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Tesla coils are extremely dangerous and potentially lethal devices if not handled properly. Precautions must be taken before operation to ensure the safety of both the operators and audience. Never under any circumstance should an unqualified person be allowed to operate a Tesla coil. A working knowledge of high voltage electrical circuits is a must for all operators. You don't get a second chance with any type of high voltage equipment.

  1. When working with high voltage equipment such as Tesla coils one of the most important things to remember is you don't have to actually touch the circuit for it to kill you. High voltage circuits, depending on the scale can jump large distances through air and will have no trouble finding a path to ground through you!
  2. You should always assume a circuit is energized! The lets quickly touch the stove to see if it's hot method doesn't apply here! Always verify the main power switch is in the off position, the main power is disconnected, and all capacitors are fully discharged and a safety jumper is applied across terminals before servicing any part of the circuit.
  3. Never attempt to service a coil that's plugged in even if main power switch is in off position. This is how accidents happen.
  4. Never operate a coil on the same circuit as sensitive electrical equipment, even if the coil is filtered and the devices are turned off. RF and high voltage transients can and will destroy these devices.
  5. Never run a coil that is not properly grounded. Death or injury could occur.
  6. The most dangerous part of a Tesla coil is not the secondary output, but instead the low voltage 60Hz side within the tank circuit. In rare cases a wire could disconnect from the tank circuit causing a potential lethal charge to build with the tank capacitor. Always be sure to jump any Tesla coil capacitor before servicing.
  7. Always clear a safe distance around a Tesla coil as long arcs are generally radiated in all directions from the discharge terminal.
  8. Always maintain a safe distance from a Tesla coil while in operation. Keep in mind that just because you are not within strike distance, you could still potentially be within the coils electric and magnetic fields. As such, persons with pacemakers or other life saving devices must maintain a distance double that of recommend perimeter. The fields created by a Tesla coil could disrupt the operation of such devices. Always determine if any bystanders have these devices prior to turning on a coil!
  9. The output of a Tesla coil may also be dangerous to certain wireless devices such as cell phones, digital cameras, etc. Be sure to keep these items outside the danger zone to eliminate risk of damage.
  10. Never let a coil come in contact with the walls on the inside of a building. Not only does the heat from a Tesla coil streamer present a fire danger, but cables traveling to sensitive equipment may be concealed such as networking or phone cables.
  11. For a traditional spark gap coil the only place arcing should occur is within the spark gap and the output of the discharge terminal. If arching occurs anywhere else on the coil, immediately shutdown the system.
  12. Every system should be equipped with an emergency mushroom stop switch. During operation, the operator should never walk away from the console and should always have his or her hand on the switch ready to kill the power.
  13. The output of a traditional spark gap produces intense UV and X-rays. You should never stare at the output of a spark gap or you risk flash burning your eyes.
  14. Never run a Tesla coil that has been damaged or that is incomplete (As tempting as it may be)!
  15. Never attempt to run a Tesla coil in adverse weather conditions.
  16. Always be sure to operate your Tesla coil in a well ventilated area. The output of a Tesla coil produces ozone which in high quantities are toxic. Avoid prolonged exposure to gas.
  17. Finally, one last high voltage safety tip. If you're unsure, or don't understand it, DON'T TOUCH IT!