers associated with overhead lines.

In response, following feedback provided during 15 hours of in-depth interviews, the network operator has launched a new safety campaign including direct ‘farmer-to-farmer’ advice and clear instructions to follow in an emergency.

SSEN’s new campaign, uses radio and online messaging in addition to the following guidance:

‘Look out, look up!’ before you start work in any areas where electricity lines are present.

Risk assess and be aware of the height of machinery that will be in use near lines and ensure there’s plenty of clearance – remember that electricity can ‘jump’ if an object comes near enough.

If you do come in to contact with an overhead line or cable, if it’s safe to do so, stay in your cab or vehicle and try to avoid touching anything metal within it.

Call 105 immediately – this is the UK-wide single emergency number for power companies and is the quickest way to put you through to the correct network operator.

The safety campaign targets farmers.
The safety campaign targets farmers.

If the situation is too dangerous to stay put, for example, if the machinery is affected by fire, it’s advised that you leap out of the vehicle as high and as far as you can to avoid touching any part of the machinery or electricity network

Ian Crawley, SSEN’s network operational safety manager, said: “Directly informed by the real-life insights and experience of the farming community, our new campaign gives farmers, their staff and contractors a quick heads up to stay safe while working in the fields this year.

“Before you head out on the farm, check the power lines above you. This is a small step that could make all the difference to staying safe and accident-free. If you do come in to contact with an overhead line or wooden electricity pole, stay in the cab if it’s safe to do so and call our teams immediately on 105.Thankfully, we’ve seen a reduction in the number of incidents across our network areas this past year, but every incident is one too many. While the agricultural landscape, and the farm machinery used on it, changes throughout the year, our vital safety message remains the same – look out, look up and look after yourself.”

SSEN is encouraging farmers and agricultural workers with any concerns relating to electrical infrastructure on their land to report this by sending a photograph directly to SSEN’s teams via the Power Track App, available to download on the App Store and Google Play Store.

If you would like further information on staying safe when working near power lines, please visit ssen.co.uk/farm-safety.


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