Sunday, April 07, 2013

Geocaching Electrical Safety and You


What's this Blog all about? It's about the dangers of geocaching in, on and around electrical equipment. Please take two minutes to read this preamble at least one time as a geocacher. You'll walk away with valuable information... I promise.

Geocaching:(LINK) - the fun outdoor game of hiding and seeking containers using a GPSr (Global Positioning System receiver).

(Johnnygeo drawing a 4000 volt arc on a demo board)

Adding the element of electrical equipment to our game increases the risk of injury or death that should not be part of our hobby, or any other hobby.

My intent is not to be "the crazy alarmist guy" but someone who explains fact based on my electrical knowledge. (Though, if the "crazy alarmist guy" thing works for you and it makes you want to read my blog, then that's who I am)  :o)

****************(WARNING: I have one graphic photo shown below of an injury caused by contact with high voltage electrical equipment.[hand injury])***********************

Please give me a couple minutes to explain my concerns. This is important info:

First off, please let me quickly introduce myself: "the geocacher" & "the safety guy".

I’m a geocacher. LOVE the hobby.

I've been caching since early 2005 and have been fortunate to cache in beautiful locations across Canada, USA, Mexico, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Cuba. I look forward to finding some caches in some other countries in the near future

I've hidden over 60 caches and have over 2400 finds.

I enjoy caching because it takes me to places where a travel guide or tour booklet may never have taken me.

I'm proud to say some of my best friends are also geocachers.

Second, I’m a Occupational Health & Safety Professional that works for a power utility company in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

One of my previous job duties was to respond and investigate power line contacts. When someone from the general public contacts an overhead power line, digs and contacts an underground high voltage power cable or opens an energized piece of electrical equipment without authority and gets injured/killed I would be on scene to conduct a full investigation. An electrical contact fatality is one of the most difficult type of investigations to conduct. I’ve seen the first hand results of what electricity can do to the human body and it’s not pretty.

Now to the "meat and potatoes" of this Blog:

Have you ever geocached in, on or around green power boxes(padmount transformers), lamp post caches (LPC's), electrical transmission tower legs and sometimes even FAKE electrical boxes/equipment? Again, all added risk that shouldn't be part of our hobby.

Fake electrical boxes: "What's the danger there?"

Children tend to stick their hands in anywhere and if a child can open a cover to something they’ll do it cause they’re curious. They learn what's safe and what's not safe by watching adults. If we teach kids that it’s okay to open up fake electrical boxes because caches are hidden in them, then I feel that we are placing children in danger.

If that child comes across real electrical equipment that was left open because it was vandalized, would they know to stay away from it? I would say no. Would you stay away from it? Do you know the difference between real and fake electrical equipment? I've seen some very realistic stuff out there.

It’s not okay for children(and adults for that matter) to get-use-to playing around electrical equipment.

Electrical equipment in you neighborhood:

Kids are always playing on those green power boxes located in around neighborhoods, parks and schools. Generally those boxes are safe. (or they wouldn't put them out in the open)

Are they meant for playing on? The answer is no. A question is asked of me all the time, "could this electrical equipment ever be unsafe?" The answer is a definite yes.

Cars hit this type of equipment all the time by drivers (possibly drunk) and the hit equipment is not reported right-away. If damaged the equipment can be sitting there with their metal case energized. As soon as a person touches a piece of equipment they would be electrocuted.

Vandals destroy electrical equipment just for the fun of it and copper thieves steal valuable copper from inside the equipment and leave it in very dangerous condition. This scenario is occurring more and more.

Also, a city can have the best electrical maintenance program in the world and still have the odd piece of equipment fail. This could be a green electrical box in front of your house or a lamp post in a park.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A 9-year-old boy was electrocuted on a downtown bridge because a lamppost was not grounded and its wires were not properly insulated, investigators said Wednesday.
Willie Wagner had been walking home from a museum with a friend May 22 when he squeezed between the light pole and a chain-link fence.
When he touched both, the voltage jumped from the pole through his body to the fence, said John Loud, an investigator hired by the city.
Loud found that insulation on a 480-volt wire had not been properly wrapped with electrical tape. That caused the base of the lamppost to become charged. If the pole had been properly grounded, a fuse would have blown, cutting the power to the pole.

Now let's talk about geocaching on a piece of electrical equipment (i.e. a transmission tower leg) What's the chance of that piece of electrical equipment failing? (Probability) Low? Okay, I could agree with that.

Let's say it failed. What is the consequence when a person touches a failed piece of electrical equipment and that person gives electricity another path to ground?(severity) I know from personal experience that there's usually no second chance of life. I choose to stay away from the equipment, I do not accept that risk into my life. Plain and simple.

There's no need to jeopardize yourself or others to the added risk of electricity.

Another thing to think about… In guidelines there’s a line that states, “By submitting a cache listing, you assure us that you have adequate permission to hide your cache in the selected location.

I don’t know of any power utilities or municipalities that would give permission to hide a game-piece in or on their electrical equipment. Just would not happen.

I write this Blog so everyone’s aware of the dangers and possible dangers.

I'd like to know that if a dangerous situation appears before a geocacher they will know how to properly react to it. Please refer to some of my other posts below(i.e. power line down on the ground, lightning, etc)

In this Blog these are my opinions that are influenced from what I’ve seen doing my job, being in the electrical industry for over 20 years, Health and Safety profession for almost a decade and reading through countless articles and reports that come in from all across North America on people getting injured and killed by electricity.

I will ASK you of two things.

(1) I’m asking you here and in other spots in the blog to think twice about geocaching in or on electrical equipment. There are so many other places we can hide our geocaches.

(2) I’m also asking you to take read through the info below this post and hopefully you’ll carry away something that’s important, not only for geocaching but for other hobbies that you do as well. If you have children, please quiz them to see how well they know the dangers on electricity and guide them how to stay safe.

Again, adding the element of electrical equipment to our game increases the risk of injury or death that should not be part of our hobby, or any other hobby.

If, by writing this blog, one person is prevented from getting injured then I know I've done my job.

Thank you for visiting,


My Twitter Feed