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New product could help reduce death due to power line contact

Illinois Correspondent

PEORIA, Ill. — Mark McLaren loved his past career as a manager for Farm Service Company and still enjoys his current job as sales manager for Illinois Oil Marketing Equipment Company, from where he will retire next July. Now, along with his family, the Bartonville, Ill., man is embarking on a new professional adventure as founder of SHOCKAVOID, a provider of high voltage proximity alarms for the agriculture industry and other sectors. 
Proximity alarms detect deadly E-fields that are present around AC power lines. SHOCKAVOID’s Compass CE60 is a lightweight, non-contact voltage and current detector that can easily be affixed to the end of a sprayer or boom arm. Its advanced notification system quickly warns users of the presence of overhead and below ground voltage and current on a work site, by transmitting a signal to the vehicle cab through a patented Sigalarm brand system panel. The Sigalarm panel can also warn users of impending lightning storms. 
The story of the fledgling family company’s founding is one borne of tragedy, loss and a desire to create a safer work environment for farmers and farm employees.
“SHOCKAVOID is focused on reducing and preventing accidental electrocution caused by contact between farm equipment and high-tension power lines. Most people know that ag is one of the most dangerous professions in the United States, but most people don’t know that accidental electrocution is a leading cause of death and dismemberment in the ag industry,” said McLaren, while managing a vending booth during the Greater Peoria Farm Show (PFS) on Tuesday, November 30 along with his wife, Trudy, and daughter Amanda. “We have seen too many people over the years get electrocuted, and I began to ask myself why isn’t anyone doing anything about this?”
The 2019 accidental electrocution of 24-year-old Cody Conrady in a farm field near Peoria was on the mind of the McLaren family when Mark decided to make SHOCKAVOID the focus of his “retirement.” Conrady was severely injured on his next-to-last day as an assistant manager for an ag fertilizer company. With the company shorthanded that day, Conrady jumped in his truck to get ahead of the sprayer. 
According to reports, once the sprayer was in place Conrady hopped out of the truck to fill the tank with fertilizer. After a sprayer boom had either made contact or gotten too close to a power line, 7,400 volts of electricity traveled through the boom — electrifying the equipment and ground where Conrady was standing. The stray voltage considered the teen’s body as part of its electrical path to ground, inflicting serious injuries to Conrady’s left arm and right leg resulting in amputations.
Conrady went on to graduate from Illinois Central College and the University of Illinois, get married and become a self-employed farmer in Champaign County. 
“Cody is now a big supporter of what we are doing, and appeared with us at MAGIE this year to promote our product,” said Trudy McLaren. 
In addition, as an FS manager Mark had also known several friends and business acquaintances through the years who had been injured or killed by accidental contact with power lines. 
“In these incidents, a couple of seconds and a couple of feet can make all the difference. We’re giving an additional amount of time with our product — two seconds or two feet earlier can save a life. That’s what this is all about,” said McLaren.
Only a few SHOCKAVOID systems are in use on Illinois farms to date, though the early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. “They are doing very well and the operators have told us they are very impressed because they are simple to use. That’s one of the key elements that we wanted to feature — if it’s too complicated no one will want to use it. It’s on all the time when you turn the key in the ignition,” McLaren said, adding that those stopping by the family’s booth at the 40th GPFS had been very receptive to and curious about the SHOCKAVOID system. 
‘We’ve had an incredible reception. Almost everyone we’ve talked to with experience in agriculture has said they’d had a close call or near-miss themselves, or may have a relative or neighbor who was injured or killed. Or maybe they had shut out the lights in their local community by shutting down the power supply, or had lost equipment from an electrical fire.” 
Although McLaren came to the GPFS to market his life-saving product to farmers, professional custom applicators and farm cooperatives, SHOCKAVOID alarms can also be utilized in the construction business. McLaren would like to see such systems become standard equipment on new farm machinery, and envisions a day when states, counties and municipalities require them on all applicable vehicles and machinery. 
For more information on SHOCKAVOID, visit