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ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

Session

Session 5
Electric shock

Contents

5.1
5.2
5.3
5.4

Electric shock
Time/current zones on the human body
Human body resistance
Direct and indirect contact

Electric

Shock

ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

Session

Aim
The aim of this session is to teach you about Electric Shock.

Electric

Shock

ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

Session

Electric

Shock

Specific objectives
At the end of this session you will be able to
1. Explain what is meant by electric shock
2. Explain briefly what is meant by ventricular fibrillation
3. State whether it is current or voltage which basically affects the human being
4. Sketch the time/current zones on the human body, and explain the shock
severity of each zone.
5. Describe the factors on which the human body resistance depends and give a
typical value for the body resistance.
6. Explain using a suitable diagram the difference between direct contact and
indirect contact.

5.1

Electric shock

You will recall that we defined an electric shock as a dangerous pathophysiological


effect of an electric current through the human body or animal. Its passage affects
essentially the muscular, circulatory and respiratory functions and sometimes
results in serious burns. This is not an easy quantity to measure but is dependent on
degree of shock
A pathophysiological effect is one that affects the process of living. Like other
physical irritants (such as heat, sound and flash of light, electric current or to be
more exact electric energy absorbed by the body tissues), produce not only a local
effect (like damage to the tissues), but also a reflexogenic effect (an instantaneous
and involuntary response). Electric current acts directly on muscles, especially on
the cardiac muscle. When a sufficiently large current passes through the human
body or more precisely when the heart muscle absorbs mainly high energy,
ventricular fibrillation occurs.
Question

What is really meant by ventricular fibrillation (VF)?

ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

Session

Electric

Shock

Discussion
I am almost sure you would not have been able to answer that question. You don't
have to worry. None of the others would have answered the question either. I would
be happy if you had just tried to give it a thought. What we mean by ventricular
fibrillation is a condition whereby the heart ceases to periodically contract/expand,
but random twitching of the numerous muscular fibrils occurs.
A normal contraction of the heart causes the blood circulation. Thus from the point
of view of the blood circulation, a fibrillating heart means a cessation of the normal
heart activity and instantaneous death.
We have seen that it is the electrical energy absorbed by the body tissues that causes the
electric shock. Now this energy is not an easy quantity for us to measure. How then do we
know whether we could get a shock from an electrical installation or not? It would be
better if we could express it in terms of either the voltage appearing across the body or the
current through the body together with time. Obviously, all these are interrelated to some
extent as energy is proportional to the product of voltage, current and time. Also the

current is related to the voltage by the resistance of the human body.


Question
Is there any safe voltage or current?

ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

Session

Electric

Shock

Discussion
You may have said that a power frequency voltage of 50V or less is safe or that a
power frequency body current of 30mA or less is safe. You may even have said that
a body current of less than l0mA or even 0.5mA is the safe current, or you may not
have been able to guess at all.
Now I would not say that any of the above answers are completely right or completely
wrong. In the past it was thought that what produced an electric shock was voltage and
that voltages less than 50V is inherently safe. Studies on the effects of electricity have
shown that this is not really true and that it is the body current and the duration of flow
that determines the extent of electric shock. Under normal and dry conditions a voltage
of 50V or less would only cause a tingling feeling on most people. However there are
recorded instances of people who have died at voltages much below 50V.
You may have said 30mA (or 25mA) as the residual current circuit breakers used in
normal domestic situations have this as the operating current. There rccbs would
provide adequate safety under normal dry conditions, because they operate within a
tenth of a second when this unbalance current is exceeded. However if body
currents of 30mA are allowed to flow through for an indefinite period of time,
respiratory trouble could eventually occur.
You would perhaps have had a friend who had got a shock and who could not release
the live part on his own. This is one of the things that occur when the current through
the body exceeds a certain value. We call the minimum value at which this occurs as
the threshold of let go. For an average person, this value is about l0mA. Upto about
this value a person can withstand the current for an indefinite period without any
permanent effect. A current of 0.5mA is thought to be the value below which there is
hardly any sensation and thus is completely harmless.
Even currents above 30mA could be safe provided the duration of the current is
sufficiently small. Thus it is necessary to have a time/current characteristic on the
human body showing the various degrees of shock.

