Corporate Affairs Manager for SA Power Networks, Paul Roberts said it is worth assessing the risk that powerlines pose to farmers and their workers around South Australia during harvest.
“People would be surprised how often we respond to electricity outages that occur during harvest activity on farms,” said Roberts
“Farmers are understandably keen to get the crops harvested and, in the rush, they can potentially put themselves and co-workers at risk.”
Martin Deer owns and operates a 2,200-hectare wheat and barley farm, 45km northwest of Cowell on the Eyre Peninsula.
The transmission line that supplies the Eyre Peninsula runs across his property as well as a single-wire earth return (SWER) line which provides power to the farm.
Deer said the danger is real, especially now that harvesting at night is becoming common practice throughout the farming fraternity.
“When the conditions are right, some farmers will reap into the night to speed up the harvesting process, as the farms are getting larger with a greater area to cover,” said Deer
“The machinery is very expensive, and the more area you can reap with one machine will (help) to cut down the overall cost.”
Deer said another major factor in collisions is farmer “fatigue from working long days”.
“To mitigate the risks of hitting powerlines, we are constantly aware of our surroundings and the dangers powerlines pose,” Deer said.
“We try not to work those paddocks with powerlines running through them in the dark, as visibility is somewhat reduced.”
Other factors that increase the risk of hitting powerlines during harvest are the increase of vehicles in paddocks and the height and width of machinery in close proximity to powerlines.
Roberts said a new issue that had emerged in recent years was the use of GPS to help manoeuvre this large machinery around the farm.
“Farm equipment is getting wider and that needs to be factored in when using GPS to navigate around electricity infrastructure,” Roberts said.
When a vehicle comes into contact with powerlines there is a high risk of electric shock. If this happens, you should immediately contact SA Power Networks on 13 13 66 and (preferably) do not move from your vehicle until the power is switched off.
Harvest is expected to be completed midway through December, weather permitting.
SA Power Networks is a sponsor of Solstice Media’s Regional Showcase Awards. The winners will be announced on 20 November and will appear in InDaily.