Skip ribbon commands
Skip to main content

​Get to know how electricity moves

Whether you're a seasoned professional or new to the crew, knowing how electricity travels is an important part of your safety training. Understanding step potential, touch potential, and arc flashes  is crucial in keeping everyone on your jobsite safe when working near power lines.

There are 3 basic rules about how electricity travels:

  1. It takes the most efficient path to the ground — even if that means going through you.
  2. It moves from higher to lower voltage areas.
  3. Once it reaches the ground, electricity dissipates as it moves away from the source, like ripples on water, and creates different voltage areas.

  Touch potential

Touching an electrified object also puts you at risk of becoming a conduit for electricity to flow to the ground. This is touch potential. You can eliminate the risk of touch potential by staying away from electrified objects or if you're already in the danger zone, carefully shuffling at least 10 metres away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Step potential

Step potential occurs when you walk too close to energized ground. Electricity travels through the ground in waves that lose power as they spread further away from the point of contact. Because one foot may be in a higher voltage area than the other, the electricity will use your body as the most efficient path to travel to the lower voltage area.

Your best line of defense is to always stay at least 10 metres away
from any live electrical source contacting the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Arc flashes

It's common knowledge that making direct contact with an overhead or underground line can cause significant damage to your equipment and, more importantly, result in serious injury or even death.

What's not commonly known is that you don't need to touch a power line for it to be dangerous. Coming within 7 metres of an energized line still puts you, and anyone nearby, at risk of an arc flash.

Arc flashes are electrical explosions that happen when electric current flows through an air gap between conductors. Arc flashes expel deadly amounts of energy and can reach temperatures as high as 19,400°C — that's almost four times hotter than the sun. Even from a distance, that heat can set fire to clothing and burn human skin within milliseconds. Arc flashes also release explosive sound and pressure waves, sometimes with enough strength to knock workers off balance and rupture eardrums, causing hearing loss. The pressure blast of an arc flash can result in impact injury from being thrown, falling from a height, or colliding with nearby objects.