What Levels of Voltage are Lethal?

This is a very common question, but the answer is not as clear as many people would hope. The amount of voltage it will take to kill a person will vary greatly based on many different factors. For example, it takes very little electricity to kill someone if it is applied directly to the heart. In addition, it will take a lower number of volts to kill someone if it is a constant current that is entering the body than if it were just one quick shock. Of course, it will also depend on the health of the person being shocked. Someone who is young and healthy will generally be able to survive an incident involving more voltage than someone who is already having heart problems or is otherwise unhealthy.

Another thing that could impact the survive-ability of a shock at various voltages is whether it is from direct current or alternating current. Experiments have shown, for example, that AC electricity was as dangerous as DC, meaning all other things being equal, it would take about twice as many volts to kill someone with direct current as it would alternating.

A good rule of thumb is that when a shock is at or above 2,700 volts, the person often dies or experiences severe injury. At over 11,000 volts, the victim will usually pass away.

All this being said, however, there have been situations where people tragically die when shocked with surprisingly low volts, and others where they survive amazingly high volts. There have been examples of someone dying when shocked with a supply of just 42 volts, which normally would not cause any problems. The highest voltage electrocution that has ever been survived, on the other hand (according to the Guinness Book of World Records) was 230,000 volts. He was paralyzed in the event and suffered burns over 40% of his body.

With the understanding that there is no one size fits all answer to this question, it is important to focus on electrical safety regardless of the voltage involved. Taking all precautions whenever working with electricity will help to avoid any shocks or electrocution, whether it is likely to be deadly or not. A good electrical safety plan should include labeling wires, electrical panels, and other objects. It should also include using personal protection equipment to keep people safe.

 

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