5.2

Time/current zones on the human body

As we have discussed earlier, the degree of danger of electric shock for the victim is a
function of the magnitude of the current, the parts of the body through which the current
passes, and the duration of current flow. So a low current (above the threshold of let go)
can be just as dangerous as a high current for a relatively short period. IEC publication
60479-1 updated in 2005 defines four zones of current-magnitude/time-duration, in each
of which the pathophysiological effects are described (see figure 5.1).
Any person coming into contact with live metal risks an electric shock.
Curve C1 shows that when a current greater than 30 mA passes through a human
being from one hand to feet, the person concerned is likely to be killed, unless the
current is interrupted in a relatively short time.
The point 500 ms/100 mA close to the curve C1 corresponds to a probability of
heart fibrillation of the order of 0.14%.

ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

Session

Electric

Shock

Figure 5.1 Time/Current zones of ac effects (15 -100 Hz) on persons

AC-1 zone: Imperceptible: No sensation at all or negligible feeling


AC-2 zone: Perceptible: Prickling sensation and possibly painful effect on
muscles of fingers and arms, there is no harmful effect
AC-3 zone: Reversible effects: Respiratory trouble could occur, i.e. there are
muscular contraction, cramp like pulling together of arms,
difficulty in breathing, no danger of ventricular fibrillation
(0.5% probability). This is generally the limit of tolerance.
AC-4 zone: Possibility of irreversible effects
AC-4-1 zone: Up to 5% probability of heart fibrillation
AC-4-2 zone: Up to 50% probability of heart fibrillation
AC-4-3 zone: More than 50% probability of heart fibrillation
A curve: Threshold of perception of current
B curve: Threshold of muscular reactions
C1 curve: Threshold of 0% probability of ventricular fibrillation
C2 curve: Threshold of 5% probability of ventricular fibrillation
C3 curve: Threshold of 50% probability of ventricular fibrillation
Table below shows the physiological effects on the human body.
Table 5.1- Physiological effects of the human body
Electric Voltage for Body Voltage for Body Maximum
Resistance
Resistance
Power
Current
(A)
10,000
1000
Watts

0.001

10 V

1V

0.01

0.005

50 V

5V

0.25

0.01-0.02

100-200 V

10-20 V

0.05

500 V

50 V

Physiological Effect

Threshold of feeling electric shock

Maximum harmless current


Sustained muscular contraction
1- 4
Cannot let go current
Ventricular interference, pain
25
Respiratory difficulty

ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

0.1-0.3
6

5.3

Session

1000-3000 V
60000 V

Electric

Shock

100-300 V

100-900Ventricular fibrillation. Can be fatal

6000 V

Sustained ventricular contraction


followed by normal heart rhythm.
400,000
Temporary respiratory paralysis and
possibly burns.

Human body resistance

I mentioned to you earlier that voltages less than about 50V are generally regarded as safe
(that is not falling onto zones 3 or 4). Now how does this compare with what we just learnt
about the time/current characteristic for the human body? In order to find this relation, we
need to know the relation between voltage and current, that is the body resistance.

Question
Do you have any idea of what sort of value the human body resistance has? And
whether it is a constant?

ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

Session

Electric

Shock

Discussion
I will give you the answer very briefly first, and then go on to expand on it, later.
For an ordinary person, dressed and wearing shoes, and in a normal environment,
the body resistance from hand to foot varies from about 1 k to 2 k so that an
average value of about 1.5 k may be taken.
Thus a voltage of 50 V would correspond to 50/1.5 or 33mA, which is typically the
value (30mA) that we considered earlier. However for a person sitting in a bath, it is
generally agreed that the minimum resistance is around 500 to 600. Under these
conditions, 50V would correspond to a current of about 100mA, which is not safe.
We will now look into the question of body resistance in more depth. There are two
major components of body resistance. The first is the skin resistance and the second
is that of the internal organs.
The electrical resistance of the skin varies from one part of the body to the other,
and also depends on conditions such as temperature, humidity, time of day and year,
and so on. The least resistance, generally, is on the forehead, hands, soles and
armpits. The order of resistivity for the skin is 200 .
The resistance of nerves and blood is much lower than the skin resistance. It is
about 2 for the blood and 0.02 for the nerve trunk. In practice, we do not calculate
the body resistances from the above but take a typical value, such as 1k, as a
standard value.
The body resistance is also not a constant, but is highly non-linear. This nonlinearity is
also to our disadvantage, as the resistance decreases with increase in voltage. For
example, the human body resistance (under dry conditions) is in the region of 20 k at
less than 10 V, 4 k at 50V, 1.5 k at 100V, 1 k at 200V and 0.5 k at 500V.
There is also a fair variation depending on the path of current. One Research by the
name of P. Osypka has shown that, under the same conditions, the resistance of the
hand-body-hand current path is about 1.36 k, of the hand-body-legs path is about
0.97 k, and of the both hands-body-legs path is about 0.67 k

Question
By using the time/current diagram of figure 5.1, state the zones to which the
following currents fall.

