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Old 05-20-2012, 12:22 PM   #1
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Pros: How do you feel about working around high voltage?


In my career I've worked as high as 12.8Kv installations and been in a few ComEd vaults when the power is on. It seemed I could feel the energy in the room as it tried to escape the devices we installed to control it.

One time I had to install a transformer on a pole and right above me was a bare 4160v, shielded only by a rubber boot. I was sweating bullets! I've worked live 480v a few times and that too had me on edge.

When you have to have people around you with a cell phone in hand ready for the unspeakable, you get a serious reality check.

I'm retired now and happy that I will never have to do anything like that again.

This spring I began to take care of things around the house that have been neglected while I was working. I would come home too tired and procrastination was the preferred way to handle them. One much needed thing on that list is staining the house. And I'm dreading it!

The problem is there is a utility easement on the north side of my house, the center of which is 10' from the foundation. And along that line runs utility poles with two bare hot wires on top that are about 3 feet on either side of that line.

The tip of the roof of my house on that side is 29' from grade. I'd say the wires are about 40' from grade. I'll be using a lift and will be spraying the stain. That puts me inside the 10' minimum clearance. I'm not liking that even though I'll have the wires booted before working on that side.

I'll be in constant vigil of where the boom is every time I move anything but I just don't like this. Of course, I can't find a lift with a fiberglass boom anywhere, at least not one that would fit in the space I have.

I sprayed the house back when I built it 26 years ago and it was a major concern then, even though I was less educated and had a bit more spunk than I do now.

So what do you guys do when faced with a situation like this? The only thing I can think of is to be awfully damned careful!

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Old 05-20-2012, 01:22 PM   #2
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Pros: How do you feel about working around high voltage?


Quote:
Originally Posted by JulieMor View Post
.........The only thing I can think of is to be awfully damned careful!
Yea.....

I know how you feel....I deal with MCC's all the time....480 3ph.....1000HP motors....etc.....still don't like it....and never take it for granted....

I don't like anything over 12v.

Want fun? Get your arm across the HV section on a TV. I built an ol' Heathkit color TV about 30 years ago (still works).....not sure what hurt more...the zap or the pain of my slaming my hand agains the edg of the metal cabinet when I was yanking my hand away....

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Old 05-20-2012, 01:29 PM   #3
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Pros: How do you feel about working around high voltage?


If you are not comfortable and nervouse about working around certain voltages then you should not be doing the work. I feel sometime someone that is not comfortable and nervous is sometimes just as bad as someone that is a little too comfortable and gets careless about what's going on.
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Old 05-20-2012, 01:37 PM   #4
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To me the more risk is those who think they know more than they do. The general purpose handyman know it all. Assumed knowledge without actual experience can be a killer.
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Old 05-20-2012, 02:11 PM   #5
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Yea.....

I know how you feel....I deal with MCC's all the time....480 3ph.....1000HP motors....etc.....still don't like it....and never take it for granted....

I don't like anything over 12v.

Want fun? Get your arm across the HV section on a TV. I built an ol' Heathkit color TV about 30 years ago (still works).....not sure what hurt more...the zap or the pain of my slaming my hand agains the edg of the metal cabinet when I was yanking my hand away....
Before I became an electrician, I used to work on pinball machines and video games.
This was in the heyday when you put some kind of graphic and noise the machine made money.

I was adjusting the color and looking around the machine to see the mirror, and my arm got crossed on the HV of the monitor.

First thing I did was look around and see if anyone saw me, then I sat on the skeeball machine and held my arm for 10 minutes!
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Old 05-20-2012, 02:28 PM   #6
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Speaking as someone who is not an electrician I am wondering why some of the things you mention are so dangerous. If you grab a hot wire you are in trouble, but if you donít you should be fine. Right? I do not ask to argue, but rather for education purposes.
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Old 05-20-2012, 04:12 PM   #7
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Well, I guess you shouldn't ever be grounded. Sounds like rubber gloves or a rubber suit is in order but then there might be a moral hazard in that you unnecessarily take risks because you figure you are shockproof.

Of course, if high current passes through your head you won't ever know what hit you. Some electrical pioneer bought it this way; a foot-long spark jumped to head. It might have been Van De Graff.
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Old 05-20-2012, 04:21 PM   #8
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I've worked with 230KV hot, I've gloved 4160 hot, and I work with 480 and lower hot on a fairly regular basis.

To me, there are a few keys to surviving such experiences;

1) Always know where all of your body parts are going to be, especially elbows and knees. Don't just reach out and grab something, know what you're about to do, step by step all the way to the end. Including arm and leg movements. If you need to change your plan in the middle, remember that it'll very likely affect more than a few steps later on.

2) Know what's hot and what's grounded. Sounds simple, but if you forget just once.......

3) Always have a means of quick escape. By this I mean if you do get blasted, make sure you can jerk away and not hit anything. Especially something hot. Kind of a moot point at higher voltages though.

4) In some instances, an arc blast can be far worse than a shock. If, for example, you drop a wrench across a set of 2000 amp 480 volt busses, there's little chance of survival. If you touch one of the busses (277 volts), and you're completely dry, it'll hurt a bit, but you'll very likely live to see another day.

5) Every line truck I've ever been in has the last section of boom fiberglass. Remember, it's only the last section.

