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May is Electrical Safety Month, and it’s a great opportunity to share some safety tips as many Iowans spend more time outdoors planting crops, doing yardwork or enjoying the springtime weather. Take a few moments to review these safety precautions with your family this month.

Safety in the field

As you head into the fields this season, always keep a 10-foot clearance between equipment and power lines. Take time to study where all overhead power lines, poles and guy wires are located on your property and make sure any workers are also aware. 

Plan your route between fields and on public roads to avoid low-hanging power lines; never attempt to raise or move a power line to clear a path. When moving large equipment or high loads near a power line, always use a spotter to avoid contact with a line. 

If equipment comes into contact with a power line, assume the line is energized and deadly. The operator should NOT get off the machinery unless in immediate danger. If the operator touches the ground and the equipment at the same time, they will become a channel for electricity.

Instead, the operator should stay on the equipment and immediately contact the local electric utility or 911 to report the incident so electricity can be shut off safely before exiting. 

When thunder roars, go indoors

There is no safe place from lightning when you’re outside. It’s important to be aware of weather forecasts and watch for developing thunderstorms, as lightning can strike many miles ahead of a storm front. If you hear thunder, seek shelter immediately because it indicates lightning is within 10 miles. Authorities warn against outdoor activity until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder is heard. Sign up for free county emergency notifications at 

Call before you dig

Spring is prime time for landscaping projects and home improvement projects. Remember to contact Iowa One Call at least two business days before you dig so underground utilities can be properly located and marked. It’s the law, and it could just save your life! Buried utility lines are everywhere, and an underground utility line is damaged every few minutes in the U.S. because someone decided to dig without calling 811 first. 

Move over or slow down 

We need your help keeping our lineworkers, engineers and maintenance workers safe on Iowa’s roadways. If you see any vehicle stopped on the side of the road with flashing lights activated, you are required by law to move over or slow down, preferably both. Please give our employees room on the road to work safely; their families thank you!

Scott Meinecke is the director of safety and loss control for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.

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