Manitoba’s largest farm organization fears not enough farmers know about a Hydro regulation meant to ensure they navigate tall equipment safely under power lines.
Farmers moving equipment that exceeds 4.8 metres (15 feet, nine inches) are supposed to apply for a Manitoba Hydro Agricultural Move Permit at their local Manitoba Hydro office.
“It certainly seems to be a lot aren’t aware of it,” said Starbuck farmer and KAP transportation committee chair Chuck Fossay.
That might explain why so many incidents in which equipment comes into contact with the uninsulated wires occur annually.
Hydro officials say there are about 300 contacts every year along their lines; it’s estimated about one in every four involve farm equipment.
In 2011, there were a total of 79 incidents involving overhead power lines logged as agricultural and of these only two did not involve farm equipment, said Scott Powell, a Manitoba Hydro spokesperson.
And while Hydro statistics don’t specify precisely where incidents occur, what they know is that these are occurring both on public roadways as well as yard sites, he added.
Which is why Hydro’s permit system is in place — to help farmers safely navigate roads, by first contacting their local Hydro office and providing detail on equipment size and type as well as a description of the route they intend to travel.
Hydro staff will then dispatch staff to measure and ensure overhead lines along the route are high enough for safe clearance. If they cannot confirm the route is safe, they’ll suggest alternate routes.
The permit issued is valid for 45 days.
The permits have an expiry date so Hydro can continuously monitor line heights. Heights can and do change over time, said Powell.
“Clearance can change even depending on the temperature of the day,” he said, adding that on hot days more stretch and sag to the metals causes the lines to hang lower.
“We’ve heard of differences in clearance of up to 12 to 18 inches. It depends on type of the wire and the material it’s made of. Metals will stretch.”
Three inches of gravel added to a municipal roadway, or heavy rain which cause poles to lean also influence line height.
“If you need 12 inches for a piece of equipment and the line is stretched and the clearance is six to seven inches, we want to know that.”
Hydro generally needs 10 working days from the time a farmer applies to issue the permit. The utility can usually get the measuring work done sooner if it’s been measured not so long ago, and Hydro deems that there have been no significant conditions changed that could affect line height.
“We have to be comfortable that the clearance will be safe for the farmer moving the equipment,” Powell said.
“We don’t want anyone injured with overhead contact. And we don’t want damage to the lines.”
Fossay said KAP’s transportation committee hopes to meet with Hydro officials this spring to talk over the permit process and raise members’ concerns, including the number of days a permit is valid, as well as application procedures.
KAP also wants its membership informed about the permit.
The farm organization created a brochure about it a few years ago to raise farmers’ awareness but thinks farmers may need a reminder, given that farm equipment is getting bigger all the time, Fossay said.
Hydro customer service offices located in the Parklands and Westman area of Manitoba estimate about 25 permits were issued between them last year.
Farmers also require a permit from Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation if their equipment or load height exceeds a height of 4.15 metres (13 feet, seven inches). KAP also passed a resolution at its January meeting calling for harmonizing the permit process between Hydro and MIT.
For more details on Hydro’s overhead power lines distance guidelines or for applying for a Manitoba Hydro Agricultural Move Permit log on to: www.hydro.mb.ca/safety_and_education/farm/overhead_lines.
Concerns about clearance with overhead power lines should be brought to local Manitoba Hydro district offices or call 1-888-MBHYDRO.
Manitoba Hydro overhead power lines distance guidelines
• Know your route before transporting tall equipment;
• Look up and make overhead safety a priority;
• Remember that cultivators, air seeders, and grain augers make contact with overhead power lines most often;
• Move slowly and carefully when you move tall equipment;
• Check to make sure that there’s enough room for clearance; never let anyone ride on top of moving farm equipment or hay bales;
• Only Hydro staff should lift power lines;
• Never transport metal elevators, metal irrigation pipe or metal ladders near power lines;
• Granaries and other farm buildings should be located at least nine metres (30 feet) from overhead power lines.
Source: Manitoba Hydro