What is Contact Voltage?

The IEEE (commonly referred to as the “I triple E”) is the world’s preeminent technology association. The IEEE generates technical standards that are applied by utilities and other industries around the world The IEEE working group on contact voltage has defined the term contact voltage as seen below:

“Contact Voltage” Definition: A voltage resulting from power system faults which may be present between two conductive surfaces that can be simultaneously contacted by members of the general public or their animals. Contact voltage is not related to the normal delivery or use of electricity, and can exist at levels that may be hazardous.
Sammy’s tragedy was clearly caused by contact voltage which is the same issue seen on the east coast.

To further explain this serious issue, (it’s not easy reading, but for me, it’s worth looking over to understand public electrical safety better), I invite you take a look at a link to the Ontario Electric Safety Authority’s website as well as 3 presentations from their recent Street Lighting Symposium.
As you can see from the presentations…. This is not a new issue or one unique to Canada/East coast, in fact this is the exact same danger that killed Sammy. The only difference is the Ontario people are trying to solve the problem, while Seattle would prefer to call it a “freak” incident.


Presentation 1: ESA – Street Light Symposium ESA Investigations

Presentation 2: THESL – Toronto Hydro Street Lighting Experience

Presentation 3: PSC – Stray Voltage in the Public Landscape

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One Response to What is Contact Voltage?

  1. Yeah, like that huuuuuuuge gas pipeline in California, this past fall, was a freak accident. So much easier to just hope it goes away. Hopefully, Ontario will lead the way and others will follow suit before more tragedies occur.

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