Most people are aware that electricity can be dangerous.  High Voltage areas are especially risky.  However, It can actually be quite safe as long as the basic principles of electricity are understood and that all adhere to proper safety precautions.

The Basics

Electricity is always looking for a way to ground and will take the path of least resistance to get there.  Electrical shock occurs when electricity uses the human body as its path.  Since we are 80% water, our bodies work as an excellent conductor.  Electricity actually travels at the speed of light and can burn three to four times hotter than a burning building.  Yes, it can be hazardous.  That is why every safety precaution available must be used. High Voltage is a term used to refer to electrical energy that is over 600 volts – extremely powerful.

Ensure proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

The term, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), has become quite well known since the onset of COVID-19.  However, the use of PPE is a part of most construction-related industries and has been for a very long time. Safety protocols are an everyday practice in jobs where injuries can happen at any time. PPE is one of the first steps in keeping safe on a worksite.  Working in High Voltage areas, PPE includes:

  • - Fire-resistant clothing which could include coveralls the stand up to an ARC Flash
  • - Insulated boots (safety / steel-toed rated dielectric footwear)
  • - Insulating gloves used with leather/cloth linings for shock protection
  • - Safety glasses with side shields
  • - Face masks with shields
  • - Hard hats with full or partial brims
  • - Insulated tools suck as a Hot stick – An electrically insulated stick (usually fiberglass) with a tool on the end to perform various operations such as testing for High Voltage, grounding conductive surfaces, and performing some mechanical operations.
  • - Insulated mats and blankets
  • - Remove (or enclose) and jewelry that may act as an additional conductor

Employers must make sure all PPEs are available for employees to use.  All protective equipment must be inspected frequently.  Each worker should check the PPE being used each time it is being used.  If there is wear or damage, use an alternate piece. Report any damage or wear immediately so it can be replaced, repaired and tested.

NEVER work alone

When working in an environment where safety practices are a constant necessity, it is wise to never work alone.  An additional set of eyes allows for scanning potential danger so each person should be aware of the risks, how equipment works and what to do if there is a problem.   Having another person with you gives each person to have a back-up if there is an incident, and someone who can turn off the power and call for assistance if an injury does occur.

Step and Touch Potential

As stated earlier, electrical current seeks ground and will find a way to travel there.  When the current reaches ground, it spreads out like ripples.  Voltage is very high at the point of contact but decreases as it gets farther away.  “Step potential” is the term used to advise that there is a difference in Voltage even a step apart. Since the human body is a good conductor, if one foot is closer to the point of contact and the other foot is on a less dangerous ripple, the current can go up one leg and out the other, causing injury   So, keep your feet touching; it could prevent the current from seeking another outlet. If you find yourself on an energized area, move away from the highest charged area.  However, you must keep your feet touching by shuffling to move.  This keeps your feet touching and gives the current nowhere to travel through you.  “Touch potential” is the same guide.  If you are standing on a Low Voltage (or no Voltage) are and touch an area that is higher Voltage, your body will be used as a conductor.  To remain safe in either scenario, keep your feet together and do not reach out to touch anything that retains Voltage

Extra Safety Tips

There are always numerous ways to approach safety in the workplace.  Working in High Voltage areas brings specific practices to the forefront.  One way to ensure that safety protocols are monitored continually is to create a safety checklist.  This checklist should be reviewed at the beginning and end of each shift.  This list should include testing equipment, especially that which monitors Voltage.

Although you are on constant alert for electric current, another potential danger is the creation of an arc that can cause fire and burns.  This can happen if equipment is on such a Low Voltage that it cannot cause shock.  Monitor any areas or situations that could possibly create an arc.

Get rest. You might not consider this an essential safety tip, but it really is. Your intelligence is your primary safety tool.  If you are tired or upset, you are not in top condition to be vigilant.  You need to be on the top of your game.  Your life can depend on it.  Do your best to get proper rest before working and address any issues that may disrupt your ability to focus.

Any area that has electricity in use has the potential to be dangerous.  That is why it is imperative to call in professionals, like those at Crew Electrical in Calgary and Cochrane areas. Crew Electrical has certified personnel who can address any residential, commercial or industrial electrical need you may have.   However, High Voltage areas can be hazardous.  It is always imperative to take safety seriously, but the bigger the risk, the more vigilant you need to be.  If you are not a professional, call one.  If you are a professional, this article is a reminder of the dangers found in High Voltage areas.  Be safe out there.

Author Bio: Cory Magee is a Red Seal, Calgary electrician and co-founder of Crew Electrical Services. If you require professional electrical services for your residential or commercial project, call Crew Electrical today at 403.909.0888 or email us at info@crewlectricalservices.ca. We are open from 7 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. Visit our secure website at https://www.crewelectricalservices.ca/ to find out more.