SSEN and NFU join forces to send safety message to farming’s next generation

Group of people in lecture theatre

Image above shows (from left to right): Sparsholt College tutor Steve Field, second year student Laura, SSEN's Rebecca Botto, Stuart Howell and Joe Cherrett with NFU South East Representative Matt Culley

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has joined forces with the National Farmers Union (NFU) to raise awareness of the dangers of working near power lines, by addressing the next generation of farmers and land managers at a Hampshire college.

For over two years now, SSEN and the NFU have worked closely together to highlight the award winning ‘Look out, Look up’ campaign that aims to improve safety for those working on farms and land where overhead cables are situated in central southern England.

Now the distribution operator and the representative body for agriculture and horticulture have teamed up to deliver a talk to second-year students studying agriculture in Sparsholt College; spreading the safety message to a new and wider audience.

SSEN’s Customer and Community Advisor, Rebecca Botto helped deliver the talk to the thirty students in attendance and said: “Drivers of farm machinery face the risk of death or injury if they hit an overhead power line or pole and we make every effort to ensure that we’re flagging up the potential dangers and how these incidents can be avoided.

“By working with NFU to deliver this talk to the students, we’re both sharing real experiences that can help the students relate more to the situation and how they can keep themselves safe at work.”

In the last year, SSEN recorded over 850 incidents on agricultural land across both its north and south networks, where third-parties came into contact with poles, overhead lines and cables; resulting in local electricity supplies being disrupted and potentially causing serious injury, or worse, to those involved. 

Speaking to the students about his own experiences of dealing with incidents where farm machinery has come in to contact with power lines, SSEN’s Network Construction Team Manager, Stuart Howell added: “Electricity can ‘jump’, so it’s vital to help these students understand the dangers, as well as the safety measures they can take. That includes knowing the distance they need to maintain when working near the network, having the 105 emergency number stored on their phones and being aware of the basic safety guidelines to follow if they are ever unfortunate enough to come into contact with the electricity infrastructure.”

NFU South East Representative, Matt Culley has been instrumental in working with SSEN to spread the safety message to the farming community and passed on his advice to the young farmers: “This is about working safely, understanding the land and the width and height of the machinery you might be using. Each day can be different and that’s why I can’t stress enough the importance of risk assessing every job, and briefing and training staff properly.

“Mapping where poles, lines and pylons are and taking the opportunity to work around these during the hours of daylight - so you know you’re working a safe distance away from them if you have to operate machinery after dark - are small measures to take and could save a life.”

Laura was just one of the final-year Sparsholt College students attending the talk and added: “It’s been really good to hear from people who have worked in the industry for years and can share their experience and techniques with us, so we can start our working lives in arable and livestock farming with a greater knowledge of how we can work safely.”

In addition to highlighting the ‘Look out, Look up’ campaign and the importance of risk assessing before using any machinery near power lines, SSEN and NFU talked about the importance of rural customers and communities being vigilant and reporting damage that they might see on the network as soon as possible, by using SSEN’s free services such as the 105 emergency number and the Power Track app.

People are advised to avoid approaching damaged or fallen power lines, keep at least five metres away, report incidents immediately by calling us on 105 or using the Power Track app from their mobile device, and follow these safety guidelines: 

  • ‘Look out, Look up!’ before you start work in any areas where electricity lines are present.
  • Risk assess and be aware of the height of machinery that will be in use near lines and ensure there’s plenty of clearance – remember that electricity can ‘jump’ if an object comes near enough.
  • If you do come in to contact with an overhead line or cable, stay in your cab or vehicle and try to avoid touching anything metal within it.
  • Call 105 immediately – this is the UK-wide single emergency number for power companies and is the quickest way to put you through to the correct network operator.
  • If the situation is too dangerous to stay put, for example, if the machinery is affected by fire, it’s advised that you leap out of the vehicle as high and as far as you can to avoid touching any part of the machinery or electricity network.

If you would like further information on staying safe when working near power lines, please click on the links to find out more about SSEN’s Power Track app and the 105 number, and this year’s ‘Look out, Look up’ campaign.