Touch/Step Potential

Electricity will typically travel through the body one of three pathways:

Touch Potential (Hand-to-Hand)

  • Potential to ground of about 1000Ω (ohms).
  • Current passing across the chest, through the heart and lungs causes the most serious internal injuries.
  • Heart fibrillation (abnormal heartbeat known as arrhythmia).
  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib)- upper heart chambers (serious).
  • Ventricular fibrillation (VFib) )- lower heart chambers (more serious - typical cause of death in electrocutions).
  • Difficulty breathing or respiratory system paralysis.
  • Lapse into unconsciousness (with potential injuries from falling).

Step Potential (Foot-to-Foot)

  • Does not cross the chest and heart is not in direct path.
  • May paralyze the victim temporally.
  • Possibility of collapse (with potential for injuries from falling).

Touch/Step (Hand-to-Hand or Foot-to-Hand)

  • Potential to ground of about 5000Ω (ohms).
  • Current passing across the chest, through the heart and lungs causes the most serious internal injuries.
  • Heart fibrillation (abnormal heartbeat known as arrhythmia).
  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib)- upper heart chambers (serious).
  • Ventricular fibrillation (VFib) )- lower heart chambers (more serious - typical cause of death in electrocutions).
  • Difficulty breathing or respiratory system paralysis.
  • Lapse into unconsciousness (with potential injuries from falling).

 

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Figure 1: Touch/Step Potential and the Human Body