It's harvest season and the inclination for farmers is to look down, not up. They look down from their seats in combines at the thousands of rows of corn and beans they're harvesting and carrying away to silos and big piles at collection stations.

Although the inclination is to look down, Nebraska Public Power District is urging farmers to look up and around. The safety message is going out because last week, a grain trailer contacted an NPPD powerline. The trailer's tires were damaged, as was the NPPD powerline, but fortunately nobody was injured or killed.

According to NPPD's Transmission and Distribution Manager Art Wiese, last week's grain trailer accident was one of several this fall, so farmers need to be careful to put safety first, even in the rush of harvest.

NPPD suggests starting each day of harvest with a safety briefing that includes a reminder of all of the electrical lines and poles that drivers of harvest equipment need to avoid. Taller trucks, trailers and combines — many of which are significantly wider than in the past — multiply the likelihood that accidents might happen.

What should equipment operators do if they accidentally run into a powerline and are entangled?

NPPD said you're probably safest if you patiently remain inside the equipment. Call for help and stay put until it arrives.

If the line is energized, anyone who steps outside could become the path for the electrical current — a deadly mistake.

If you must, the safe strategy is to jump — not step — with both feet hitting the ground simultaneously. NPPD advises to jump clear. Do not touch the vehicle and ground at the same time, and continue to shuffle to safety, keeping both feet as close together as possible as you leave the area.

While looking up and around for the big machinery, don't overlook the little stuff. Ladders, poles and even tree limbs and ropes can conduct electricity if they're damp or contaminated with dirt.

Kearney (Nebraska) Hub, Oct. 3.

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