National Electrical Safety Month: Contact Voltage

For our last installment of National Electrical Safety Month, we would like to share a little bit about City Light’s own focus on safety and how it has evolved over the years. In 2010 and 2015, City Light experienced multiple safety incidents involving employees and the community. These incidents created a wake-up call within the utility, leading to actions built on innovation, agency, and listening. Last month, City Light’s dedication to improving its safety culture was the cover story in Northwest Public Power Association’s Bulletin magazine.

 

Click here to view the article. Enjoy! 

 

 

National Electrical Safety Month: Overloaded Circuits

 

Did you know that 47,700 home fires in the U.S. are caused by electrical failures or malfunctions each year? From an outlet with too many plugs (remember that one scene in Christmas Vacation?) to a major appliance plugged into a power strip, overloaded circuits in your home can be dangerous.

Here are a few symptoms of an overloaded circuit:

  • Flickering, blinking or dimming lights
  • Blown fuses
  • Warm or discolored wall plates
  • Cracking, sizzling or buzzing from outlets
  • Burning odor coming from wall switches
  • Mild shock or tingle from appliances or switches

Thankfully, the Electrical Safety Foundation International has tips on how to prevent overloaded circuits, possibly reducing the risk of injury or property loss:

  • Never use extension cords or multi-outlet converters for appliances.
  • All major appliances should be plugged directly into a wall outlet. Only plug one heat-producing appliance into a receptacle outlet at a time.
  • A heavy reliance on extension cords is an indication that you have too few outlets for your needs. Be sure to have a qualified electrician inspect your home and add new outlets.
  • Remember, power strips only add additional outlets; they do not change the amount of power being received from the outlet.

For more information on how to avoid overloading your home, visit www.esfi.org/resource/don-t-overload-your-home-545.

Seattle City Light Completes 2015 Contact Voltage Testing

Seattle City Light identified and repaired 13 instances where its metal structures or equipment were improperly energized with at least 30 volts of electricity due to short circuits or damage to wiring during its 2015 annual contact voltage testing. One more instance was identified on privately owned equipment, the owner was notified and repairs were completed.

“Utilizing a mobile detection system, all conductive assets in the Seattle City Light service area were tested,” Interim General Manager and CEO Jim Baggs said. “City Light has taken a proactive approach and made great progress in the elimination of contact voltage exposure.”

The recent findings were similar to those from 2014, when 14 instances of voltage of at least 30 volts were identified on City Light equipment and fixed.

This is the sixth consecutive year the utility has tested its equipment for contact voltage. City Light started the annual tests along with a number of maintenance improvements and internal business process improvements in 2010 after a dog was electrocuted in Queen Anne when it stepped on an energized hand hold cover.

Whenever testing identified contact voltage of at least 30 volts, crews immediately de-energized the equipment and made repairs.

In the 13 instances of contact voltage over 30 volts involving City Light equipment, crews determined:

  • Nine events were determined to be the result of bad wiring and connections
  • One involved failed equipment
  • One was related to a long-term active construction site where the actual cause has not been fully determined
  • And two events were determined to be the result of pinched wires in the door of the luminaire during LED conversion. Retraining on proper luminaire installation was conducted with the contractor crews.

Testing also identified 42 instances of contact voltage less than 30 volts. Crews made repairs or de-energized all City Light equipment involved in those cases as well.

A number of factors can contribute to contact voltage, including aging infrastructure, weather, improper installation of equipment, rodent activity, copper wire theft and corrosion. To address these factors, City Light is working to strategically refurbish and replace infrastructure following priorities outlined in a 10-year horizon plan.

You can read the full report here.

Seattle City Light Completes Annual Contact Voltage Testing

A contractor from Power Survey Co. demonstrates the equipment used to detect stray voltage.

Seattle City Light identified and repaired 14 instances where metal structures or equipment were improperly energized with at least 30 volts of electricity due to short circuits or damage to wiring during its 2014 annual contact voltage testing.

“Safety is our first concern at Seattle City Light,” General Manager and CEO Jorge Carrasco said. “We have taken a proactive approach and made great progress in the elimination of contact voltage exposure.”

The recent findings were similar to 2013, when 13 instances of voltage of at least 30 volts were identified and fixed.

City Light started the annual tests along with a number of maintenance improvements and internal business process improvements after a dog was electrocuted in Queen Anne when it stepped on an energized hand hold cover.

All 14 instances of contact voltage over 30 volts found during 2014 involved City Light equipment. Crews determined that four of those cases were the result of wires in the door of the luminaire being pinched during conversion to LEDs. City Light provided retraining on proper luminaire installation for the contractor crews providing that work.

Whenever testing identified contact voltage of at least 30 volts, crews immediately de-energized the equipment and made repairs.

Testing also identified 57 instances of contact voltage less than 30 volts. Crews made repairs or de-energized all City Light equipment involved in those cases as well.

You can read the full report here.

Seattle City Light Begins Work to Enhance Streetlight Reliability in Holly Park

Seattle City Light will begin upgrading the streetlight electrical grounding system in the Holly Park neighborhood Oct. 6. This work, expected to be completed by the end of November, is necessary to keep the lights functioning properly and to prevent cases of contact voltage on metal streetlight structures.

No contact voltage problems have been found at Holly Park in the past two years of inspections. Testing is completed annually to make sure all equipment that can conduct electricity is both safe and functioning properly.

The project will involve digging in the public right-of-way by a City light contractor during which time it will be necessary for equipment to be parked on site. Power outages are not expected during the project at this time. Should outages become necessary, notification will be provided in advance. Additionally, minor traffic and parking impacts can be expected in the immediate work area, as well as some noise in the surrounding area. Crews are committed to maintaining access to driveways in order to mitigate impacts to residents and surrounding businesses.

Crews will work Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. All work will be kept within city ordinances and standards.

For more information about this and other City Light construction projects, please visit http://www.seattle.gov/light/aboutus/construction/.

About Seattle City Light
Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to about 750,000 Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.