How Shock Occurs

When an electrical current touches or flows through the body, it is known as an electric shock. It can happen wherever there is live electricity. The effects of electric shock range from none at all to severe injury and death.  Electric shock is not electrocution. When a person is shocked, an electrical charge causes the person to suffer serious, all-too-often life-altering injuries – but the victim is still alive. Electrocution, on the other hand, is fatal. It occurs when an electrical charge kills the victim.  An electric shock occurs when an electrical current passes from a live outlet to a part of the body.

Electric shock can result from contact with:

  • Faulty electrical appliances or machinery
  • Household wiring
  • Electrical power lines
  • Lightning
  • Electricity outlets
  • Faulty swimming pool pumps or swimming pool lights, unbonded surfaces near a pool, or pool deck outlets lacking GFCI safety devices
  • Shock from faulty or unprotected electrical products, such as household appliances (e.g., hair dryers and toasters), power tools, medical devices, outlets, electrical plugs and extension cords
  • Three-prong-to-two-prong grounded plug adapter

Other factors that may play a role in being shocked and the severity of the injuries include:

  • The voltage involved
  • The amperage of the electric current involved
  • The pathway that the electric charge took in the person’s body (e.g., through the heart, muscles, head, eyes and/or chest, or hand-to-hand)
  • How long the victim had contact with the electrical source
  • What the health and/or medical condition of the victim was prior to the shock
  • Whether the electrical current was direct (DC) or alternating (AC)