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Photograph of an electric arc produced between two multi stranded wires close to each other but not in contact.
Is this electric arc dangerous? The answer depends on the AC frequency and the power involved. (credit: Khimich Alex, Wikimedia Commons)

Section summary

  • The two types of electric hazards are thermal (excessive power) and shock (current through a person).
  • Shock severity is determined by current, path, duration, and AC frequency.
  • [link] lists shock hazards as a function of current.
  • [link] graphs the threshold current for two hazards as a function of frequency.

Conceptual questions

Using an ohmmeter, a student measures the resistance between various points on his body. He finds that the resistance between two points on the same finger is about the same as the resistance between two points on opposite hands—both are several hundred thousand ohms. Furthermore, the resistance decreases when more skin is brought into contact with the probes of the ohmmeter. Finally, there is a dramatic drop in resistance (to a few thousand ohms) when the skin is wet. Explain these observations and their implications regarding skin and internal resistance of the human body.

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What are the two major hazards of electricity?

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Why isn't a short circuit a shock hazard?

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What determines the severity of a shock? Can you say that a certain voltage is hazardous without further information?

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An electrified needle is used to burn off warts, with the circuit being completed by having the patient sit on a large butt plate. Why is this plate large?

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Some surgery is performed with high-voltage electricity passing from a metal scalpel through the tissue being cut. Considering the nature of electric fields at the surface of conductors, why would you expect most of the current to flow from the sharp edge of the scalpel? Do you think high- or low-frequency AC is used?

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Some devices often used in bathrooms, such as hairdryers, often have safety messages saying “Do not use when the bathtub or basin is full of water.” Why is this so?

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We are often advised to not flick electric switches with wet hands, dry your hand first. We are also advised to never throw water on an electric fire. Why is this so?

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Before working on a power transmission line, linemen will touch the line with the back of the hand as a final check that the voltage is zero. Why the back of the hand?

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Why is the resistance of wet skin so much smaller than dry, and why do blood and other bodily fluids have low resistances?

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Could a person on intravenous infusion (an IV) be microshock sensitive?

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In view of the small currents that cause shock hazards and the larger currents that circuit breakers and fuses interrupt, how do they play a role in preventing shock hazards?

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Problem exercises

(a) How much power is dissipated in a short circuit of 240-V AC through a resistance of 0 . 250 Ω size 12{0 "." "250" %OMEGA } {} ? (b) What current flows?

(a) 230 kW

(b) 960 A

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What voltage is involved in a 1.44-kW short circuit through a 0 . 100 - Ω size 12{0 "." "100""-" %OMEGA } {} resistance?

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Find the current through a person and identify the likely effect on her if she touches a 120-V AC source: (a) if she is standing on a rubber mat and offers a total resistance of 300 k Ω size 12{"300"" k" %OMEGA } {} ; (b) if she is standing barefoot on wet grass and has a resistance of only 4000 k Ω size 12{"4000"" k" %OMEGA } {} .

(a) 0.400 mA, no effect

(b) 26.7 mA, muscular contraction for duration of the shock (can't let go)

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While taking a bath, a person touches the metal case of a radio. The path through the person to the drainpipe and ground has a resistance of 4000 Ω size 12{"4000" %OMEGA } {} . What is the smallest voltage on the case of the radio that could cause ventricular fibrillation?

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Foolishly trying to fish a burning piece of bread from a toaster with a metal butter knife, a man comes into contact with 120-V AC. He does not even feel it since, luckily, he is wearing rubber-soled shoes. What is the minimum resistance of the path the current follows through the person?

1 . 20 × 10 5 Ω size 12{1 "." "20"´"10" rSup { size 8{5} } %OMEGA } {}

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(a) During surgery, a current as small as 20.0 μA size 12{"20" "." 0 μ"A"} {} applied directly to the heart may cause ventricular fibrillation. If the resistance of the exposed heart is 300 Ω size 12{"300" %OMEGA } {} , what is the smallest voltage that poses this danger? (b) Does your answer imply that special electrical safety precautions are needed?

