Lucky escapes as harvesters hit power lines

A SPATE of potentially fatal incidents last week where farm machinery hit power lines has prompted the Canegrowers organisation to warn of the potential dangers.

The group is urging growers to "look up and live". The peak group says every year people risk injury or death by power lines.

Canegrowers CEO, Brendan Stewart, said if the dangers of power lines were ignored, chances were high people will come off second best.

"This series of accidents is a timely reminder that while it is getting to the end of harvest and farmers are getting tired, it is extra important that this is recognised and that farmers and contractors pay special attention to taking the time to look up and notice power lines," he said.

The first of the incidents occurred in Yungaburra on the Atherton Tablelands when a cane truck came into contact with power lines, resulting in an hour-long power outage.  Within a minute of power being restored, there was an almost identical incident in Babinda resulting in a loss of power for most of the morning for local residents. Also that day, a harvester hit overhead lines in the Burdekin area, followed by another similar incident occurring later that day.

"Ergon Energy has done a lot to raise awareness of the need to look up before driving a large vehicle under power lines," Mr Stewart said.

"But clearly growers need to take heed or lives could be lost.

"It is not only overhead power lines that can cause electrical safety incidents during the cane harvest.  Electrical equipment on the ground, including stay wires and poles, also need a high level of care.

"The best way to avoid these incidents is to allocate a few minutes at the start of each shift to assess the risks and then to use a safety observer when working near electrical assets."

It is law in Australia to keep yourself and machinery a certain distance away from power lines. There are serious penalties for breaches of those laws, and if an incident results in injury or death, there can be a punishment of imprisonment.

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