Handling High Voltage Electrical Systems

The term high voltage usually refers to any amount of electrical energy powerful enough to harm a living organism and cause significant property damage. There’s no exact definition of high voltage but according to NATIONAL ELECTRICAL CODE (NEC), it can be a voltage that’s over 600 volts. This can be based on two factors: the danger of electric shock and the possibility of causing a spark in the air. Equipment and conductors that transmit or use high voltage power require particular safety procedures.

High voltage is used in cathode ray tubes, in electrical power distribution, in high power amplifier vacuum tubes, in photomultiplier tubes, to demonstrate arcing, to generate X-rays and particle beams, for ignition, and other industrial, scientific, and military systems.


The risks of electrical hazards are greater in facilities where operations rely on high voltage electrical systems. Accidental contact with high voltage energy may result in catastrophic injury or death. Exposure to high voltage causes instant shock to neurons and muscles in the body. In some cases, the body may throw itself a distance if the shock is strong enough. Being thrown a considerable distance or falling from a great height can cause significant physical injuries. If the voltage is applied across wet human skin, it can cause electrocution, which can result in heart failure and tissue damage.

The human body provides a path for current flow and when the high voltage energy passes through the chest area, it can cause a very strong heart attack. The chances of surviving high voltage electrocution are very low. Other injuries can include burns. Accidental contact with high current can generate an arc, which can totally cook a living tissue.

Such burns can be especially hazardous if a person’s airway is affected. High voltage currents travel at the speed of light and give you little chance to react. As such, it’s unlikely to come out alive in the event of accidental contact or failure in the system.

Apart from bodily injuries, an arc can damage electrical cabinets, wiring, and systems. A short circuit or interruption of high voltage current can instantly shut down an entire work floor. High-energy arcs can melt steel, start a fire or cause violent explosions. If such things happen in your facility, working anywhere near the power source or building can be extremely dangerous. As such, your facility may need to be shut down until the situation is corrected.