A light switch shocked me - why?

Svetlana February 02 2022

What is the nature of shock?

Let`s discuss two main variants: you can get a static electric charge from the switcher or the real electric shock.

Static electric charge. The first variant is that you can get a static electric shock from the switch for your lights, simply because it has certain metal parts, which are connected to the actual wires and so they conduct electricity. If you take off all insulation (this can be rubber, plastic, or enamel), this problem becomes pretty obvious. To check if the wire is uninsulated, just take some paper or thin fabric and try to touch two ends of wire at once - if you feel spark - then something is wrong with insulation.

This type of shock usually does not cause any physical damage to a person, just an annoying tingling sensation for 1-2 seconds. So don`t worry about it too much unless this happens quite often.

Real electric shock. The second variant is that you can get a real electric shock from the switch for your lights. It happens because of some defect or instability in the system. You will probably notice if someone touched this same wire before - maybe they tried to push it too hard inside, or just somehow hurt the insulation. Then your switch will become a kind of "sharing" socket for everyone who wants to have a free ride on electricity passing by this wire. If there are few people using one wire at once, everything would be ok, but things might go wrong when several people want to charge their iPods together...

This type of shock does serious physical damage to a person, so please avoid it at any cost! Also, note that metal parts coming out from the switch (like screws or bolts) might be good conductors of electricity too, so try to avoid touching them together.

Why does a light switcher shock you?

The reasons for your light switcher to cause electric shock are usually varied and depend on certain conditions when shock appeared.

  • There is no grounding

If your switch is not grounded it can cause you to get an electric shock. Grounding provides a path for electricity to flow through the ground which is usually safer than other materials around it. The switch should be grounded by attaching a copper wire from the box of the light into your circuit breaker box with green screws.

  • Loose wires

If there are loose wires in your wiring or switch then that can cause your lights to turn off and on without even flipping the switch because this would confuse the mechanism inside the switcher itself. Do not take apart your switches yourself but have an electrician to check it out so that he can fix any problems with wires or screws stuck together or too slackened due to wear down over time.

  • Faulty wiring

It could be faulty wiring if something is wrong with the wires inside the switch. Wires might be loose, causing power to flow out of them, or there could even be a wire that is broken. If you suspect this then call an electrician to inspect your wiring and find if it is faulty or not.

  • Switch with metal box

On condition your switch is perfectly grounded with no loose wires and your wires are working correctly but it still shocks you, there is a possibility that the metal box of your switch might be defective so be sure to contact an electrician to inspect this.

  • Wires incorrectly installed

When wire nuts are not used on wires in series or even worse when two hot wires are joined together, either at the light or elsewhere along the circuit, then this can cause shocking problems like short circuits (which causes components to get red hot) and overloads (which causes them to melt). Sometimes faulty switches can also cause these issues. If one of the connections inside the fixture is loose or if screws containing metal parts touch the copper wire, they will allow current to pass through them.

How can you avoid it in your house?

To be sure that your children or you will not get an electric shock after a simple light switcher touch, ensure that all of your switches are correctly installed, grounded, and not faulty by having an electrician to check it every two months. There are also some tips on how to avoid this problem quickly:

  1. Change the switch with a nonmetallic box or cover the metallic one with a plastic cover that isn't broken.
  2. Be sure to have electrical wiring done properly according to the manufacturer's specification especially if you are doing it yourself.
  3. Replace wires in a fixture with correct thickness -Install ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) on appropriate receptacles close to water sources or outside areas where people gather together. These types of GFCIs monitor household current flowing through hot wires which is detected if there is a current difference between these two wires which is less than 5mA or if there is no current flowing at all. When this happens, the GFCI will trip off and will cut power to whatever has been wired into them.
  4. Use metal light switches instead of plastic ones
  5. Tape wires down securely with electrical tape so that they don't come loose or touch other wires or metal parts inside the switch box.    

How can you prevent your children from getting electric shocks?

Children are curious by nature so sometimes touching things like sockets can be fatal to them so always keep any dangerous objects out of their reach and tell them what should not be touched if they don't listen to you. Teach about electricity dangers as early as possible because little kids may often touch a switch when left alone for a short time because they think it will not hurt them as much as it would an adult.

Tell your kids that wires are dangerous and should not be touched especially those that have been broken or loose. Tell them that they can get shocked if this happens so they should always be aware of what the outlets and switches look like to prevent touching anything wrong around. Always keep a close eye on your kid when left alone for a couple of minutes.