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

a current of 100mA for l00ms


a current of 100mA for 400
a current of 100mA for 2 s
a current of 30mA for 2 s
a current of 10mA for2 s

ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

Session

Electric

Shock

Answer

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

zone 2
zone 3
zone 4
zone 3
zone 2
This exercise was given for you to realise that the degree of shock depends not only
on the current but also on the duration.

5.4

Direct and indirect contact

Direct contact now referred to as basic protection (i.e. protection under normal
conditions) and indirect contact now referred to as fault protection (i.e. protection
under fault conditions) in IEE Regulations 17th edition.
Question

What do we see common to both direct contact and indirect contact? And what do
we see different?

ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

Session

Electric

Shock

Discussion
Examination of the definitions shows that both relate to the contact of persons or
livestock with certain parts which may result in an electric shock. However we see
that direct contact relates to live parts whereas indirect contact relates to exposed
parts, which are conductive but normally not live (such as a frame of an equipment),
which are made live by a fault.
The illustrations shown in figure 5.2(a) and (b) show you an example for direct
contact and indirect contact.
LIVE
NAUTRAL

Earth
Earth

Figure 5.2
(a) Direct Contact

(b) Indirect Contact

Question

Look at figure 5.1 again. You will notice that unlike curves 'a' and 'b', curves 'c 1', 'c2'
and 'c3' exhibit a sudden change in shape mid section. You will notice that these
curves are almost vertical either above about 1000 ms or below about 200 ms. can
you think of any possible reason for an abrupt change from about 50mA to 500mA
in this region?

10

ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

Session

Electric

Shock

Discussion
It is basically due to the behaviour of the heart. The normal heart beats at about 72
times per minute or 1.2 times per second and, after exercise may be even doubles
this. Thus under normal conditions the heart period is about 833 ms and going
down even to 417 ms after exercise. There are also other reasons for changes in the
heart beat and the heart period. The chances of ventricular fibrillation also increase
dramatically when the shock duration exceeds one heart period. You can see that
the region of abrupt change about 200 ms to 1000 ms) is enclosing the above range
and slightly on either side.

Self assessment question


A circuit with a resistance 0.06 Ohm is protected by a 30 A semi enclosed ceramic
fuse to BS3036. The external earth fault loop impedance to this circuit is 0.5 and
the source voltage is 240 V at 50 Hz. In case of a ground fault of effective resistance
1 is occurred across the load, using suitable assumptions and calculations,
determine:

1.
2.
3.
4.

The fault current


The time taken for the fuse to blow
The prospective fault voltage across the fault
The current that may flow through a typical human body if a
person comes into contact with the fault at the load
5. What form of a shock is likely to happen to the person
6. If the above fuse is replaced by:

30 A cartridge fuse to BS1361


A type B mcb to BS EN 60898.

What would be the operating time in each case?


BS3036 and BS1361 fuse characteristics could be obtained from IEE wiring
Regulations 17th edition pages 244, 245 & 246.
You may also use Time/Current zones characteristics (15 -100 Hz) on persons
figure 5.1
Do not worry much about the term External earth fault loop impedance at this time
of the course. We will discuss/understand it in details in latter part of this course

11

ECX4234

Lalith A. Samaliarachchi

Session

Electric

Shock

Answer:

240
153.8 A
0.5 0.06 1.0

1.

Fault current

2.

Time taken for the fuse to blow = 0.8 s (from characteristics 3036)
Prospective fault voltage across the fault = 153.8 x 1=153.8V
Possible body current = 153.8/1.5 x 103 = 102.5 mA
Since 102.5 mA would last for 800 ms. It would fall into zone 4
possibly region (a). Then there would probably be a 5% chance of
ventricular fibrillation occurring.
The operating current would change to 1.3 s with 32A, BS 1361 fuse
and 15 s for the 32A. Type B mcb

.
4.
5.

6.

12

If