Why shouldn’t you touch electrical equipment with wet hands?
Since we were kids, we were reprimanded for touching electrical equipment with wet hands. This trickled down well and we have an inhibition towards touching any electrical equipment or switches with wet hands. Our parents would tell us that we were at the risk of being electrocuted if we did this. But we were never really told why this would happen. This article aims at breaking some myths and telling us why we stand at a high risk of being electrocuted if we touch the equipment or switches with wet hands.
So what is the Myth?
You are more likely to get electrocuted when you touch any electrical appliances with wet hands.
Origin of the myth
When people touched doorbells in the rainy season, they experienced a small electric shock and a tingling feeling in the finger. Because of this they somehow assumed that the same phenomenon applies to all electrical equipment.
You can get electrocuted when switches are wet, not hands. The reason is that circuit gets completed between the conductors in the switch and your hands through the waters.
When you touch the switch with wet hands, there are 99% chances that the water will not be enough to seep into the switch and get the circuit complete for you to be electrocuted. In this way, your wet hand only touches the insulating plastic on the switch.
But when the switch is reasonably wet (due to rains or in the washrooms with the showers) then there is an 80% chance that the water is already touching the conductors within the plastic switch and is awaiting your wet hand to complete the circuit and to get you electrocuted.
Also, you would have to be barefoot on the ground to give the current a way to escape, or else it will still be an incomplete circuit, and you won’t get electrocuted.
What do experts suggest?
This is the reason why experts recommend you to wear rubber gloves and shoes/sandals while working with any electrical appliances, especially high voltages.
Modern switches are made of insulating material, and it would be extremely unlikely that you would get a shock from them by touching them with wet hands.
Some more information
Now that you know your wet hands won’t cause an electrical shock, here is some more information:
The resistivity (electrical resistance) of a human body is approximately 1000 ohms. Whenever our body touches the current passing through a live wire and (not switches) with wet hands, the body feels an electrical shock because wet hands are providing a conducting path to the current to flow inside the body from electrical wire. Some people don’t feel these shocks because of their higher body resistivity.
Hence, you need to be careful with wet hands only when handling wires and not switches. Let’s stop scaring people with misinformation.