How Electricity Can Hurt You

Electricity Takes the Easiest Path to the Ground

Tip of weather vane against purple sky with lightning boltElectricity is always trying to get to the ground and takes shortcuts whenever it can. If something that conducts electricity gives electricity an easy path to the ground, electricity will take it!

Electricity Can Travel Through You

Illustration of lightning bolt next to stick figure with arms in airWater and metal are some of the best conductors for electricity. Because your body is mostly water, you are a great conductor, too! So if you touch an electric circuit and the ground at the same time, you will become electricity’s easiest path. Electricity will flow through you, and you could be seriously hurt or killed.

You don’t have to be touching the ground directly to conduct electricity. You could also be touching something that is in contact with the ground, like a tree or a ladder.

Electricity and Water: A Dangerous Combination

Hair dryer resting on bathroom sink ledgeWater is an excellent conductor. You can become electricity’s path to the ground if you are touching water that touches electricity. Electricity would travel through the water and through you to the ground.

This is why it’s so important to keep all electrical appliances away from water, and to make sure your hands are dry and you are not standing in water when you touch anything electrical. It’s also the reason no one should ever use water on an electrical fire, but should use a multipurpose fire extinguisher instead.

Appliance Safety

Cord plugged in outlet with wires exposedAppliances have protective insulated cords and coverings to keep you from contacting the electricity inside.

It’s important to use appliances and cords the way they were designed to be used so you don’t damage the insulation or contact live electrical parts. Appliances have protective insulated cords and coverings to keep you from contacting the electricity inside. If the cord insulation or the appliance covering becomes damaged in any way, you are at risk of contacting a bare live wire, which could cause serious shock. So always report a damaged cord or appliance to an adult.

The Truth About Shock

Milliamp measurement chart for electric shockYou can never tell when contact with electricity will be fatal, but you can be sure it will always hurt. Electric shock can cause muscle spasms, weakness, shallow breathing, rapid pulse, severe burns, unconsciousness or death.

In a shock incident, the path that electric current takes through the body gets very hot. Burns occur all along that path, including the places on the skin where the current enters and leaves the body. It’s not only giant power lines that can kill or injure you if you contact them. You can also be killed by a shock from an appliance or power cord in your home.

Birds & Power Lines

Several black birds sitting on power linesHave you ever wondered why the birds that sit on power lines don’t get electric shocks? It’s because the electricity is always looking for a way to get to the ground, but the birds are not touching the ground or anything in contact with the ground.

If you touched a power line while you were in contact with the ground (or standing on a ladder or roof) electricity would travel through you. And if your kite or balloon got tangled in a power line and you touched the string, electricity could travel down the string and into you on its way to the ground. Both situations would mean a serious shock!

Utility worker in bucket working near power linesHave you ever wondered why people who work up on power lines don’t get shocked? Utility workers are trained to work with electricity. They wear special insulated boots, hardhats, and gloves, and use special insulated tools that help prevent shock. It would be a bad idea to climb a power pole and imitate them – and possibly fatal!

Try these exciting experiments:

Electricity & Water

Ben Franklin Was Lucky!

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