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Electrical Shock Hazard From Old Electric Tools


By Dave Rongey - Summary:

Electric Shock Hazard and Old Electric Tools: Why Old Tools Can Give You an Electric Shock, Most older electric tools have metal cases or enclosures which conduct electricity to the user through the handle if there is a short in the electrical components including the cord.


The Dangers of Old Electric Tools

Electrical Question: While I was using an old drill that is about 30 yrs old, I got a severe electrical shock.

The drill was old, and I am happy to throw it away, but I have two questions:

  • I convulsed and couldn’t move until the plug was taken out of the outlet.
  • What could have caused this to happen?
  • Should the circuit breaker have prevented it?

Thanks in advance!

Background: Dan, a Homeowner from Long Island, New York.
Additional Comments: great site!

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question Dan.

Electric Shock Hazard and Old Electric Tools

Why Old Tools Can Give You an Electric Shock

Dan, most older electric tools have metal cases or enclosures which conduct electricity to the user through the handle if there is a short in the electrical components including the cord.

  • Grounded to the Floor
    • This will occur especially if you are grounded by standing on a cement floor and your feet are not insulated by wearing insulated shoes or boots.
  • Old Tools are Not Well Insulated
    • Newer electric tools are double insulated with non-conductive enclosures which will eliminate the majority of the shock potentials from occurring to the user.
  • Why the Circuit Breaker Did Not Trip
    • Circuit breakers will only trip if the circuit load exceeds the limitation of the breaker.
  • GFCI Outlet Protection
    • The best protection against electric shock is GFI protection either at the circuit breaker or installing GFCI outlets in the garage.
  • Replace Old Worn Out Electric Cord
    • Replacing old worn out cords with a new one will help prevent electric shock as well.

Replacing a Cord for an Electric Tool
Skill Level: Beginner to Intermediate.
Tools Required: Basic Electricians Pouch Hand Tools and Voltage Tester.
Estimated Time: Depends on personal level experience, ability to work with tools.
Precaution: Unplug the cord of the electric tool before working with the cord wiring.
Notice: Be sure to obtain the correct cord replacement with the same type cord and AWG wire size.

More about Electrical Tools and Electrical Wiring

  • GFCI

    • Wiring Diagram GFI
      • The features and benefits of GFCI outlets and receptacles will give you a clear understanding of the importance why these safety devices are required by code to help protect you and your family against accidental electrical shock hazards.



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