common misconceptions

07 May 2008

Misconception Number 1:

Birds land on wires, so they must be safe to touch.

The main objective of electricity is to reach the ground and it will always try to get to the ground by the easiest, most direct route. Birds do not get electrocuted when they land on wires because they do not represent a path to the ground. A bird on the wire doesn't give electricity anywhere to go except to go back to the wire, so it is easier for a current to continue on its way in the wire. However, a ladder, a pole or even something as small as a wet string that comes in contact with a power line provide the electric current with a new path to the ground and can be dangerous. If you are in contact with an object that is somehow touching a power line, then you may become part of the path to the ground and be electrocuted.

Misconception Number 2:

Power lines are insulated, so they are safe to touch.

This is a common misconception that many people have about power lines. Power lines are not insulated, and you should always avoid contact with them. It is quite possible for a person to get electrocuted if he or she touches power lines.

Misconception Number 3:

As long as my ladder is not metal, it is safe to rest it on a power line.

While metal is an excellent conductor, it is not the only conductor. Water is also a conductor, so if there is any water on your wooden ladder, then there is a distinct possibility that you could get severely injured if you are touching it. In fact, no matter what the ladder is made of, if it holds moisture or can get wet, then it represents a potential hazard. Be safe- keep all ladders away from overhead power lines.

Misconception Number 4:

As long as my ladder is not touching the line, I'm safe.

Not exactly. It depends on how far away the ladder is from the line. Electricity can jump and often does when a potential conductor like a metal ladder comes with in a certain proximity that depends on the weather conditions, the voltage of the power line, and other factors.

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