Science Questions

Will rubber-soled shoes protect you from an electric shock?

Sun, 25th Jul 2010

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Question

Clive Pounds asked:

A friend of mine was going to use a metal knife to free some stuck toast from the toaster. He’s always been told this is a huge no, no, but he said it would all be fine because he had rubber-soled shoes on. So is it true that rubber-soled shoes will protect you from an electric shock?

 

Answer

Dave: -  I think the simple answer is it is possible they would protect you from an electric shock, but it’s not something I would ever recommend because it’s only “possible”.  If you have a big, thick rubber sole then you're quite insulated from the ground, and if there’s no path for electricity to flow through, you won't get a big current going through you, so you'll be fine.  It’s essentially a similar reason to why birds can sit on an electricity cable.  They might be sitting on a very high voltage, but there’s no path for electricity to get down to earth through them so they’re absolutely fine, there’s no current flowing.

So, as long as you're just standing on your shoes you're not touching anything else, your feet aren’t wet so they're not creating a short path around the rubber soles to the ground, and you're not accidentally touching anything metallic - If you were touching the outside of a toaster which might be earthed then you might get a horrible current going through the knife, up your arm, then down the other arm, then you might be okay.  But there’s so many things that could possibly go wrong, so unplug the toaster first.

Ben: -   I think that sounds like a sound advice, and that by and large, don't stick metal things in electrical appliances.

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It depends which way the electrical current is travelling.  Insulating footwear can help to reduce the shock to ground if one hand is touching a live wire.  However if the other hand is holding the metal body of a earthed toaster they will not help you because the current will pas from one hand to the other via the heart.  This is the most dangerous sort of electric shock.  Electricians who regularly have to work on live wiring using insulated tools are taught to always keep one hand in their pocket when working live and only use one hand to work with to avoid this risk. Soul Surfer, Tue, 27th Jul 2010

I agree with Soul Surfer. A current flowing from one arm to the other is extremely dangerous, even if your feet are well insulated from ground.

BTW - here's a question:

All other things being equal, are the conditions in the UK potentially twice, or four times, as lethal as they are in the US (because of the difference in line voltage).

EDIT: Please don't answer that! I will start another topic. 

Geezer, Tue, 27th Jul 2010

I think the toaster electrics are separated isolated from the case which leaves it at a floating potential not ground, there is no third prong for grounding the case.
You may experience a tingle not a heavy shock

Once a ground is established the circuit is complete to kick you across the room.
Still, I agree with you both, safe measure unplug the unknown.

Here is a spine tingler video
I grabbed a still of this huge toaster just to get your attention


.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tzga6qAaBA tommya300, Wed, 28th Jul 2010

Tommy,

There used to be a third prong tying the "dead" metal in the toaster to ground in the UK. I suspect that is still the case.

(no pun intended  ) Geezer, Wed, 28th Jul 2010



Ooh ok, thanks, I did not know this. Dismiss my comment on that due to lack of exposure.
. tommya300, Wed, 28th Jul 2010

Tommy,

I think your comment is quite correct with respect to the US. Geezer, Wed, 28th Jul 2010



Thanks Geezer, I guess since most of the subject threads that are global, I should indicate and addressed them in an orderly fashion, to avoid this type of future confusion. I am still climbing that learning curve. 
. tommya300, Wed, 28th Jul 2010



I hope that's why many of us post on this site. If we really knew all the answers, what would be the point? The nice thing about TNS is that there is a cross-section of people interacting with each other that have all kinds of different bits of knowledge. That does not tend to happen too often in science and technology.

Consequently, if we can establish ways to communicate with each other effectively, we all stand to learn a lot.

Anyway, that's my take on it. Geezer, Thu, 29th Jul 2010



I hope that's why many of us post on this site. If we really knew all the answers, what would be the point? The nice thing about TNS is that there is a cross-section of people interacting with each other that have all kinds of different bits of knowledge. That does not tend to happen too often in science and technology.

Consequently, if we can establish ways to communicate with each other effectively, we all stand to learn a lot.

Anyway, that's my take on it.

Food for thought Geezer...
The coin's edge is the third side of the coin and it is continuous, rarely landed on...

AaH yes! Star Trex's, The Borg?
The collective promotes numerical identity at the same time, extinguishes individuality, but Hue can have 7 of 9!
We lose variety, the spice of life.
Isn't that something, efficient communications we have, but communicating efficiently is at a lose.
In some cases, gain in equal knowledge mixed with choice can be a double edged sword, in some cases.
. tommya300, Thu, 29th Jul 2010

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