6) Never allow inexperienced persons anywhere near hot work. Especially safety guys. By far, the most serious hazard I face in doing hot work is some idiot who knows nothing about what I'm doing, but demands all sorts of protective equipment. It's gotten to the point that if there are a bunch of safety requirements, I will refuse to do the work. It has to be on my terms, not someone elses.

Working stuff hot can be extremely hazardous or completely safe, it all depends on your experience and attitude.

Rob

P.S. In 22 years of full-time electrical work, I've never had anything with serious energy behind it blow up. But I have had a few basic 20 amp 120 volt circuits get out of hand, mainly because i was being complacent with the 'low energy'. You can get just as dead with a basic 120 volt circuit as you can with a 230,000 volt one.
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Old 05-20-2012, 04:33 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Cossack View Post
Speaking as someone who is not an electrician I am wondering why some of the things you mention are so dangerous. If you grab a hot wire you are in trouble, but if you donít you should be fine. Right? I do not ask to argue, but rather for education purposes.
Sometimes there's simply no choice.

For example, if you're adding or replacing a breaker on a hospital emergency switchgear, it cannot be de-energized. Patients will die.

They cannot be moved to another hospital or even another section of the same hospital. There's just no choice but to work it hot.

If you kill an overhead power line in order to work it dead, stuff like traffic signals will be inoperative.

Certainly, most stuff I work hot could be scheduled to be de-energized, but cost is a good-sized part of the equation.

No cost is worth someones life......true. But if this were always the case, why isn't the speed limit 5 MPH nationwide?

There's a balance to everything, and hot work is no exception.

Sometimes the risk is low, other times it's not so low.

Seriously, an experienced lineman working hot presents very little risk. Same thing with an experienced inside wireman working inside stuff hot.

Rob
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Old 05-20-2012, 04:38 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Yoyizit View Post
Well, I guess you shouldn't ever be grounded. Sounds like rubber gloves or a rubber suit is in order but then there might be a moral hazard in that you unnecessarily take risks because you figure you are shockproof.
There's some merit to the first part of the sentence, but in my opinion, it depends a lot on how you were trained and what you're used to.

I was trained to be ungrounded and bare-hand anything 480 or lower. If I were to wear a nuke-suit while adding a breaker to a 480 switchgear, I'd very likely need it!!

There's also a lot of truth to the second part of the sentence too. Complacency is one of your worst enemies.
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Old 05-20-2012, 04:50 PM   #11
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BTW, the elec, chair uses 2400 VAC for a few seconds while the executee gets 4A to 8A. With that many kW I think even a large dude gets pretty warm pretty fast.
How much current does one of those two-terminal, 120v hot dog cookers take?

Among the worst I ever got was 600 VAC through my finger which burned a small hole in my skin. It was a xformer from a tube TV, 5U4 rectifier and all that.

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Old 05-20-2012, 04:52 PM   #12
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Pros: How do you feel about working around high voltage?


Can you get a bucket truck in there? It would be one more line of defence.
If you are using a man lift to do this,I suggest that you run it for a while to get used to it.
I don't know the requirements for them,but for our cranes we always have to be bonded on to the power companies grid while working in the sub stations..
I have set many transformers in sub-stations and I still get on edge because we are working extremely close to everything..
Some of the transformers go upwards of 300,000 Lbs and it's going to be a bad day at the office for everyone there if my configuration is wrong.
You said the lines will be booted,did you already talk to the power company?
I would suggest that you talk to someone in the line dept for their protocol first before you even start.
I refused a job once and they had some boomer come in and do it, he boomed into 26K lines, killed one guy and the other one died about a year later to complications.
Let me tell you if you ever see the cloths melted to a man's body once you'll never forget it.
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Old 05-20-2012, 04:55 PM   #13
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Pros: How do you feel about working around high voltage?


I won't be working anything hot but I will be in close proximity of something that is. The voltage on the utility pole isn't high enough to arc enough to really be scary but touching that line with the arm of the boom and BOOM!

When you're operating a lift with an articulating arm there's a lot going on. I'll set it up in such a way so as to keep the arm parallel with the power lines, if possible. But it's a tight area, probably no more than 7' from the wall of the house to the nearest line. Maybe I've just seen too many "asleep at the wheel" incidents, which I won't be.

Quote:
Speaking as someone who is not an electrician I am wondering why some of the things you mention are so dangerous. If you grab a hot wire you are in trouble, but if you donít you should be fine. Right? I do not ask to argue, but rather for education purposes.
The problem is becoming complacent or so wrapped up in what you're doing you're not looking at the other end of the boom. As far as being safe unless you grab the wire, there's arcing and the higher the voltage the longer the arc. Watch this video as an example of how much 500,000 volts can arc.



The power line next to my house is a fraction of that but it can still kill you in a second.
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Old 05-20-2012, 04:59 PM   #14
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With that many kW I think even a large dude gets pretty warm pretty fast.
BAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddd !!
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Old 05-20-2012, 05:05 PM   #15
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Pros: How do you feel about working around high voltage?


We need to be clear on definitions here, 4160V is never classified as HV.

This are common voltage classifications from IEEE:

Low is <1000V
Medium is 1000V - 69kV
High is 69kV - 230kV
Extra High is 230kV - 350kV
Ultra High is >350kV

Although other organizations will say LV is up to 2000V


Last edited by Code05; 05-20-2012 at 05:17 PM.
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