Electricity and the ground
Electricity is always trying to get to the ground. Like all good travellers, electricity takes shortcuts wherever it can. If something that conducts electricity gives it an easy path to the ground, electricity will take it.
Electricity and your body
Electricity can travel through you
Water and metal are some of the best conductors of electricity. Because your body is mostly water, you’re a great conductor too. So if you touch an electric circuit and the ground at the same time, you become electricity's easiest path. Electricity will flow through you, and you could be seriously hurt or killed.
You don't have to be touching the ground directly to conduct electricity. You could also be touching something that’s in contact with the ground, like a tree or ladder.
Electricity and water
A dangerous combination
Water is an excellent conductor. You can become electricity's path to the ground if you’re touching water that touches electricity. Electricity would travel through the water and through you to the ground.
This is why it's so important to keep all electrical appliances away from water, and to make sure your hands are dry and you’re not standing in water when you touch anything electrical. It's also the reason no one should ever use water on an electrical fire, but use a multipurpose fire extinguisher instead.
If you play with high-power water squirters, keep them away from power lines. If you shoot water at a power line, electricity can travel down the stream of water, right back at you.
Appliances have protective insulated cords and coverings to keep you from touching the electricity inside. It's important to use appliances and cords the way they were designed to be used so you don't damage the insulation or touch live electrical parts.
The truth about shocks
You can never tell when contact with electricity will be fatal, but you can be sure it will always hurt. Electric shock can cause muscle spasms, weakness, shallow breathing, rapid pulse, severe burns, unconsciousness, or even death (electrocution).
When someone gets shocked, the path that electric current takes through their body gets very hot. Burns occur all along that path, including the places on the skin where the current enters and leaves the body. It’s not only power lines that can kill or injure you if you touch them – you can also be killed by a shock from an appliance or power cord at home.
Birds and power lines
Have you ever wondered why birds that sit on power lines don’t get electric shocks? It’s because the electricity is always looking for a way to get to the ground, but the birds aren't touching the ground or anything in contact with the ground (unless their wings touch more than one wire at a time – creating a circuit – or a tree or power pole).
⚠️ Never touch a power line with any part of your body or any object, even if you’re away from the ground.
If you touched a power line while you were in contact with the ground (or standing on a ladder or roof), electricity would travel through you.
And if your kite or balloon got tangled in a power line and you touched the string, electricity could travel down the string and into you on its way to the ground.
Both situations would mean a serious shock and could result in death.