Which Electricians Do And Don’t Work In The Rain

Everyone knows that water and electricity is a dangerous combination. We could then assume that electricians would never be expected to work in the rain, right?

Whilst common sense would dictate trying to soldier on in the middle of a downpour is a bad idea, we shall see that unfortunately the situation is not as cut and dry as it first appears.

As an electrician, I avoid working in the rain as much as possible. There are rare occasions when I must brave the elements, but this is typically no more than one or two days per month. However, working outdoors in all weather conditions is a daily occurrence for some specialist electricians

Apart from the obvious dangers of combining water and electricity, working in bad weather makes the task so much more difficult. Avoiding the rain is not an option for everyone so let’s put our feet up with a nice warm cup of tea and look at why an electrician may have to work in bad weather.

Will An Electrician Work Outside When It’s Raining?

Electricians should avoid working outside when it’s raining as much as possible. As well as making our tools and work area slippy and cumbersome there is the added danger of water getting into the cable and terminations.

I polled other electricians to find out if they work in the rain and these are the results.

As an electrician will
you work in the rain?
Number of Sparkys
Yes definitely 3
Absolutely not6
Maybe – It depends8
The majority of electricians polled answered ‘No’ or ‘Maybe’ to the question, will they work in the rain

Water is a very corrosive substance causing equipment to rust very quickly. If we are attempting to work outside in the rain the chances are that the rain water is going to land on the terminals and the cable. This is bad for the long term integrity of the connection and the equipment.

The water mixing with the copper causes a chemical reaction. The reasons for the reaction can be read here. What I know from experience is that it causes the copper to oxidise and go green a lot quicker. This leads to poor terminations increasing the risk of the cable and connectors burning due to high resistance.

Anyone who’s had the unfortunate experience of spilling a drink on their laptop knows that water and electronics do not mix well. Even if we are able to get the job done whilst it’s raining the damage caused to equipment may not become apparent for many months.

There is also the safety aspect to ourselves to take into consideration. Part and parcel of being an electrician is working at height. Working on top of step ladders or podiums in the rain adds an unwelcome element of extra danger. These access platforms become slippery and a fall from height becomes an accident waiting to happen.

However, there are some instances when working during bad weather is required.

Why Would An Electrician Work In The Rain?

An electrician may be required to work in the rain if there is an emergency or dangerous situation that needs rectifying immediately. They may also be required to brave the rain if a completion deadline is looming and there is no break in the bad weather forthcoming.

Deadlines for construction projects are often fixed and sometimes carry huge financial penalties for over running and delays. This can cause us to push the limits in terms of what is comfortable conditions to work in.

For example, If there is a week left to finish a job and the financial or customer happiness penalty for not completing on time is large then we find ourselves in a situation which requires us to brave the weather in order to meet the agreed deadline.

Electrician working in a MEWP
Electrician working in a MEWP

In these situations we would often be required to work extra hours at the weekend as discussed here.

The simple truth is that working in the rain is a pain so it does no one any favours to do it unless we have to. There have been times when I’ve needed to brave the storms. For example if a MEWP is on hire for a few days to change street light heads, as long as the winds are not dangerously strong the financial implications of delaying mean that we just have to put on our waterproof clothes and brave it.

Thankfully we can usually plan our work so as not to be outside during the rainy months. Outside lighting jobs for example are usually put on hold until the spring and summer months.

Which Electricians Work In The Rain?

Whether or not we work in the rain is largely dictated by the role we have. Electricians like myself who deal with mainly domestic and commercial clients can usually avoid the rain, although not all the time it must be said.

Electricians who work in the power distribution part of our industry are not so lucky.

As you can see from this screen grab of an apprentice jointer with distribution company Western Power, he advises that anyone considering a career enjoys working outdoors in all weather conditions!

Electrician enjoys working in all weather conditions

For clarity, jointers make electrical connections to high voltage power distribution cables. A specialist skill that carries an enormous amount of responsibility.

When there is a storm and the power goes out it is important that it is restored as quickly as possible. As well as the inconvenience to customers there are also heavy fines imposed for the time that the power is out.

Electricians that work for distribution companies (companies such as Weston Power in the UK) will be expected to work in the rain. In fact this is when these electricians are busiest, often working very long shifts to help get the power restored.

How Can An Electrician Work In The Rain?

Rainy conditions I had to work in to install cables on a wind farm
Rainy conditions I had to work in to install cables on a wind farm

The main method electricians can use two work in the rain, and the one I have used myself, is to set up a temporary work shelter. These tent like work shelters provide some element of protection form the storms but they have their limitations.

If it’s just a light smattering of rain they make life quite comfortable. The downside is that if the rain is accompanied by the wind the work shelter provides little protection against the sideways blowing rain.

In fact we can spend more time trying to keep the work shelter from blowing away! Anyone who’s experienced the joys of camping in the wind and trying to stop their tent from blowing off into the distance will know this feeling well.

Is It Safe For Electricians To Work In The Rain?

Working in the rain is not inherently unsafe for electricians, it largely depends on the type of task we are performing. Whilst making electrical connections in the rain is far from ideal, other tasks such as installing containment carry far fewer risks to our safety.

The image shows a photo I took whilst working in extreme muddy conditions on a wind farm. As we were only pulling in the cables the rain didn’t stop us from working; unfortunately.

If the job doesn’t require making any connections, such as pulling in cables or installing containment systems, it can often be a case of grinning and bearing the bad weather. The cable or containment is designed and manufactured to be weather resistant, the only part of the equation that isn’t – is us!

The health and safety executive has guidelines for those working outdoors which must be followed to ensure staff welfare is being taken into consideration at all times.

Outdoor working in the rain guidance by health and safety executive
Outdoor working in the rain guidance by health and safety executive

There are no electrical dangers present when carrying out this type of work. This means we suit up in waterproof clothing and try and get the work done as fast as possible and back to the comfort of the van heaters.

Do electricians dissolve in the rain?

It is a common misconception (held mainly by plumbers) that electricians dissolve if they get wet. This is not true and as a matter of fact I would venture that electricians are much braver at facing the elements than some of their construction colleagues. 

Dave Nicholas

I have worked as a professional electrician for many years and like to use my experience to help others in any little way I can.

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