# Amperage

Last updated: November 9, 2020

## What Does Amperage Mean?

Amperage is the one-word term for “electrical current,” which is measured in amperes (amps). It describes the amount of electrical charge that is flowing through a system or alternately the maximum amount of electrical current that a system is capable of handling safely. This maximum amount may also be referred to as “ampacity,” a portmanteau of “amperage capacity”.

One ampere is the equivalent to a charge of one coulomb (6.241 x 1018 electrons) per second. Thus, if two amperes pass through a given point in an electrical system every second, that system would be said to have an amperage of two.

## Safeopedia Explains Amperage

Amperage is an important concept when considering electrical safety. Although electricity may be referred to in terms of wattage, voltage, or amperage, it is specifically the amount of amperage (electrical current) in a system that determines how dangerous that system is to humans.

Because current is important for determining the level of safety risk associated with a system, most electrical safety standards (such as OSHA 1910.269) use current as a primary metric for determining a workplace’s safety obligations. It is particularly important to consider amperage when assessing whether a given electrical system is durable enough to handle a specific amount of electricity without being damaged. The amount of heat that is created by an active electrical system will increase as its amperage increases.

### Risks Associated with High Amperage

When a system is subjected to too much amperage, its electrical circuit or other components may melt or otherwise degrade. Beyond the immediate burn hazard posed by such a situation, a system with melted components could also cause an electrical fault that results in an arc flash or shock hazard.

Thus, high-amperage equipment can only be used if the electrical equipment has a high heat tolerance, a strong cooling system, or if the conductive material has such low resistance that the system will not heat up to a degree that poses a significant risk.

In instances in which equipment must be operated at high amperage levels, applicable safety standards may instead limit the amount of time that the equipment can be used for. For example, British Columbia’s OHS rules require certain high-amperage welding machines to be idled for six minutes after every four minutes of continuous use. This rule prevents the equipment from being damaged due to excessive heat during use.