Out-of-arm’s reach or interposition of obstacles

From Electrical Installation Guide

In principle, safety by placing simultaneously-accessible conductive parts out-of-reach, or by interposing obstacles, requires also a non-conducting floor, and so is not an easily applied principle

By these means, the probability of touching a live exposed-conductive-part, while at the same time touching an extraneous-conductive-part at earth potential, is extremely low (see Figure F75). In practice, this measure can only be applied in a dry location, and is implemented according to the following conditions:

  • The floor and the wall of the chamber must be non-conducting, i.e. the resistance to earth at any point must be:
    • > 50 kΩ (installation voltage ≤ 500 V)
    • > 100 kΩ (500 V < installation voltage ≤ 1000 V)

Resistance is measured by means of “MEGGER” type instruments (hand-operated generator or battery-operated electronic model) between an electrode placed on the floor or against the wall, and earth (i.e. the nearest protective earth conductor). The electrode contact area pressure must be evidently be the same for all tests.

Different instruments suppliers provide electrodes specific to their own product, so that care should be taken to ensure that the electrodes used are those supplied with the instrument.

  • The placing of equipment and obstacles must be such that simultaneous contact with two exposed-conductive-parts or with an exposed conductive-part and an extraneous-conductive-part by an individual person is not possible.
  • No exposed protective conductor must be introduced into the chamber concerned.
  • Entrances to the chamber must be arranged so that persons entering are not at risk, e.g. a person standing on a conducting floor outside the chamber must not be able to reach through the doorway to touch an exposed-conductive-part, such as a lighting switch mounted in an industrial-type cast-iron conduit box, for example.
Fig. F75 – Protection by out-of arm’s reach arrangements and the interposition of non-conducting obstacles

Earth-free equipotential chambers

Earth-free equipotential chambers are associated with particular installations (laboratories, etc.) and give rise to a number of practical installation difficulties

In this scheme, all exposed-conductive-parts, including the floor[1]are bonded by suitably large conductors, such that no significant difference of potential can exist between any two points. A failure of insulation between a live conductor and the metal envelope of an appliance will result in the whole “cage” being raised to phase-to-earth voltage, but no fault current will flow. In such conditions, a person entering the chamber would be at risk (since he/she would be stepping on to a live floor).

Suitable precautions must be taken to protect personnel from this danger (e.g. non-conducting floor at entrances, etc.). Special protective devices are also necessary to detect insulation failure, in the absence of significant fault current.

Fig. F76 – Equipotential bonding of all exposed-conductive-parts simultaneously accessible


  1. ^ Extraneous conductive parts entering (or leaving) the equipotential space (such as water pipes, etc.) must be encased in suitable insulating material and excluded from the equipotential network, since such parts are likely to be bonded to protective (earthed) conductors elsewhere in the installation.