Electrical Shock?

Thread Starter

DespicableMe222

Joined Oct 20, 2023
2
Hi, I was working on a 120V light switch in a 2-gang box. My hand brushed against a live wire and I felt a tingling sensation in my hand and up my arm. I realized the box must be two different circuits. I pulled my hand away as soon as I felt the tingling sensation. My hand and arm tingled for about 10 minutes after with no sign of burns. Did I experience an actual electric shock? I know the skin has good resistance. If I didn't feel an exit point does that mean my body acted as a capacitor and absorbed the current? I was wearing running shoes with rubber soles at the time. I appreciate the time for reading my post.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
16,665
Welcome to AAC!
My hand and arm tingled for about 10 minutes after with no sign of burns.
I've been shocked before. It would be unusual for the effects of a mild shock to last that long.
Did I experience an actual electric shock? I know the skin has good resistance. If I didn't feel an exit point does that mean my body acted as a capacitor and absorbed the current? I was wearing running shoes with rubber soles at the time.
Skin resistance can vary a lot. With line voltage, there are few individuals who wouldn't be shocked.

To get shocked, there has to be a path for current to travel. Your capacitor analogy is faulty. There must be a potential difference for a capacitor to charge.

Your shoes may not have been a perfect isolator. You could have been touching something with some other body part to provide a current path. Whatever the case, there was a current path because you felt the shock.

Look for videos of guys working on high voltage lines when they're live. They make sure there's no potential difference between them and the line to avoid getting killed.
 

nsaspook

Joined Aug 27, 2009
12,749
Yes. Your body capacitance can provide a path for usually mild electric shock. It's all about the level of energy flow (as ion in the body move to neutralize unbalanced charges across it) as the body part (physical size and proximity to grounded objects matters in birds vs humans as it increases the total capacitance exposed to the electric field) in contact with the wire changes potential IRT ground.
A bit of humor and electrical safety rolled into one.
 
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k1ng 1337

Joined Sep 11, 2020
906
Next time access live equipment with one hand. Using both hands to touch the case and a random wire can pass current through your chest if the circuit is faulty or poorly isolated. Lucky for you you got a low dose. 8 lives left...
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
16,665
Next time access live equipment with one hand.
You can still get shocked using one hand. The shock I remember most vividly was a case where I was reaching over and behind a dresser to unplug a TV. I could barely reach with one hand and used the outlet cover for leverage. When the plug was out enough to expose both prongs, I touch both with the same finger and received a shock.

What I was taught in school was, that in addition to using one hand, touch with the back of your hand first.
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
5,019
Used to hear that 20mA can be fatal but here is some recent info FWIW...
1697815656810.png
Grab an Ohm Meter lead in each licked wet thumb and forefinger and measure your hand-to-hand resistance. Mine is ~100kΩ. So, for 120VAC/100kΩ that is 1.2mA across your chest. Of course, that varies with both voltage, frequency, body resistance, and how much you are sweating out electrolytes across your skin. I knew electricians who used to "Feel" for hot circuits. I do NOT recommend this practice! In high frequency RF at elevated wattages situations contact is not even needed for damage to occur so don't put hamsters in your microwave oven to dry them off... Now, even the ARRL puts a section in their yearly handbook on RF safety in addition to shock prevention. In the days of non-insulated electrical hand tools, we had an old Craftsman aluminum bodied electric hand drill that you learned NOT to put the other hand on anything that would "ground you out" or else you get a tickle and depending on just how well you were grounded could lead to some rather crude exhortations.
 
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k1ng 1337

Joined Sep 11, 2020
906
You can still get shocked using one hand. The shock I remember most vividly was a case where I was reaching over and behind a dresser to unplug a TV. I could barely reach with one hand and used the outlet cover for leverage. When the plug was out enough to expose both prongs, I touch both with the same finger and received a shock.

What I was taught in school was, that in addition to using one hand, touch with the back of your hand first.
This is a good story but I think you will agree luck was really against you that day.

With insulated shoes and one hand access as a general rule, I'd say the chances for a shock are minimized aside from not touching live equipment at all.