Also, always remember to never touch live electrical circuits with wet hands to avoid getting an electric shock from faulty wiring or metal components inside the switch box.

Light switches near the bathroom - do wet hands make it worse?

We all heard that getting an electric shock from a faulty light switch is not dangerous but it can still hurt you. For this reason, many people are now afraid of turning on the light in bathrooms because if wet hands touch them then they might get seriously hurt. Some even suggest that you should rather use candles or torch lights instead to avoid getting shocked.    

However, scientists have concluded that whether you are using wet hands or dry hands, the electric potential will be the same so there is no need to fear this. It was also noticed by scientists that when one gets an electric shock near water, wet skin conducts much better which causes more current flow through our bodies so we feel more pain compared with dry skin which causes less current flow and a lesser amount of pain.

In conclusion, even though there is no problem using wet hands when touching a light switch in the bathroom, it is still safer to keep the bathroom well-lighted and not dark.

Light switches and children: fact or fiction?

Some people say that you should turn on all of your electrical appliances before leaving the house so that your children will be safe from any hazards while staying at home alone without adult supervision. Others suggest turning off all of your light bulbs just to get rid of such worries although some can get pretty attached to their favorite TV shows which they might refuse to watch if forced into darkness.    

Well for this matter, scientists have conducted an experiment which involved twelve families who left kids home alone for fifteen minutes and asked them to check for possible dangers using a meter. They found that the experiment was 100% safe even if all switches were turned off, proving that turning on appliances before leaving the house is completely unnecessary.

Lastly, people, these days are becoming more aware of things around them especially when it comes to children's safety so make sure to teach your kids about electricity dangers not only by telling them but also by demonstrating how it affects our lives in negative ways. Kids should be taught what they need to avoid or look out for at home because sometimes accidents can't be foreseen just like electrical currents which might be hidden inside walls and flooring.

What do you do if someone gets an electric shock?  

If somebody does get an electric shock, make sure that you stay calm and make sure that nobody else gets hurt because accidents like this often happen when there is panic. If somebody touches a switch, unplug the power cord immediately.

If somebody's foot or an arm has been shocked, place them on top of something to elevate it then check where they got hurt so that you can apply ice for about 20 minutes but don't apply ice to burnt skin. Also, do not use butter or oils on burn wounds because the oil will prevent proper treatment by absorbing all the heat which will only worsen the burning effects of electricity. If burns are severe, call 911.

Badly burned limbs should be wrapped in clean gauze bandages with sticky tape until medical help arrives. Stay away from any metal objects as this can cause another injury by causing more damage.

Don't move an injured person unless they are in a dangerous place because this may result to further injuries, call for help instead.

What you should do if someone has touched the wires of a socket?

If someone touches metal parts or broken or loose wires inside a socket,

  1. Don't touch the victim
  2. Call 911 immediately
  3. Shut off power at breakers or fuse box
  4. Remove any rings on fingers so they don't get stuck around insulating material and cause more harm
  5. Loosen ties on necklaces and belts   
  6. Loosen tight clothing like pantyhose and collars. If a person is still stuck to the outlet and their skin looks gray or blue, do not pull them away because current may still be running through the wires.

What measures to take if you were shocked by the light switch?

Sometimes there is no serious injury if you were shocked only by the light switch, but follow these steps to make sure.

If there is any pain or tingling sensation on your skin, leave it alone and wait until the feeling vanishes. Take off any jewelry that may have stuck to your skin which can cause more damage if not immediately removed. Also, remove underwire bras or metal objects from pockets of pants because this can be dangerous as well

Wash burnt areas with mild soap and water then dry thoroughly. You should also see a doctor if you have been shocked on your chest especially on your breasts because an improper treatment of this may lead to scarring so it is important to always go for medical help.

Put an ice pack or cold compress on any burnt areas to reduce swelling. If you have burns in your mouth, spit the burned area out and rinse it with clean water unless you are sure that you can swallow without leaking saliva or blood in your throat.

Go for a complete checkup by a licensed physician if there is broken skin, serious pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting spells/loss of consciousness, sweating more than usual.

If you are not sure how serious the case is then always call 911 immediately. There is no better treatment when it comes to electric shock because you never know what might happen next. Nobody should wait until they get seriously hurt before calling 911 especially electric shock victims because their condition may worsen if not given immediate medical attention.