Whenever we encounter individuals who work in the power industry, one of the first questions we ask them is if they use personal voltage detectors (ie. PVDs). If they say yes, chances are, they’re using the V-Watch by Greenlee or another kind of PVD.  

First and foremost, major props for anyone using PVDs in general. No one wants to learn the hard way why electrical safety and the use of PVDs are crucial for any job where electricity may be present. But just because you’re using a PVD doesn’t mean you have the right one – or – in many cases – the safest one. In this article, we’re going to talk about the unspoken shortcomings of most PVDs and why you and your team might consider upgrading.

Before we dive into the faults of personal voltage detectors, it’s important to pay respect to their noble effort to minimize electrical injuries and deaths. By design, most PVDs are made to be simple. They focus on a user-friendly battery-powered system that generally hang around the neck of any user, providing audio alerts whenever the user enters a 7ft range of anything above 4Kvs. PVD technology has been revolutionary for anyone working in utilities, telecom, and first response and has saved many lives over the years. But like any technology that has been around for more than a decade, updates are often overdue.


Five features often missing in most PVDs:


1. The ability to locate the energized source.

Upon receiving audio alerts when entering a given range of an energized source, in most cases, the user is left to find out where the source is actually coming from. Few PVDs provide directional alerts to help the user identify where the dangerous source may be. In attempts to back away from the source, a user could back right into it. The technology of these safety devices does not provide 360- degree detection or directional indication.


 2. A mute button.

This may seem trivial, but it’s not. The moment a safety device becomes “obnoxious” is when it stops serving its purpose altogether. Users who typically work around high-energy equipment dont need the constant reminder. They may just need to be alerted when they are moving closer to the source, or occasionally reminded that an energized source is nearby. While most PVDs will increase their audio frequency when you move closer to a source, they can not adapt to your environment. Additionally, their inability to be temporarily muted increases their chance of being turned off or removed.


3. The ability to detect current.

What many people don’t realize is that electricity emits two different types of fields. Voltage, which produces a detectable electric field, and current which produces a detectable magnetic field. All PVDs detect some amount of voltage, but electric fields can be blocked or shielded. Current, on the other hand, is strong and can penetrate through any solid object (excluding iron). It’s important to know that there are many situations in which electrical threats are well within reach but undetectable. They may be hidden within grounded electrical conduits, behind electrical panels, buried underground, or in the primary windings of a transformer. Unless the electrical threat is in your unobstructed line of sight, many PVDs may not detect it – meaning you could be inches away from deadly voltage and be completely unaware. 


 4. A new and smarter design.

When you’re working around dangerous electrical equipment, any gear worn around your arms and hands can cause issues if not designed properly. If your PVD mounts on a lanyard around your neck, and swings in the same region where your hands perform maintenance on hazardous electrical equipment, you are at risk of entanglement. Devices like these can become an irritant, a cause for discomfort, or in some cases an increase in danger. When it comes to design, is about as practical as a superhero wearing a cape.



5. More affordable charging options.

If you grew up in the ’90s, then this problem will resonate with you. Being able to charge your equipment saves everyone money and resources in the long run. Most PVDs already cost $350-$425. Add on the batteries you need to keep them running and you’re looking at a device that’s lifetime cost nearly doubles itself.  


So here’s the deal. We appreciate all that personal voltage detectors have done for the industry, and we very much believe in using PVDs for added protection around electrical threats. But it’s time some enhancements were brought into the world of electrical safety.

We created The Compass to address all the shortcomings of PVDs mentioned above, and we added several other improvements to stop sh*t from killing you. If you’re fed up with anything mentioned above and you think it’s time to take safety more seriously, then check out the link below for more information on COMPASS®. You can also request a sample device to test out in the field with your crew. 


Learn More about COMPASS PVD button


COMPASS PVD device on hard hat