The electrocution of a 20-year-old horse this past Monday due to a contact voltage hazard in Lake View Terrace, California is a rare but not unheard-of event.
“Horse electrocutions due to contact voltages are uncommon. However, we have identified seven other instances over the past 20 years where contact voltage has killed a horse,” said Mark Voigtsberger, President of Utility Testing and Geographic Information Systems LLC (UTGIS). “Unique to Monday’s incident is that the contact voltage appears to have been caused by a transformer fire, energizing a nearby puddle of water.”
The electrocution of the other seven horses all took place in urban areas — locations where the electrical system is buried underground. Three of those deaths involved police horses, while working in the line of duty, after stepping on electrically charged metal junction box lids.
Contact voltage is defined as any publicly accessible object with a fault voltage on it — more often than not, street light poles, traffic signals, and of course junction boxes.
According to Voigtsberger, all seven previous cases could have been prevented with an active contact voltage testing program. Too, all these events could have easily involved humans rather than horses.
“Contact voltage testing today is much like the mobile gas leak detection industry from 30 years ago. Municipalities and utilities back then were not aware of many gas leaks on their system until an accident or injury occurred, and that is where we are today with these electric ‘leaks.’ Cases like Monday’s incident are making the general public and electric system owners/operators aware that these hazards are out there,” continued Voigtsberger.
UTGIS uses mobile technology and procedures to test urban areas for contact voltages following a new Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) publication: IEEE 1695 — “Guide to Understanding, Diagnosing and Mitigating Stray and Contact Voltages.” Survey data compiled by UTGIS shows 1 in every 337 light poles has a contact voltage fault on it- a significant number considering a medium size town may have 10,000 or more street lights.