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(a) What is the resistance of a 220-V AC short circuit that generates a peak power of 96.8 kW? (b) What would the average power be if the voltage was 120 V AC?

(a) 1 . 00 Ω size 12{1 "." "00" %OMEGA } {}

(b) 14.4 kW

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A heart defibrillator passes 10.0 A through a patient's torso for 5.00 ms in an attempt to restore normal beating. (a) How much charge passed? (b) What voltage was applied if 500 J of energy was dissipated? (c) What was the path's resistance? (d) Find the temperature increase caused in the 8.00 kg of affected tissue.

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Integrated Concepts

A short circuit in a 120-V appliance cord has a 0 . 500 - Ω size 12{0 "." "500""-" %OMEGA } {} resistance. Calculate the temperature rise of the 2.00 g of surrounding materials, assuming their specific heat capacity is 0.200 cal/g ⋅º C size 12{0 "." "200"" cal/g" cdot °C} {} and that it takes 0.0500 s for a circuit breaker to interrupt the current. Is this likely to be damaging?

Temperature increases 860º C size 12{"860"°C} {} . It is very likely to be damaging.

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Construct Your Own Problem

Consider a person working in an environment where electric currents might pass through her body. Construct a problem in which you calculate the resistance of insulation needed to protect the person from harm. Among the things to be considered are the voltage to which the person might be exposed, likely body resistance (dry, wet, …), and acceptable currents (safe but sensed, safe and unfelt, …).

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Questions & Answers

A spherica, concave shaving mirror has a radius of curvature of 32 cm .what is the magnification of a persons face. when it is 12cm to the left of the vertex of the mirror
Alona Reply
A weather vane is some sort of directional arrow parallel to the ground that may rotate freely in a horizontal plane. A typical weather vane has a large cross-sectional area perpendicular to the direction the arrow is pointing, like a “One Way” street sign. The purpose of the weather vane is to indicate the direction of the wind. As wind blows pa
Kavita Reply
If a prism is fully imersed in water then the ray of light will normally dispersed or their is any difference?
Anurag Reply
the same behavior thru the prism out or in water bud abbot
Ju
If this will experimented with a hollow(vaccum) prism in water then what will be result ?
Anurag
What was the previous far point of a patient who had laser correction that reduced the power of her eye by 7.00 D, producing a normal distant vision power of 50.0 D for her?
Jaydie Reply
What is the far point of a person whose eyes have a relaxed power of 50.5 D?
Jaydie
What is the far point of a person whose eyes have a relaxed power of 50.5 D?
Jaydie
A young woman with normal distant vision has a 10.0% ability to accommodate (that is, increase) the power of her eyes. What is the closest object she can see clearly?
Jaydie
29/20 ? maybes
Ju
In what ways does physics affect the society both positively or negatively
Princewill Reply
how can I read physics...am finding it difficult to understand...pls help
rerry Reply
try to read several books on phy don't just rely one. some authors explain better than other.
Ju
And don't forget to check out YouTube videos on the subject. Videos offer a different visual way to learn easier.
Ju
hope that helps
Ju
I have a exam on 12 february
David Reply
what is velocity
Jiti
the speed of something in a given direction.
Ju
what is a magnitude in physics
Jiti Reply
Propose a force standard different from the example of a stretched spring discussed in the text. Your standard must be capable of producing the same force repeatedly.
Giovani Reply
What is meant by dielectric charge?
It's Reply
what happens to the size of charge if the dielectric is changed?
Brhanu Reply
omega= omega not +alpha t derivation
Provakar Reply
u have to derivate it respected to time ...and as w is the angular velocity uu will relace it with "thita × time""
Abrar
do to be peaceful with any body
Brhanu Reply
the angle subtended at the center of sphere of radius r in steradian is equal to 4 pi how?
Saeed Reply
if for diatonic gas Cv =5R/2 then gamma is equal to 7/5 how?
Saeed
define variable velocity
Ali Reply
Practice Key Terms 4

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics for ap® courses. OpenStax CNX. Nov 04, 2016 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11844/1.14
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