Electricity Bites

Electricity Bites

When I first started wiring I was a bit careless about working with hot wires.  For instance, one time I was working with hot wires, up on a ladder, near the ceiling in a garage used for storage.  I cut some of the hot wires and the circuit shorted through my body so that I could not let go.


My option was to step off of the ladder.  The weight of my body pulled me off of the hot wires and I fell.  It isn’t the height of the fall that gets you; it’s the sudden stop at the end that is the difficult part.  In this instance the stop at the end involved a vehicle of some sort.  In some way I landed on the bumper of the vehicle with the bumper across my back.  My back was sore for about a week.


Another time I was under a house sitting on a dirt bank.  When I pulled a piece of sheathing off a piece of BX Cable (a forerunner of the metal clad cable we use today) it felt like someone had slapped me across the back with a 2×4.  In the making of the cut I had contacted the metal sheath and the current carrying wire within it.  By being seated on ground I was completing the circuit.  Once the cut-off piece came free of the wire the current released me.


One time I was working on an outside sign in front of a place of business.  It was getting late in the day.  Somewhere there was a time clock of which I was unaware.  I got hit with the current when the photo cell on the time clock turned on the feed to the sign.  That was bad enough.  However because it was a sign, a neon sign, there was also a transformer involved.  The transformer changed the voltage from 110 volts to 15,000 volts.  Boy wasn’t that a jolt.  The reason I’m not dead to write about this is because the higher the volts the less the amps.  In this instance it was a milli-amp shock.  However it still hurt even if it was a low amp shock.


Move forward about 30 some years and I was wiring an unfinished basement.  The owners were remodeling it into living quarters.  Since there were people living in the upper floor I left the power on.  After I called in for an inspection, the sheetrockers brought in their sheetrock.  The access to the basement was so tight that to make the corner they removed a portion of an open wall, thereby dislodging a box and its wire from the stud to which it was attached.


Later the inspector called me on the phone and read me the riot act.  He had been inspecting the job and was curious about a wire hanging loose, unlanded in a box, in the middle of an unstudded wall.  So he reached down and grasped it saying to himself; “Hmm.  I wonder what this is for.”  ZAP.


He adamantly told me; “The home owner or one of his kids could have been killed!”


I told him that I had to leave the power on because people were living in there while they awaited his arrival to inspect.


He said; “I don’t care about the family – you leave the power off until after it has been inspected.”  (I don’t think he recognized his 180 degree departure from his previous concern about the family.)  What could I say?  More of: “Sorry sir.  Yes sir.  It won’t happen again sir.”


For a brief moment what I really wanted to say was:  “I have been bitten on average about once a week for 40 years and I have only died a couple of times.”  But I held my tongue.  He was already angry.


It was a shocking lesson.