Youth ages 15-25 are especially at risk for workplace accidents. Explore workplace scenarios to inspire critical thinking around electrical safety, preparedness, and how to speak up if a situation is potentially unsafe.
Electricity always seeks a path to ground and it travels along power lines because they are
When something like a kite, a tree, or a ladder makes contact with a live power line, it may create a new path to ground and electricity may flow. For example, if a kite touches a power line, the electrical current could travel through the kite – and the person holding the string - to reach the ground. We call this hazard “touch potential” because you create a path to ground by touching something. Birds are safe when they are standing on a power line as long as they are not creating a path to ground.
When the electricity flows to ground it will energize the ground. The place where the current touches the ground is the highest voltage and a gradient is established as the voltage decreases over distance. We call this hazard “step potential” because a person could be exposed to thousands of volts with each step as they walk across the gradient. Electricity can travel up one leg and down the other due to the difference in voltage. By keeping your legs together and shuffling your feet, heel to toe, you minimize the amount of the gradient that you are crossing with each footstep. The gradient could reach 10 metres, that’s why we tell people to shuffle 10 metres – about the length of a big yellow school bus – away from a downed line.
Keep in mind that power lines are never insulated and never safe to touch.
For more information and resources on workplace safety for young and new workers: