Power line problems spark safety plea to grain farmers

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Farmers and staff have been urged to be mindful of fatigue and to take note of powerline locations.
Camera IconFarmers and staff have been urged to be mindful of fatigue and to take note of powerline locations. Credit: WA News

An Esperance farmer whose header brought down a 19,000-volt powerline and sparked a crop fire which burnt two poles was lucky to escape injury, Horizon Power says.

The electrical provider issued an unusual plea to grain farmers this month, calling on them to stop running into powerlines and risking lives, crops and power outages.

Horizon Power recorded more than 20 incidents of agricultural machinery making contact with powerlines during the past year.

More than half of the incidents occurred during seeding and harvest, and all of them happened in the Goldfields Esperance region.

Horizon Power Goldfields Esperance retail and community manager Donna Gibson said the region had the largest overhead powerline network of any farm area in WA.

“The bottom line is that we don’t want farmers and their workers injured, or worse,” she said.

“This includes when there is a possibility of fire, as it can be devastating to the community.

“A fire caused by a fallen powerline has the potential to spread to other parts of the community, risking the lives of many people.

“Fire also destroy assets and crops and will hinder Horizon Power’s efforts to restore power.”

Ms Gibson urged farmers and staff to be mindful of fatigue and to take note of powerline locations.

“Many farm workers have been seriously injured as a result of contacting powerlines while moving or installing augers or lifting grain probes and irrigation pipes,” she said.

“Farmers should look around their properties and know the location of the powerlines and make a considered effort to induct new workers about these hazards.”

Gibson Bush Fire Brigade captain Blake Halford said growers with GPS or auto steer could map the position of power poles, which would “greatly lower the risk of connecting with them”.

“The local volunteer emergency services are always happy to help but people shouldn’t forget they have their own jobs and businesses to run,” he said. “It’s in everybody’s best interest to stay vigilant when working around powerlines to avoid costly or fatal mistakes.”

Ms Gibson said farmers could visit the Horizon Power office in Esperance to pick up an information pack featuring a safety video.

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