Research by Utility Testing and Geographic Information Systems (UTGIS) has identified hazardous, and frequently deadly, contact voltage electrical faults in 34 states across America.
"Contact voltage, or electrical hazards on publicly accessible surfaces such as street lights and junction boxes, is a much larger problem than States or municipalities realize," according to UTGIS owner Mark Voigtsberger. "While we have found severe shock and electrocution reports in 33 states and the District of Columbia, it does not mean the remaining 17 states are hazard free. It simply means some of these incidents haven't made it to the local news media for reporting."
Contact voltage, which is the result of a localized electrical wiring fault, should not be confused with "stray voltage," which impacts farms and agriculture.
Voigtsberger started working on the database 10 years ago as a tool to help legislators and industry standards organizations understand the scope of the contact voltage problem. "A decade ago, there was no centralized repository for this type of information; no one had a clue as to how common this problem was. To this day, only UTGIS makes the effort to collect contact voltage data and investigate all public shock and electrocution reports," said Voigtsberger.
Some key observations from looking at the data:
- Of the 221 documented events, 111 were fatalities and 110 were severe shocks.
- 50 children under the age of 18 were killed from contact voltage sources.
- Reports exist for only three species: humans, dogs, and horses.
- 154 humans were shocked or electrocuted, 64 dogs were shocked or electrocuted, 4 horses were electrocuted.
- 3 of the 4 horses were police horses on patrol.
- New York State has the most reported contact voltage events at 32, followed by Florida at 20, and Illinois at 15.
- Florida has the most fatalities due to contact voltage at 19, followed by New York with 10, and Illinois at 5.
- Public parks and sports complexes are growing as a source for reported contact voltages- an area that may need further investigation.
Voigtsberger estimates at any given moment 250,000 contact voltage hazards exist in the United States — but not all of those are at an energy level capable of causing shock or electrocution.