Sunday, October 16, 2016

A father and son farmers were killed when the farming auger they were handling hit an overhead power line in Sand Creek Township.

Two electrocuted when auger hits power line on Scott County farm

October 16, 2016 — 1:52pm
Sand Creek Township, MN
A father and son were killed Sunday morning when the farming auger they were handling hit an overhead power line, authorities said.

Capt. Scott Haas of the Scott County Sheriff’s Office said a 911 call came in at 10:11 a.m. that two men had been electrocuted on their family farm in the 20800 block of Xanadu Avenue in Sand Creek Township.

The men were unresponsive when they were found by a family member. The two had been lifting a farming auger, similar to a grain elevator, when it came in contact with a power line.

Rescue workers tried to resuscitate the men with CPR, but one was declared dead at the scene. The other was flown to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he was pronounced dead.

The victims’ names will be released by the Hennepin County medical examiner’s office.


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Authorities in southwest metro say a father and his son were electrocuted Sunday when a large piece of farm equipment touched a power line.

The incident happened shortly after 10 a.m. in Sand Creek Township, the Scott County Sheriff’s Office said.

The father and son were lifting the auger up to a grain elevator when the wind caused the auger to sway and touch a nearby power line. A family member found both men unconscious, the sheriff’s office said. The father, a 53-year-old man, was pronounced dead at the scene despite efforts with CPR.

Emergency crews flew to the son, a 25-year-old man, to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

The names of the victims will be released by the medical examiner’s office. The Jordan Fire Department, Allina Ambulance and Jordan Police Department assisted the Scott County Sheriff’s Office at the scene.


Overhead power lines on a farm or ranch can pose a significant electrocution hazard. 

Because power lines may have been installed without insulation or the insulation may have worn off due to exposure to weather, you should assume that all power lines are bare. Death from electrocution can occur when a person touches a power line while he or she is also in contact with the ground. When electricity enters something or someone, it takes the easiest and shortest path to electrical ground, the point at which the electricity is absorbed (as in the earth).

There are numerous pieces of equipment on a farm or ranch that, due to their height, can come in contact with overhead power lines:

  • loader tractors 
  • portable grain augers and elevators 
  • dump trucks 
  • cultivators in transport mode
  • irrigation pipes 
  • equipment with antennas 

Specific Risks

  • Dump trucks: When raised, the bed of a dump truck or trailer can contact overhead power lines. The person operating the dump truck should note the location of power lines before raising the bed and should not move the dump truck or trailer while the bed is in the raised position.
    • Typically, if a raised bed contacts a power line, the operator will not be at risk of electrocution if he or she remains inside the vehicle because the truck’s tires provide insulation. If, however, a person standing on the ground touches the dump truck or trailer while it is in contact with an overhead line, he or she could be electrocuted.
  • Hay: A loader tractor or telescopic loader may be used during hay handling. Because the booms of such vehicles may reach as high as overhead power lines, putting the vehicle at risk of contact, hay should not be stored under power lines.  
  • Grain bin: Electrocution incidents associated with grain bins occur when augers and/or elevator equipment is used in the vicinity of overhead power lines. The National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) requires that, where a portable auger or filling equipment is used, power lines be at least 18 ft. above the highest point on any grain bin constructed after 1992.
    • Consult a licensed electrician or your local power company for guidance when planning changes to your grain bin operations.
As a farmer or rancher, you can reduce your risk of electrocution by following these recommendations:

  • Be aware of the location of overhead power lines on your farm, and avoid the risk of electrocution by choosing a route for your equipment that avoids potential contact.
  • Never touch a power line.
  • Contact your local power company if an incident occurs.
  • Never use ladders around power lines.
  • Remember that some equipment may have a higher profile during transport.
  • Maintain a 10 ft. clearance space between the power lines and your equipment. Contact your power company to determine the height of power lines on your farm.
  • If you are in a tractor and come in contact with power lines, remain in the tractor and have someone contact the power company to shut off the power.
    • If you are in a tractor that contacts power lines and you must exit because of an emergency such as a fire, jump out and away from the tractor as far as possible. Never allow any part of your body to touch both the equipment and the ground at the same time. Plan to fall away from the tractor to avoid tripping back into contact with the tractor.
  • Review safety measures with all individuals working on your farm, whether full-time, part-time, seasonal, or voluntary.
  • Remember that even nonmetallic objects such as tree limbs, ropes, and straw can conduct electricity.

