There were 23 cases of farm equipment coming in contact with power lines or poles in Saskatchewan last week, according to SaskPower. At last count, there had been 67 incidents since May 1.
Those numbers might seem high, but they’re not. At least relative to history.
“Compared to last year, these numbers are consistent,” says SaskPower spokesperson Laura McKnight, in the interview below. “The incidents are real. That’s what we’re trying to show folks. These types of things are happening. Luckily we haven’t had any injuries or fatalities, but it just takes one small incident or second where it can be tragic.”
To put the spike in incidents during seeding in perspective, the total number of power line contacts in Saskatchewan from January 1 to May 8 was 37.
These numbers are specific to Saskatchewan, but the same risks and principles apply in all farming regions.
Just because equipment fit underneath a line last year, doesn’t mean it will this spring, notes McKnight, as poles and wires shift, especially after a windstorm like much of the prairies experienced this week.
While underestimating height or width of equipment is usually a cause, fatigue is also a common factor.
If you do snag a line or pole, stay put and call the power company or 911 immediately to have them de-energize the line. If you need to exit the tractor or vehicle due to an imminent risk, such as a fire, make sure you have a clear and wire-free exit, then cross your arms, put your legs together and jump as far as you can, landing on both feet, before shuffling or hopping at least 10 metres away, she says.
Since 2010, there have been over 5,900 power line contacts in Saskatchewan (not just farm-related), causing four fatalities.