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How Not To Get an Electric Shock

I was changing out a fluorescent light fixture ballast and I got shocked…


Simple Precaution Prevents Electric Shock

Question: I was changing out a fluorescent light fixture ballast from magnetic to electronic. I removed the neutral first then went to disconnect the hot, I got shocked when I touched the insulated and spliced wires. I’m not sure how this happened, my guess is the ballast was working like an auto transformer and the insulation was not strong enough to stop the electrical charge but I’ve never seen this before, am I close?

This electrical question came from: Dennis, from Kelowna, Canada

See more about Home Wiring for Canada

Dave’s Reply:
Thanks for your electrical question Dennis
How to Prevent Getting an Electric Shock
Dennis, the best way to not get an electrical shock is to positively identify the circuit and TURN OFF THE CIRCUIT BREAKER, or at least turn off the light switch.
Yes, as a experienced electrician I have learned how to work with live wires, however I DO NOT ADVISE ANYONE TO EVER WORK WITH LIVE ELECTRICAL WIRES.

Dennis, the biggest mistake that you made was to work on the wires while the electricity was on, the next BIG Mistake was to leave the hot connected to the ballast. If an electrician must work the circuit live, in the case of replacing a lighting ballast, they will always remove and insulate the live feed FIRST. Electricity will always look for the least path of resistance to ground to complete the circuit and unfortunately you were part of that path, most likely part of you became grounded, and the secondary side of a lighting ballast will be a higher voltage, depending on the ballast, and can pack quite a wallop.

The Best Way To Prevent Electrical Shock
Seriously consider hiring a Licensed Qualified Electrical Contractor to assist you with your home electrical wiring project.

The Following links will assist you with your electrical question:

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Electrical Safety Articles covering several topics of home electrical safety and Do-It-Yourself Electrical Safety.
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How to Troubleshoot and Repair Electrical Wiring
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NEC Codes for Home Electrical Wiring
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Be Careful and Be Safe - Never Work on Energized Circuits!
Consult your Local Building Department about Permits and Inspections for all Electric Wiring Projects.

Electrical Tips to Help You Wire it Right

The Safest Way to Test Electrical Devices and Identify Electric Wires!

The Non-Contact Electrical Tester
This is a testing tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and is the first test tool I grab to help identify electrical wiring. It is a Non-contact tester that I use to easily Detect Voltage in Cables, Cords, Circuit Breakers, Lighting Fixtures, Switches, Outlets and Wires. Simply insert the end of the tester into an outlet, lamp socket, or hold the end of the tester against the wire you wish to test. Very handy and easy to use.

The Quickest Way to Check for Faulty Electrical Wiring!

The Plug-In Outlet Tester
This is the first tool I grab to troubleshoot a problem with outlet circuit wiring. This popular tester is also used by most inspectors to test for power and check the polarity of circuit wiring.
It detects probable improper wiring conditions in standard 110-125 VAC outlets Provides 6 probable wiring conditions that are quick and easy to read for ultimate efficiency Lights indicate if wiring is correct and indicator light chart is included Tests standard 3-wire outlets UL Listed Light indicates if wiring is incorrect Very handy and easy to use.

Strip Off Wire Insulation without Nicking and Damaging the Electric Wire!

The Wire Stripper and Wire Cutter
My absolute favorite wire stripping tool that I have had in my personal electrical tool pouch for years, and this is the tool I use to safely strip electrical wires.
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The wire gauges are shown on the side of the tool so you know which slot to use for stripping insulation.
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