Electricity is a powerful and useful resource. We rely on it daily to power our homes, offices, factories, and more. However, when its potential isn’t respected and adequately managed, electricity can become dangerous, particularly in high-voltage environments. For many workers who interact with electrical systems as part of their job duties, the hazards associated with working around high voltage are genuine and severe threats that cannot be taken lightly.
In this post, we’ll explore some of the dangers of working with high-voltage equipment so you can better understand why taking diligent precautions against electrocution is essential for electricians and anyone else who closely interacts with power lines or components containing large amounts of electricity.
Hazards Associated With Working Around High Voltage
Like any potential hazard, the risks associated with working around high-voltage equipment should not be ignored or overlooked. To best protect yourself and stay safe in high-voltage environments, be aware of some of the most common hazards that are present:
One of the most common and potentially lethal dangers associated with working around high-voltage equipment is electrocution or being shocked through contact with a live electrical wire. This type of electrical shock may result in severe injuries—including serious burns, paralysis, cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, and even death. The severity of the injury—and the risk of death—largely depend on the voltage and current of the electrical source. So, it’s essential to understand a particular electric source’s strength before working with it.
High-voltage electricity also carries a greater risk of burns than lower-voltage electricity does. When exposed to higher voltages, the body may have an increased resistance, which causes an electrical current to flow across the skin’s surface rather than through the body’s interior. The resulting electric arc can cause severe burns extending further into the skin layers than with lower voltages.
3. Explosion and Fire Risk
In addition to electrocution and burn risks, working around high-voltage equipment also carries a risk of explosion and fire. Electrical arcs can cause sparks, which can ignite flammable materials nearby. This may result in an explosion or fire that could spread quickly and cause severe damage to property and personnel. While this risk is lower than with electrocution, it’s still a potential hazard that must be considered when working with high-voltage systems.
4. Muscular Contractions
Sometimes high voltages lead to additional injuries. High voltages can cause violent muscular contractions. You may lose your balance and fall, which can cause injury or even death if you fall into machinery that can crush you. High voltages can also cause severe burns.
5. Damage To Internal Organs
At 600 volts, the current through the body may be as great as 4 amps, causing damage to internal organs such as the heart. High voltages also produce burns. In addition, internal blood vessels may clot. Nerves around the contact point may be damaged. Muscle contractions may cause bone fractures from either contractions or falls.
6. Environmental Impact
Finally, one of the lesser-known risks associated with high-voltage equipment is its potential environmental impact. Because electricity can cause pollution in the form of emissions and waste, it’s essential to take steps to reduce this impact when dealing with high-voltage systems. This may include using energy-efficient equipment, recycling materials, and managing waste properly to ensure it doesn’t leak into the environment. Taking these steps can help protect the environment while also ensuring worker safety.
Why Do People Freeze When Receive Electrical Shock?
When a person receives an electrical shock, sometimes the electrical stimulation causes the muscles to contract. This “freezing” effect prevents the person from pulling free of the circuit. It is hazardous because it increases the length of exposure to electricity and because the current causes blisters, which reduce the body’s resistance and increase the current.
The longer the exposure, the greater the risk of serious injury. Longer exposures at relatively low voltages can be just as dangerous as short exposures at higher voltages. Low voltage does not imply low hazard. In addition to muscle contractions that cause “freezing,” electrical shocks can also cause involuntary muscle reactions. These reactions can result in many other injuries from collisions or falls, including bruises, bone fractures, and even death.
If a person is “frozen” to a live electrical contact, shut off the current immediately. If this is impossible, use boards, poles, or sticks made of wood or other nonconducting materials and safely push or pull the person away from the contact. It’s essential to act quickly, but remember to protect yourself from electrocution or shock.
In conclusion, working with high-voltage electricity carries various risks that must be taken seriously. Electrocution, burns, explosions and fires, and environmental damage are all potential hazards that workers in electrical environments must be aware of and take steps to prevent. Taking the time to properly understand the risks associated with high-voltage electricity and training for appropriate safety protocols is essential for anyone who works in this environment. Doing so is the best way to protect personnel and property from harm.