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Can you get electrocuted on an electrical wire if you're not touching the ground?

Answer

Wiki User
03/10/2008

['No' is the correct answer to this question. But it's a technical answer. There are a lot of if's, and's or but's involved. How, for instance, how do you touch one wire without touching anything else? On what are you standing? On what are you suspended? See how this works? If one was foolish enough to climb a telephone pole that had high voltage wires atop it and reached out and touched the wire, a fatal shock would almost certainly result. But if one somehow got atop the pole and jumped off and grabbed hold of the wire, no electric shock would occur. Birds sitting on wires don't get electrocuted. Remember that 'No' is the technically correct answer, but there are a lot of "loose ends" that must be thought through when considering this question. There are safety considerations to be assessed, and fatal consequences await the careless individual.] Yes. Most wires have a two or three pathways (conductors) wrapped together. One of these is usually the ground wire. If you come into contact with the ground and the hot wire, you can be shocked. Another way to look at this question is to think of "ground" as standing on the ground. If a person touches a live wire with a single contact point, but their body is not touching the ground or a grounded surface or a grounded object, then that person will not be electrocuted. That's because a complete circuit can not be made until you are grounded, or until you touch another circuit wire at the same time. You will not know for sure unless you have a test instrument. A wise person would not guess. For example, think of when a bird sits on a live high voltage wire between poles. The bird does not get electrocuted because the bird is not grounded. That bird is not completing a circuit path and cannot be shocked. However, if the voltage is high enough, the voltage can go right through the air (think lightning). A link is provided to the Wikipedia article on electric shock. It's worth a skim.