The common denominator in all these stories is ignoring obvious safety measures. I like your story because it is like the Snowbird story:

The Snowbirds are acrobatic airplanes. A midair crash resulted because one of the pilots sneezed while in formation. The moral of the story is contingency.
 

tonyStewart

Joined May 8, 2012
127
Hi, I was working on a 120V light switch in a 2-gang box. My hand brushed against a live wire and I felt a tingling sensation in my hand and up my arm. I realized the box must be two different circuits. I pulled my hand away as soon as I felt the tingling sensation. My hand and arm tingled for about 10 minutes after with no sign of burns. Did I experience an actual electric shock? I know the skin has good resistance. If I didn't feel an exit point does that mean my body acted as a capacitor and absorbed the current? I was wearing running shoes with rubber soles at the time. I appreciate the time for reading my post.
Yes, you are correct, the surface area of the skin to moist air is enough to get a few hundred uA with a light touch and insulated shoes. The scraping of skin would modulate the current with high frequency cause nerve overstimulation and prolonged effects like hitting your funny bone.
 

ThePanMan

Joined Mar 13, 2020
757
Next time access live equipment with one hand.
No - next time turn the breaker off before servicing that circuit. If you're not sure if you've turned the right circuit breaker off check with a No Contact Voltage Tester (NCVT). If power is present on any wire the NCVT will beep and light up. If it does - find the right breaker. Or turn the main breakers off. Better safe than sorry.

As for the capacitive comment - I was going to be a smart arse and say "be careful what you discharge to." But I won't.
 

crutschow

Joined Mar 14, 2008
34,002
The shock I remember most vividly was a case where I was reaching over and behind a dresser to unplug a TV. I could barely reach with one hand and used the outlet cover for leverage. When the plug was out enough to expose both prongs, I touch both with the same finger and received a shock.
Yes, when I was a kid of perhaps 6 years, I decided (who knows why) to put my finger in a bulb socket which had no bulb, but apparently was turned on.
Still remember that vividly some 75 years later, including which room I was in, and what the light fixture looked like (an old porcelain fixture on the wall, similar to below).
1697839469314.png
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
5,019
Even the industrial electricians I knew who claimed they "felt" for hot circuits admitted it was ONLY for residential 120VAC. 220 or 480 could make you dead... That is NOT a practice I have any interest in trying or advising anyone else to try! I assiduously avoid being electrically shocked.
 

MisterBill2

Joined Jan 23, 2018
17,756
Certainly the discomfort from a shock can last for a while. It is not a continuing shck, but certaily a continuing discomfort. Consider that the current can make muscles contract much harder than nerve impulses, so there is even a bit of damage done. It is similar to an internal bruise along the current path. It has happened to me a couple of times, but not recently.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
28,500
The worst for me was grasping two 240v conductors in either hand, after I had thought I had turned the breaker off. !
Fortunately the resultant muscle spasm threw my hands off !
Happened in my younger days, but taught me a lesson. :oops:
 

MrSoftware

Joined Oct 29, 2013
2,168
The important lesson here is make sure the power is turned off to every circuit in any box before you start fiddling. Get yourself one of those voltage detector sticks from the hardware store, you hold them next to wires and they light up and beep if power is present. They're only a few bucks, they're not perfect but can save you some pain.

Sometimes if you get a good pop, you get the taste of metal in your mouth. Or is that just me? I've been zapped by spark plug wires several times, the bug zapper a time or two, and some 110v wires. I don't like it lol.
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
5,019
next time turn the breaker off before servicing that circuit. If you're not sure if you've turned the right circuit breaker off check with a No Contact Voltage Tester
The plant safety policy was a lock out procedure. Turn the breaker off, lock and tag the breaker to prevent energizing the circuit, THEN test the circuit to ensure you locked out the right breaker! It does happen, not often but it does happen! Every person working on the equipment had to put their lock on the breaker.
1697847432540.png
 

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
6,778
Now try 230V.
(It's much more likely than 120V to encourage you to take the appropriate safety precautions!)
I have been shocked by several voltages; as low as 12VDC (turns out it's possible to shock yourself by laying a sweaty arm across a car battery's terminals) and as high as 6,000VAC (from a hipot tester) and several in between. The worst was 670VDC (rectified 480VAC from the DC bus of a VFD) - probably one of my closest ever brushes with death, and the turning point in my pattern of carelessness. In my experience, the voltage hasn't been a good predictor of the "badness" of a shock. IOW it's more about the circumstances than the voltage value. I've been bitten harder by 120V than I have by 480V. Standing in insulated boots and glancing your forearm off 230V is something I can guarantee will be less exhilarating than holding a metal handrail in one hand and the bare end of a live 120V wire in the other.
 
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