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What is contact voltage?

Contact voltage is electricity that may be present on the surface of outdoor structures such as streetlighting equipment, street signs and other fixtures, posing a serious shock hazard. It's best to avoid contact with any electrical equipment on the street, like:



The wiring for streetlighting is fed underground to access points
such as cable chambers and handwells.
 These are usually located three to four feet from an electrical pole.


What causes contact voltage?


  • Aging or corroded infrastructure

  • Vibrations from the street level and the subway that cause wires to dislodge

 NOTE: Private or third-party assets can also pose a risk, so avoid any electrical metal structures.


What we’re doing about it


Regular surveillance

Handwell replacement program

Toronto Hydro committed additional resources to our contact voltage program, including a team of mobile voltage testing vehicles and service crews.
Equipped with state-of-the-art technology to identify energized electrical equipment, a truck with a voltage tracker sweeps the city regularly in search of contact voltage. If voltage is found, a Toronto Hydro crew is dispatched to the location.




There are approximately 12,000 handwells in Toronto. Handwells are underground service access points located in the boulevard or sidewalk that contain wiring to supply power to infrastructure such as streetlighting, traffic lights, signs, etc.

In 2010, Toronto Hydro began a new phase of our Contact Voltage Remediation Program, which involves replacing existing handwells that have metal lids and frames (that could become energized under certain conditions) with a non-conductive polymer concrete model.

This new standard is intended to reduce the risk of contact voltage. We are more than halfway through the replacement of metal lids and we are working toward having almost all of the handwell structures replaced by the end of 2014.


Important to know

Learn more

What happens when contact voltage is detected?
Contact voltage conditions that are identified are de-energized or
repaired immediately, regardless of who owns the asset. It has been
our experience, and the experience of many other utilities, that
contact voltage conditions also exists on assets that are privately-owned.

Can you predict where or when contact voltage will occur?
Contact voltage is intermittent and could occur at any time.

How can I report contact voltage?
Members of the public should phone the designated hotline at
416.542.8000 (press 1) to report contact voltage. Toronto Hydro crews will be dispatched immediately.


For more information, please read the Contact Voltage fact sheet

Pet owners can find more information about contact voltage on the
Pet Safety page.