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Q & A: shocking

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Most recent answer: 10/14/2009
Q:
Was my electric shock as bad as I think? I recently received an electric shock. I can not remember much about the incident itself but will give you as much info as I can. The shock was from a metal light fitting in a house which was protected by a 6 amp Miniature Circuit Breaker. The electricity supply was 230 volts and my hand was wet at the time. I remember accidentally touching the light fitting and feeling as if I was ‘stuck’ to the fitting while I was getting the shock. The shock was only to one hand and very painful. But, while my hand was red, I definitely was not burned. I do not know how long I was getting the shock for, but something tells me it was a second or two. But I am certain that it was not a case of touching the light then being thrown off it. I have since learned that the Miniature Circuit Breaker protects equipment from getting too many amps and catching fire, so apparently did not protect me from the shock by tripping. And the light fitting had loose and exposed wires. I am guessing that I either touched both loose wires or maybe the water on my hand ‘connected’ me to both of the wires. Anyway, my questions are, how much of an electric shock did I get? Is it possible to work out how many volts or amps I received? Could it have been as bad as I think without getting burned?
- Chris
UK
A:
You are a very lucky guy. You had 230 Volts across what seems to have just been your hand. In slightly different circumstances, say between hands, that's plenty to kill you. As for what the current was, that depends on what your resistance was, which we can't estimate accurately.

The 6 amp circuit breaker is useless for protecting you, since much less current than that can kill you.  A ground fault circuit interrupter, on the other hand, offers protection against many ways of getting shocked. If, however, you were connecting 'hot' to 'neutral',  rather than to ground, a GFCI also would not help.

There is no reason to doubt that your description of the sensations is accurate. I did about the same thing about 36 years ago, with the same results.

Next time, be more *&#% careful.

Mike W.



(published on 10/14/2009)

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