Learning, Wiring,

Can a Ground Wire Shock You? (Prevent Shocks)

Statistics show that over 400 people get electrocuted, and over 4000 individuals obtain mild electrical injuries annually in the United States. It’s well known that ground wires can shock you. If you are in contact with another metal object. You become a medium allowing the current to flow to the second surface or object.

To understand how a ground wire causes electrical shock and how to prevent such incidents, keep on reading our guide.

In general, if you are in contact with both a ground wire and a second surface or object, the electrical current can flow towards the second surface or object through you! However, the ground wire or surface cannot shock you on its own. They sometimes carry electrical current to the ground to protect the circuit components and other appliances. When a short-circuit occurs in a circuit, the hot wire may come into contact with the ground wire hence inducing current in the ground connections. So, if you touch that ground wire, you will be shocked.

If you want to repair or wire new cables and electrical sockets, always treat the ground wire as if it were a live wire, or shut down the main power supply to be safe.

The ground wire is designed to be a safety measure by diverting excess electrical current to the ground. The action safeguards the circuit and prevents sparks and fire breakouts.

Can I Get Shocked from a Ground Wire?

Whether a ground wire will shock you or not depends on the object you are in contact with. So, a ground wire can shock you if you are in contact with something else. Otherwise, if the contact is just between you and the ground wire, you won’t sustain a shock because the electrical charge will flow to the ground through earthing.

It would help if you, therefore, switched off the main power supply when working on an electrical socket or any other fixture. You may accidentally wire things incorrectly or be exposed to any other potential electrical issue. So, always shut off the main power supply when doing electrical repairs.

on and off switch graphic

What Induces Power in the Ground Wire?

The two possible issues that may cause a ground wire to have power are electrical malfunctions in the setup and a short-circuit.

A short-circuit can occur when the amps rating is too large for a given wire gauge. The insulation cover melts causing different wires to come into contact. In the process, the ground wire may obtain electrical current, posing a great danger to the user. The abnormal flow of electricity or stray current into the ground wire is called a ground fault. So, the circuit is said to have bypassed the circuit wiring – short-circuit.

hot, ground, neutral wires of an outlet

The ground fault also happens when a hot wire induces an electrical current to a ground surface – making the ground hot and dangerous.

The purpose of a grounding connection is to drain excess current back into the utility line. That is a safety measure for all electrical circuits. Without a ground wire, power surges can fry electrical appliances, electrocute nearby people, or even cause a fire. Grounding is, therefore, an integral component of any electrical circuit.

Can Ground Wires Cause a Fire?

As mentioned before, ground wires are integrated into electrical circuits to curtail damages that can be inflicted by power surges. Therefore, we can conclusively deduce that ground wires do not cause fires, rather they prevent them.

The grounding connection passes the current back into the ground, hindering sparks – which may ultimately cause fires. However, if the fire breaks out, then it is due to malfunctioning components in the circuit. Another reason may be poor ground wire connections which prevent the proper flow of the current into the ground wires – causing sparks and fire to break out. Always ensure that your ground wires are properly wired to avoid such incidences. (1)

Do Ground Wires Carry Electrical Current?

No, ground wires don’t carry electricity. But that is if the electrical fixture is connected correctly, and all circuit parts are in their optimal conditions. Otherwise, if your circuit breaker is tripped, the ground wires will ferry current from the system to the ground. That activity neutralizes the current to curtail damage to the electrical components, appliances, and nearby people.

Since you cannot tell when the beaker gets tripped or if a ground wire is carrying current, always avoid contact with it (ground wire); especially when the main power supply is on. It is important to be cautious to avoid electrical accidents. Assume the ground wire is a hot wire to be safe.

Wrapping Up

It is crucial to ascertain the connection of the ground wire and the general circuit components to avoid ground wire malfunctions and accidents. Avoid getting in contact with a secondary object when holding or near ground wires. The electrical charge may pass through you and into that object. I hope this guide helps you and your family to stay safe in your home, and also clear your doubts about ground wire electrocutions. (2)

Take a look at some of our related articles below.

(1) cause fires – http://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Top-fire-causes
(2) electricutions – https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/electrocution

Video References

The Engineering Mindset

Schneider Electric

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About Sam Orlovsky

AvatarCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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