Electricity Generation : how electricity can leap across distances


"Leaps and Volts"

High-voltage electricity has the amazing ability to jump over some quite considerable distances, as this YouTube video of a banking compound shows:

Most ordinary members of the public don't understand the perils of playing nearing to high voltages. This topic is highlighted here in the interests of promoting safety. Pass the word, share the link and educate people!

All high voltage areas at National Power's Killingholme "A" station are surrounded by a perimeter fence or wall, just like every other high voltage installation. These areas are padlocked and it is strictly forbidden to enter them - even to pick a weed - without the relevant safety permit. Although much of the equipment is safely earthed, many high tension wires and terminals are of necessity uninsulated.

High voltages can flash over and strike a human being with lethal effect if they stray too close to high voltage power lines, transformers or other electrical equipment.

For high voltage operations, the UK industry-standard minimum safe working distances are:

400kV 3.1 metres
275kV 2.4 metres
132kV 1.4 metres
66kV 1.0 metres
< 33kV 0.8 metres

Remember that the human body is a walking 3 kilohm resistor and is effectively grounded at one end. If a person unwittingly encroaches within the safe working distance then there is a very serious risk of arcing and flashing over. That person may suffer devastating electrical burns as well as risking death. There may also be an explosion and fire.

It would be impossible for anyone to rescue a person from such an accident because of the same risks they would face from arcing by the same high voltages, so any attempt to mount a rescue near to high voltages would be highly dangerous.

If you see a person next to high voltage power lines or equipment who may have suffered electrocution or burns, all you can do is stay a safe distance away and call for help.

All rescue attempts must be left to the experts who will make the area safe before entering it. (The separate page "Heartfelt Shock and First Aid" is a reminder of emergency first aid procedure in cases of electric shock from the domestic 240V supply.)

Every year many people lose their lives by electrocution purely through carelessness and ignorance. Children must never be permitted to play anywhere near an electricity sub station, and must never attempt to retrieve, say, a lost ball from within a fenced-off sub station compound. Playing near overhead power lines (including electric train overhead wires) should also be strongly discouraged, so the flying of kites and model aircraft in these areas is exceedingly dangerous.

The dangers of death caused by flashing over are very real and are ignored literally at your peril!

More resources:

| Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 |