Electricity can kill - be warned

Only yesterday I heard conflicting advice being given … re fallen cables.

No, don’t touch it… wait for EDF (whoever)
It is OK to handle the high-voltage cables, they are well insulated.


I’d rather err on the side of caution, sadly, even the experts can get it wrong. :thinking:

The ones which go between pylons are not insulated at all.

Do not touch any transmission cable unless you know the power is off - knowing the power is off means that you, personally, have put a padlock through the relevant circuit breaker and locked it into the off position and put a “working on line” notice on as well.

240v is dangerous enough - anything higher likes to behave in odd ways, frequently treats things you would consider to be insulators as not insulators at all and generally likes to kill puny humans


Exactly… and should Mr or Mrs Joe Public be expected to know what is what, anyway.

I was aghast to hear such advice being given… and gave the fellow the full blast of my disapproval… :laughing::zipper_mouth_face:

I put this post up, as over the winter we will have more and more cables down (of whatever sort). In my opinion, it is not a good idea for folk (Joe Public) to touch them (even trying to be helpful) as they may be putting themselves and others at risk…


Yes, it seems pretty dodgy advice.

If downed the really high tension ones can even make the ground dangerous to walk on.

I’m no electrician but I don’t believe that’s enough Paul - you really should completely isolate the consumer unit (as the earth could be live).

Its also worth remembering that 12v can kill if it passes across your chest (always keep one hand in your pocket).

Most Importantly though I agree - don’t touch HT cables!

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This takes me back to 2 situations in my past:
After winning a contract to work in a power station I had to first send an employee for a days training for him to be “the person in charge” of our contract. When we eventually arrived to start work we could not do so until a system had been performed that required 10 “padlocks” to be unlocked and at each stage the next padlock could not be unlocked until the previous person in charge of their padlock had done a full risk assessment and safety check. Eventually we would start work about 9.30 after arriving at 8 am. the same system operated in reverse at the end of the day when work had to stop at 3.30 if we had any chance of leaving by 5 pm. each day 3 hours were lost in down time for this procedure but, no lives were lost.
Another time when working on a site we were driving metal spikes into the ground as support for shuttering and hit an underground cable. Work obviously stopped and I recall the ground for some distance around the spike being live.
Electricity is dangerous if not treated with respect, Electricity can kill.


So when I was sixteen and told a pal of mine to hold one of my motorbike spark plugs and kicked it over it was my fault he jumped about six feet in the air :wink: He went home and got a baseball bat and chased me down the street. I still crack up thinking about it… sorry Rory.

The shock was so great he went on to open a very successful dive shop and to dive on the Titanic in one of those submersible things. A good man.

On looking back… I reckon we have all done some daft things in our time.

Hopefully, we have learnt our lesson… since we live to tell the tale… :thinking:

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French rural properties tend to be TT earthing and I don’t think you can get a “live” earth with that from a fault outside the property.

Some earthing schemes eg TN-S have the potential (sorry) for an earth fault to be combined with equipment faults to make the earth wire live compared with the local ground - this is, presumably, what happened when the girl in Australia was electrocuted by touching a garden tap.

More than you ever wanted to know about earthing here - https://www.ee.iitb.ac.in/course/~emlab/assets/earthing.pdf

I think you can. A live to earth fault in any equipment and a faulty earth… How many earth rods have you seen with the earth knocked off/removed for painting?

OK, yes that would do it.

However as we were talking about HT cable faults I did say that I couldn’t conceive of a fault outside the property (i.e on the distribution side of the tableau) which would make the earth live (edit: in a TT configuration.).

You could get a live “neutral” coming into the property though through a similar mechanism (break in the neutral with a live-neutral fault closer to the property).

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It can kill horses as well. Remember one of the famous Horse Racing Days - weren’t several horses electrocuted in the Parade Area …? And horses are bigger than us !!

A friend and I on the way to lectures one autumn morning back when I was a student came across a herd of cows that had been electrocuted through a HV power line being downed by a fallen tree in the field they were grazing in. Most animals I’d seen dead in one place in one go outside of an abattoir.

Thankfully no personal experience but try this lot - following a lightening strike in Norway (isn’t Google great?)

Anyway the phenomenon that I referred to above which can make the ground dangerous to walk on is known as step potential and occurs if a HT cable hits the ground without tripping the breakers or blowing fuses.

You then get a voltage gradient as current flows into the ground - which could be several kV per metre, stand with your feet sufficiently far apart and you will get that several kV flowing where you’d rather it didn’t.

So, where a downed HT cable is concerned not only do not touch it - do not even go close

Good grief - :pensive:

Our neighbour is a retired edf employee so if in doubt we ask Jean-Luc.


Oh dear, yes, that looks very similar, apart from the type of animal of course, what surprised me most at the time was the bloat of the animals. Brilliant drawings explaining the differences between step and touch potential.

We have an abandoned barn which still had two electric cables from the street connected to an old fashioned meter but with the outlet sealed off.

Part of a wall fell down last week and buried the meter. Not wanting to disturb the suppliers unnecessarily I donned wellies and gloves, cut the cables and connected a volt meter… about 240V.

Phoned ENEDIS. Less than ninety minutes later two vans arrived and the cables were detached from the pole across the street. The technician who did this wore two pairs of gloves!

I think if you take reasonable precautions you can work with live cables. Am full of admiration for the rapid response from ENEDIS because we live way out in the country.


Frankly, no-one should touch EDF/Enedis property/cables/whatever.

The Suppliers are there to do whatever is necessary to maintain etc their equipment/supply.

You are fortunate this time… please do not be so quick to do such a thing again.

You obviously contacted the Supplier - that is the correct thing to do… and you should have waited for them to do their work.

Obviously, if there is a lot going on Enedis may be delayed and unable to respond immediately to your call - in which case, notify your Mairie/Insurers of the danger and they will try to speed things up.

It is the sort of thing one might do, indeed I have done but would be much more reluctant these days than when I was younger.

however it is something you should never advise others to do.

Stella is right here - you got away with it this time. Cutting through what turned out to be a live cable on the distribution network can get very ugly - very high fault currents are available (in the order of thousands of amps) because there’s no fuse between you and the substation transformer and no RCD to protect you if you become part of the circuit to ground.

The Enedis guy working in live cables - well, that was his decision; it doesn’t make it a good idea.