Another question about wiring. How much Juice is too much juice?

Ok yesterday I posted a thread regarding a fallen ceiling fan in the kitchen of our condo. I inquired as to weather or not I should put it back up or have an experienced electrician do it. I was toroughly convinced to hire someone. Then my soon-to-be Father-in-Law showed up.

“My father used to be an electrician,” he said “I’ll put it back up for you.” This is when the yarn spinning started I think.

He said that if you use one hand whilst handling the wires, and you get a quick zap it just zaps that hand. However, with two hands you’d get electrocuted, because the current would go instantly from one hand to the other, through your body…


Was I being spun a yarn or is this true?

Obviously IANAE

It’s true…with exceptions.

If the other parts of your body are only touching dry non-metallic objects then the only way for the electricity(“current” for those of you about to object to such a layman’s term) to go through your body would be in your hand, and right back out of it again. It would not travel to your heart or diaphram and back up to the same hand.

Make no mistake though, getting a good shot to the hand will likely make you fall off the ladder and break your leg. Another problem with getting shocked in the hand is that you may not be able to let go. I knew a guy once that was wiring a sign, outdoors, on top of a post at the mall. He grabbed a hot wire, his hand wrapped around it, and he sat there thinking, “this really sucks, wish I could get my hand to open, I can’t breath and my arm feels like it’s in the microwave.” So he did the only thing he could think of, using the only parts of his body he could control, which was to kick himself backwards off the top of the sign, 12 feet down to the parking lot below, where he waited for the EMS guys to come and take him to the hospital with his broken leg. It did however cause him to let go of the wire so he could start breathing again.

Now back to the electricity thing, if you are standing on a metal ladder, and that ladder is on a damp surface, or on concrete, or leaning against the frame of the sink, then the electricty could go in your hand, down your arm, across your heart, then out of whatever body part is touching the ladder. This causes two problems, the first is that you will fly from the ladder, and may also screw up your heart. If your wife comes in and finds you on the floor, unconscious, she will likely think you hit your head, and wait for you to come around. She will probably not even notice that your arm is bent in several places. In fact, your heart is probably stopped(“fribulation” for those of you about to object to such a layman’s term, and I don’t want you to object to the spelling of it), and you won’t get the help you need.

I heard a yarn once about disconnecting power before wiring fans…but I’m sure that was just a myth.

Different folks have varying degrees of tolerance to electric shock, it seems. It probably has something to do with your body’s resistance. For me, I feel a zap to my hand clear up past my elbow. Other electricians I worked with had little reaction to a 120v shock. But basically, yeah, what Billy said…

It is true as long as no other parts of your body are grounded.

This is one of the precatuions I take when working on hot circuits.

My grandfather’s finger was sufficiently calloused that he’d just go ahead and touch whatever wire he wanted to check to see if it was hot. He’d even stick his finger into lamps to see if it was a burned-out bulb or something else wrong.

I’m happy to say that I didn’t inherit that bit of stupidity from him. I’ve got a non-contact electronic device that senses hot wires and squeaks accordingly. You can find them at Home Depot and such places for $10-15. If that’s not enough, I’ve also got a “wiggy” tester.

I definitely agree with gotpasswords: I don’t much care what sort of “Moderate shock, don’t worry, probably won’t kill you” trick anyone recommends. Electrical testers are cheap and versatile; everyone should have one.

Another piece of advice I was given was don’t ever touch something that might be live. Ever. But if you are ever trapped somewhere where you must, use the back of your hand if possible so convulsions won’t grab it.