Protection From Backfeed and Generator Safety2 min read
When a power outage occurs, one of the primary safety concerns for lineworkers is backfeed on lines due to distributed generation (DG) that has been installed outside of the utility’s control, such as generators used by customers. DG, also known as on-site generation, is anything that generates power that is not part of the normal generating system.
Generators are the most common type of DG that lineworkers will face during outage restoration efforts. Personal generators can range from portable, gas-powered units that run a few appliances, to diesel or natural gas units that start automatically after an outage to supply power to an entire home or business. Private wind or solar generation are also DG systems that could present a potential danger to lineworkers.
With the wide use of generators and the growing popularity of solar panels among residential and commercial customers, lineworkers are facing an increasing risk of injury caused by backfeed during outage restoration.
Lineworkers are trained to protect themselves from these potential sources of backfeed by isolating them entirely. Unfortunately, since customers often fail to formally report the location and exact number of these DG facilities, it is in the best interest of the lineworker to take the following safety precautions.
- Test and ground every time. Visual air gaps are preferred for deenergizing lines by most utilities to protect employees from backfeed potential.
- Wear personal protection equipment (PPE). Homeowners can help ensure the safety of utility workers and themselves by hiring a licensed electrician to properly install transfer switches on their DG systems.
Homeowners can help ensure the safety of utility workers and themselves by hiring a licensed electrician to properly install transfer switches on their DG systems.
Safety guidelines for generator use
The following guidelines are prepared for sharing with utility customers to ensure the safety of all involved in power restoration work.
- Do not operate portable generators in wet conditions. There is a possibility that stray voltage from the equipment could create a shock hazard.
- Use properly grounded extension cords that are rated for the proper wattage of the appliance, such as air conditioners and refrigerators.
- Never plug a generator into an existing wall outlet, such as the one used for a dryer. This poses an extremely dangerous electrocution risk to the utility worker or anyone served by the same transformer.
- Always follow proper ventilation practices when operating generators to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
For more information on backfeed safety, or for information on other electric safety topics, contact Scott McKenzie, AMP director of member safety and training, at 614.540.6386 or [email protected].