Farmers and ranchers across the Midwest continue to work recovering their equipment damaged in the spring 2019 flooding. The safety team at the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center reminds those working to restore equipment to consider personal safety at each step of the process. Exposing farm equipment to any kind of water can result in serious problems and can turn a normally safe piece of equipment into a safety hazard. Submerging electric and internal combustion engines or electric appliances in floodwater only adds to the potential for damage and complicates cleanup. Look for a dirty water line on the equipment to get an idea of how high the floodwater rose.
Injectors or spark plugs must be removed to ensure there is no water in the cylinders. With electric motors, make sure they are completely dried out, free from any dirt, sand, or other flood debris, and grease motor bearings by removing the relief plug and adding grease until the old grease is expelled. Whether an engine is internal combustion or electric, all parts must be thoroughly dried out before attempting to start it. Any water remaining in the cylinders of the engine could cause the engine to lock up if not drained, and any dampness in an electric motor may result in damaging electrical shorts and potentially hazardous electrical shocks. Once the motor has been taken apart, it can be placed in a warm (not too hot) oven to speed drying. Ideally an electrical or internal combustion professional can inspect the motor before it’s reassembled to ensure it’s safe to operate.
Because floodwater contains a wide range of particles such as sand, silt, and contaminants that include an abundance of fuel, pesticides and other chemicals, carefully inspect engine parts for traces of contamination. Always wear gloves to protect yourself when handling contaminated parts. Ensure that those working around you are aware of possible contamination. Always keep children away from flood-contaminated equipment.
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