Have you ever walked across carpet and received a shock when you touched a doorknob or another person?
What you felt was a buildup of static electricity.
But a real electric shock is a lot more painful and can be deadly. Here’s what can happen:
- Muscles tighten up, making it almost impossible to pull away from the circuit.
- Lungs constrict, making it hard to breathe.
- Heartbeat is interrupted and blood vessels narrow.
- Burns and internal organ damage occur.
- Death may follow.
It sounds scary—and it is—but if you remember some simple safety rules, you can use electricity without getting hurt.
Humans Are Good Conductors
The human body is a good conductor of electricity. That means electricity flows easily through our bodies. Why? Because electricity moves quickly through water—and the human body is 70% water.
Another fact to remember is that electricity always tries to find the easiest path to the ground—so don’t get in its way. Maintain safe distances from electric lines at all times. Avoid using ladders, poles or other tools in situations where they may come into contact with overhead lines. Contact your electric cooperative if you need to work near power lines.
Accidents Happen Quickly
You might think that if you get shocked, you can pull away quickly and not get hurt. Electricity travels at nearly the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, so the effects of electricity can be felt immediately. A person has almost no chance of avoiding the shock.
If the electricity is strong enough, muscles tighten so much that a person can’t let go.
Anyone who touches someone who is being shocked can become part of the circuit, too. That’s why you should never grab anyone who’s been shocked. If an electrical accident happens, turn off or unplug the circuit if it’s safe to do so, call 911 and tell the operator that someone has been involved in an electrical accident, and keep others away until trained help arrives.