Saturday, August 16, 2008

Electrical safety for Agriculture

1. Reducing the risks
Hazards associated with all electrical power cords, fittings, machinery, tools and equipment need to be identified. Assess each hazard for the likelihood and severity of possible injury or harm, and develop safe work procedures. If there is any risk of electric shock or electrocution, make sure the item is put out of use and either isolated, or kept in a safe place until repaired or discarded.
2. General safety tips
- Regularly inspect wiring, cords, plugs, tools and equipment for obvious external damage and look out for shorting or sparking fittings.
- Always get an electrical contractor to install, alter or repair electrical wires, plugs, switches, fuses or electrical machinery and equipment.
- Weatherproof outlets and fittings should be used in areas exposed to wind and rain.
- Avoid using electrical equipment outdoors in wet conditions.
- Do not overload circuits by plugging in too many electrical appliances at once.
- Do not remove guards or covers from electrical switch gear.
- Lights that may be broken by moving equipment should be fitted with wire guards.
- Ensure extension cords are positioned in work areas so they do not create a slip or trip hazard and are not exposed to physical damage.
- Wear suitable footwear and clothing when using electrical equipment.
3. Residual current device (RCD)
- An RCD is an electrical safety device specially designed to switch off immediately when electricity ‘leaks’ to earth at a level harmful to a human. These devices offer a high level of personal protection from electric shock.
- Only licensed electrical contractors can install a RCD.
- A fixed RCD can be installed in the switchboard in the house, shed or workshop, or portable RCDs can be used with individual power tools.
- If an RCD operates (trips), check the electrical equipment for obvious faults. If it keeps tripping out, call an electrical contractor.
4. Fuses
Australian Standard AS/NZS3000:2000 prohibits the installation of semi-enclosed rewirable fuses.
If a fuse operates (blows), switch off and check the electrical equipment being used before replacing the fuse wire. If the fuse operates again, call an electrical contractor, as there is a fault with the wiring or the appliance or tool. When replacing fuse wire, make sure its rating is correct for the circuit. An oversize fuse wire could cause damage to the electrical installation wiring or a fire.
5. Earth wires
Earth wires should never be removed or disconnected. They are an essential safety feature. The purpose of earth wires is to divert any current leakage to the ground and cause a fuse to blow or a RCD to trip should a fault develop. The earth wire is usually a bare or green and yellow insulated copper wire connected to a water pipe or stake driven into the ground.
6. Overhead power lines
- Always check the location of power lines before you start work.
- Power line heights are deceptive. Know the operation and maximum height of your machine.
- Have an observer check your position when working close to overhead power lines.
- Make sure tall items like balers and headers are kept well clear of overhead wires.
- Never stack irrigation pipes or park machinery under power lines.
- Never up-end a pipe before looking up. Carry pipes horizontally.
- Never ride on top of loads.
- If aerial crop-dusting is to be performed, inform the pilot beforehand of the location and height of the power lines in the area.
- Plan farm roads to avoid passing under power lines and have new power lines installed so they do not cross over roads.
- Always check plans and records of underground powerlines before any digging or earthworks.
- Ensure that power lines on your property are secure after storms, wind or heavy rain.
- If a power line has been damaged or has fallen down, keep clear and notify the power supply authority.
7. Power tools
- Make sure all hand-held power tools and appliances are protected by an RCD.
- When buying a portable power tool, look for double insulated tools – they are safer.
- Regularly check power tools, leads and plugs for external damage or makeshift repairs.
- Ensure an electrical contractor, electrician or licensed appliance repairer inspects and tests power tools, leads and plugs on a regular basis.
- Do not use tools if the casing, cords or plugs are broken or damaged.
- Do not adjust tools without first switching off and removing the plug from the outlet.

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