Stay safe working with electricity on the farm

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Ohio farm

Electricity plays an important role in our daily lives and at work. Farmers and gardeners rely on electricity to perform a number of tasks involving lighting, tools and equipment.

Electrical shock occurs when part of the body completes a circuit between conductors of different voltages or between an electrical source and a ground. Here are some basic safety tips when working with electricity.

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1General
Inspect the area for electrical hazards such as exposed wires and damaged electrical boxes, and call the local utility service to locate underground wires. In Ohio, it’s the law to call 48 hours before any digging project: 8-1-1 or 800-362-2764. Avoid contact with overhead wires when working with ladders, pruning shears, saws, or when operating tall equipment.

In the case of an electrical fire, shut off the power and use a fire extinguisher approved for electrical fires. Do not use water to put out electrical fires — this can result in a fatal shock.

2Power cords
Inspect wires and plugs before each use. Repair or replace damaged wires or plugs. Do not place tape over gashes in wires and do not splice wires. Use approved extension cords only temporarily (less than 90 days).

Make sure extension cords are appropriate for outdoor use, and make sure the electrical load does not exceed the rated capacity. Avoid using multi-plug adaptors or plugging multiple extension cords together. Circuit overloading can increase the risk of fire.

3Equipment
Use only double-insulated power tools or equipment with three-prong plugs. Don’t use equipment with broken plugs and stop using a tool immediately if a tingling sensation is felt while using it.

Don’t use electrical equipment in damp or wet areas. Protect plugs and outlets from moisture and don’t leave a plug connection in a puddle or other collection of water. Use a GFCI when these areas can’t be avoided.

4Helping a shock victim
If someone receives an electrical shock while using faulty equipment, call for help immediately. Stop the flow of electricity in the victim’s body by disconnecting or de-energizing the circuit, if the victim is unable to pull away from the current source.

Do not try to remove the victim from the current source. Touching the victim could cause the rescuer to be shocked as well.

Sources: Electrical Shock, Small Farm and Gardening Safety and Health Series; Dee Jepsen, Ohio State associate professor and State Safety Leader.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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