How to Prevent Electrical Accidents

David E. Baker
Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering
Electricity, one of the most versatile and widely used power sources, is used extensively on almost every farm. Farmers are so familiar with electricity that they may take electrical safety for granted. When this happens, accidents often follow. The National Safety Council reports almost 500 electrical fatalities annually. On average, more than 20 of these deaths are directly related to farming operations.
How much electricity is fatal? People can feel electrical currents at levels as low as approximately 1 milliamp (mA), which produces a slight tingling sensation. Increasing current levels above the 5 mA "let go" threshold can cause loss of muscular control, irregular heart rhythm and, finally, cardiac arrest. Five mA is only a small fraction of the current needed to power a 60-watt bulb, which draws about 1/2 amp, or 500 mA.
Electrical shock occurs when a person touches an electrically charged object at the same time they are touching another surface capable of conducting electricity to ground. A current then passes between the points of contact. The shock effects depend on the amperage, duration of contact and resistance of the pathway through the body. For example, damp skin is less resistant to current flow and permits greater shock effects. For this reason, you should work in a dry environment while handling electrical equipment.
The seriousness of a shock depends on the path the current takes through the body. For example, a small current passing through the heart is much more critical than a current passing between two fingers of the same hand. Testing for live current with one hand instead of two reduces the risk of a dangerous shock by making current less likely to flow through the heart.
Be aware of potential danger from power lines when operating grain augers and other types of tall farm equipment.
Figure 1
Be aware of potential danger from power lines when operating grain augers and other types of tall farm equipment.

Power hand tools

Portable power tools are one of the most frequent causes of death by electrocution on farms. Farm workers typically expose themselves to more electrical hazards than do workers in other industries. They frequently work alone, often operating electrical equipment in damp and dusty places with no one nearby to help in case of an accident. Farm work thus requires extra caution in using power tools. Follow these precautions:
  • Never use any electrical hand tool that does not carry the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Listing Mark. This mark indicates the tool has undergone extensive testing and has been found to be safe when properly maintained.
  • Older tools with a two-wire design should be immediately upgraded to a three-wire system by qualified personnel. If your tool cannot be upgraded, discard it. Most power tools in use today have a three-wire system. This third wire serves as an emergency ground in case of an internal short or ground fault.
  • Make sure the three-wire system is maintained through all adapters and extension cords. Adapters not properly connected to receptacle boxes make the ground fault wire ineffective.
  • Never disconnect or carry power tools by their cords. This causes the cord's insulation to rapidly deteriorate. Inspect tool and extension cords routinely for fraying and other signs of deterioration. Repair or replace immediately.
  • Consider using a ground fault interrupter (GFI). GFIs do not replace traditional protection provided by current isolation, insulation and grounding, but they are a backup if insulation or grounding fails due to age, abuse or mechanical breakdown. The GFI detects low levels of leaking current and cuts off power quickly at leakages greater than 5 mA.

Overhead lines

Too often, careless handling of farm equipment around electric power lines and utility poles leads to tragedy. Accidents can be prevented by insisting that hired hands and family members learn to survey work areas before using farm equipment. Make each worker determine that equipment will not come within 10 feet of power lines or power support equipment. Electrocutions can occur even if actual contact is not made with the line. The greater the line voltage, the farther electricity is able to "jump" to a ground conductor.
Recognize that power lines often follow property lines. As workers reach the end of the field and turn the equipment, there is a good chance power lines will be nearby. Power lines also are often near grain and equipment storage facilities. Be sure that paths from equipment storage areas to fields and from the fields to grain storage areas are safe routes. If you have any doubts that your equipment will clear a line, assume that it will not and take measures to avoid possible contact.
Crop storage equipment such as balers and stackers can be extended in height to exceed electric code clearances for power lines. When storing hay or baled straw, take precautions to be sure the stacking equipment will not come into contact with power lines.
Portable grain augers are a leading cause of farm electrocutions. Lower augers when moving them from one bin to another. The operating height of an auger usually is greater than the height of power lines. If workers push one into a line by hand, they can be instantly electrocuted.

Stray voltage

Voltages greater than 1 volt disturb cattle, decrease dairy cow milk production and lower the average daily gain in beef cattle. If animals are exposed long enough to voltages greater than 25 volts, the voltage can be fatal.
Stray voltage on farms may stem from several sources. The voltage may occur predictably throughout the day, or it may occur randomly. These factors make controlling stray voltage a major problem.
On-farm stray voltages have been traced to the following sources:
  • Ground faults on the farm.
  • Voltage gradients across the ground or floor due to wires faulted in the earth.
  • Electric fence wires shorting directly to equipment or energizing pipes and equipment.
Electrical motors and equipment can "short out" or ground fault to their outside casings. The severity can vary from a fault with no visible effect to a complete short circuit. When short circuits occur, all conductive materials, such as stainless steel milk lines and pipe fencing, become energized. Wood also can conduct electricity when it is wet. To correct the problem, faulty equipment should be repaired or replaced immediately by someone with proper training. The three-wire electrical supply line helps reduce the problem when the fault first occurs.
Voltage gradients through the earth or across a floor occur when an underground wire faults to earth. This often happens when the insulation of underground wires not rated for direct burial becomes damaged. Typically, the wires have not been buried at the proper depth. Underground wires buried many years ago are suspect, particularly if voltage gradients are detected in the earth. To correct the problem, the lines must be replaced with ones rated for direct burial.
Electric fence wires running through buildings can cause problems when building electrical wire is used. The maximum insulation rating of building electrical wire is 600 volts, which is not adequate insulation for the high-voltage pulse output of a fence charger. When this type of stray voltage is suspected, look for breakdowns in the insulation that could be causing a fault to metal equipment inside a barn. To prevent this problem, use insulated wire rated beyond the maximum voltage output of the fence charger.