Farm Duty motors operate near people and livestock, performing a variety of tasks in harsh conditions. Accidents that result in electric shock, damaged machinery, or fires can spell disaster for your farm's productivity and severely impact your livelihood.
Fortunately, the large majority of electric motor accidents are entirely preventable. With the right approach to safety during motor installation, operation, and maintenance, you can minimize the risk for you, your family, your employees, and your farm business.
Safe Motor Installation
During the installation of a farm duty motor, you have an opportunity to take steps to improve the safety of people and animals in the vicinity of where your motor will be operating.
Before installing the motor, make a thorough inspection of the electrical system that it will be connected to. Poor grounding from damaged wiring can lead to stray voltages on surfaces that people and livestock regularly contact. The effects can range from minor to deadly, depending on the condition of the wiring. Tiny voltages that humans overlook may be felt by livestock, increasing stress and interfering with your animals' productivity and management.
If you are operating a large motor, the inrush current at start-up can create stray voltages even on a well-maintained system and create a voltage drop that impairs motor performance and affects sensitive equipment all over the network. Consider fitting the motor with a soft starter to prevent this from happening.
To reduce the risk of live wires becoming exposed through damage, avoid using extension cords for permanent motors. Invest in proper wiring with protection from moisture and heat, out of the way of people and animals. Don’t wrap the excess cable around motors or any surface that could become hot and melt the insulation.
When installing a motor, make sure the motor is properly and securely mounted, with correct alignment and belt tension. This will reduce vibration in the load. Vibration can damage equipment and pose a safety risk in a sudden failure event. Securely install guards and covers over any rotating parts of the motor or any exposed electrical contacts. Establish safety protocols with everyone on the farm for working in the vicinity.
Safely Operating Your Motor
When a motor is operating, every effort should be made to maintain a safe environment and reduce the risk of injury to people and livestock.
Every time the motor runs, make sure that all guards are in place and that animals cannot stray or come into contact with cables, drive belts, or any moving parts on the motor. Keep dry, combustible materials away from motors and other electrical equipment to reduce the risk of a fire in the case of an accident, such as a short circuit or burnout.
If the motor's start/stop switch is far from where it is operating, ensure that there is a separate manual isolating switch close to it. It must be possible to stop the motor immediately if it becomes clear that a problem or accident is developing.
Ensure that the motor has overload protection in the event of a sudden excessive load situation such as a locked rotor. If the motor is not being used with separate controls or external overload protection, choose a motor with an integrated manual overload circuit. Ensure that circuit breakers and fuses are properly sized and avoid the temptation to oversize them to prevent interruptions from legitimate issues.
Safe Motor Maintenance
Maintaining a farm duty motor is a task that must be carried out regularly, and you may want to handle small maintenance jobs on your own. Always follow safety practices during maintenance work, as the risk of accidents greatly increases when someone is working on the motor.
Before Carrying Out Maintenance
Before working on the motor, the most important step is to cut off power to the motor by switching it off or unplugging it from the electrical system. If possible, use a lockout system that uses a padlock to prevent the main switch from being operated. Don’t trust that a switch is doing its job – check the voltage across the motor's terminals to ensure that power is really off before touching terminals and wiring.
If the motor uses a thermal overload protector, make doubly sure that the power is shut off, as power may be restored suddenly to the motor when it has cooled down. If using an access ladder to reach the motor, try to use one that is made of a non-conductive material such as fibreglass to reduce the risk of electric shock if you accidentally come into contact with live wires.
Safety During Maintenance Work
Before doing anything else, if your motor is a capacitor-start type, make sure that all capacitors are fully discharged, as they can hold a lethal charge for some time after power is disconnected. Don’t open parts of the motor that you don’t need to, and keep guards and covers in place unless you must remove them. Keep hands and clothes away from any rotating parts and use basic personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce personal injury risk.
When you are finished, fully reassemble and test the motor before putting it back into operation.
Maintaining strict safety protocols around farm duty motors helps protect you, your family, your employees, and your valuable livestock ensuring that your farm is a safe and productive environment season after season.