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Voltage Detectors - Why are they useful? Which industries can benefit? And more!

As more facets of our daily life rely on electricity, the risk of electric shock not only increases but spreads to workers in industries that traditionally may not have faced electrical hazards on a regular basis. Along with increased electrification, the use of DC (Direct Current) power is also on the rise, as renewable energy and electric vehicle (EV) demand continues to grow. When approaching an electrical hazard, it’s crucial to know whether the voltage is present before reaching the approach boundary or coming in contact with equipment.

 

Why voltage detectors? 

So how can workers safely identify a potential electrical hazard? With the AG Safety voltage detectors, you can detect if there is live power without contact, allowing for safer work practices, to get you home safely day after day. For both DC detectors, simply point the device at a potentially live DC source to determine if there is voltage present. The sound it makes will alert you to danger without any need for physical contact. The DC80 has 8 adjustable sensitivity settings, meaning the trained operator, such as electricians, maintenance workers, utility workers, and more, can adjust it to voltages from 50 volts to over 1,000,000 volts. The DC50 can easily be turned on and used without the need of adjusting sensitivity settings to allow for ease of use by professionals without electrical safety training such as first responders.

 

Industrial Voltage Hazards

With renewable energy being the main focus of expansion around the world, solar and wind power are becoming more popular. As an example, with the majority of US wind farms located in the mid-west plains region, Iowa  was able to supply over 30% of its electricity through wind power in 2016 and that only continues to grow each year (Wind Energy, n.d.). As always with energy – whether it be  coal and oil or solar and wind, there are a handful of hazards and risks, including fall hazards, confined spaces, burns, and importantly electrical and shock hazards (Marsh, 2021). Workers in the renewable energy market can be exposed to high voltage electrical hazards which can be present in the production, the set-up and build or the generation   and maintenance of these energy sources. Per OSHA, NFPA, and others, it is important to first substitute and eliminate all potential hazards, but also to have equipment and PPE to help mitigate that risk to the worker.

The first key step of working on any electrical equipment is knowing whether or not it is energized. With the AG-DC80, trained electrical workers can detect voltage before approaching the hazard. Depending on the distance from the equipment, and the level of voltage, the DC80 detector can be set at different sensitivity settings and will warn users of live power, allowing them to don proper PPE and follow set procedures before proceeding. The non-contact DC80 is a global breakthrough for those working on trains, wind power, solar energy, electric vehicles, and more.

 

Electrical Safety for First Responders

Even for those in emergency services, with more people adding solar panels to their homes and businesses, voltage is a potential hazard for first responders now as well. If there should be a catastrophic event such as a fire located in a building with an electrified solar panel, this could result in unforeseen exposure to those electrical hazards.

Another hazard for emergency service workers is electric vehicles. The electric vehicle market is expanding, and therefore is exposing more people to the electrical hazards that come along with them. It’s important to understand the next steps when presented with potential shock hazards from electric vehicles. Per NFPA, the first step when emergency services arrive at the scene of an accident is to identify if the vehicle is electric not, the second step is to immobilize the vehicle, and then the third step is to disable the vehicle (R. Thomas Long Jr., 2013). Unfortunately, if the accident is too severe or the responder is not familiar with all EV makes and models, it can be very hard to tell if the car is an electric vehicle or not.

Approaching a vehicle without knowing for sure if it is electric and/or energized, the responder would be putting themselves in harm’s way by going to set the emergency brake and possibly being severely injured by those potential shock hazards. In these situations, having a voltage detector that can warn the user of the hazard quickly and safely could mean the difference between life and death. In an emergency, you need safety, swiftness, and certainty. The DC50 voltage detector is the perfect tool for first responders when it comes to electric vehicle accidents and fires. It is recommended to use the DC50 with a hot stick to increase the distance between the user and the vehicle or equipment, providing both isolation and insulation from the hazard. This allows a first responder can detect if there is voltage present before even reaching the approach boundary. This will reduce the likelihood of touch and step potential and allow for the responder to don the appropriate PPE needed before proceeding if there is live power detected.

 

In Conclusion

With a shift in focus toward renewable energy, DC voltage hazards are becoming more common. Outside of substitution and elimination, the first step toward safer work practices is to detect live power before ever approaching or coming in contact with the potential hazard.

 

Learn more about AG Safety voltage detectors HERE.

 

Works Cited

Marsh, J. (2021, January 06). Increasing Worker Safety in the Renewable Energy Industry. Retrieved from Environmental Protection: https://eponline.com/articles/2021/01/06/increasing-worker-safety-in-the-renewable-energy-industry.aspx

  1. Thomas Long Jr., P. C. (2013, June). Best Practices for Emergency Response to Incidents Involving Electric Vehicles Battery Hazards. Retrieved from NFPA: https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Electrical/EV-BatteriesPart-1.ashx

Wind Energy. (n.d.). Retrieved from Iowa Environmental Council: https://www.iaenvironment.org/our-work/clean-energy/wind-energy

 

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