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Preventing Electric Shocks from Static Electricity

Published: 2012-01-13 - Updated: 2022-05-04
Author: Disabled World | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)

Synopsis: Information on how to stop getting shocked from electrostatic discharges in your home, car, or wheelchair. Static charge build-up is enhanced when the surrounding air is dry, especially when the weather is both cold and dry. If one of the objects is non-conductive, such as the rubber wheels on your wheelchair, an electric charge can accumulate and produce sparks.

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Did you know a shock from static electricity (technically known as electrostatic discharge, or ESD) is not a true electric shock but rather the pain from a hot spark jumping to or from your finger or other parts of your body? Static electricity is a stationary electric charge that is built up on a material. A common example of static electricity is the electrical shock that we can get when we touch a metallic article. Static electricity is formed when we accumulate extra electrons (negatively-charged particles) and they are discharged to an object or person.

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Shuffling your feet across a carpet is a surefire way to generate a painful shock. If the materials can conduct electricity away then the static charges will dissipate, however, if the charges are separated faster than the material can dissipate them, the amount of electrostatic charge builds up.

Static charge build-up is enhanced when the surrounding air is dry, especially when the weather is both cold and dry. When the humidity level is low, static charge will build up, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Static electricity accumulates because an insulator prevents the accumulated electrons from flowing. That insulator can be your hard soled shoes or excessively dry hands. Some people are more sensitive to these shocks than others. Shocks are usually only felt if your body is charged to over about 4000 Volts, and you touch something conductive like metal objects, water, or other people.

Photograph of lightning in the clouds. Lightning is basically a giant static electricity shock.
Photograph of lightning in the clouds. Lightning is basically a giant static electricity shock.

Ways to Prevent Getting Shocked from Static Electricity Discharges:

Wheelchairs and Static Electricity Buildup:

As mentioned above, static electricity is generated when objects of dissimilar substances move relative to each other. If one of the objects is non-conductive, such as the rubber wheels on your wheelchair, an electric charge can accumulate and produce sparks. To prevent the generation of the static charges or to drain off charges generated on an object, a conductive path must be insured. While, (to our knowledge), there are no grounding devices designed specifically for wheelchairs, it should not be a major problem to use a conductive device to achieve grounding. It is imperative, however, that all elements of the wheelchair system be grounded.

You might try using a key or metal rod to touch something else that is metal before you touch it with your hand, or before you touch someone else. Touching the rod to a metal object (not your wheelchair) should drain off the excess charges, allowing you to avoid a shock. It may be inconvenient, but it is one solution. Another solution is to use a small chain fastened to the wheelchair or powerchair frame, allowing the other end to brush the ground or floor. For wheelchair users who are constantly getting "zapped" apparelyzed.com has an informative article titled Wheelchairs, Static Electricity and Electric Shocks.

By taking the proper steps, you can reduce or prevent shocks from a buildup of static electric charges. There is little risk attached to electrostatic discharges, and in most cases they are just a nuisance, the biggest risk is that a sudden unexpected shock could cause you to have an accidental injury. For example, you might pull your arm back suddenly and hit it against something - or someone.

Disabled World is an independent disability community established in 2004 to provide disability news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and/or carers. See our homepage for informative news, reviews, sports, stories and how-tos. You can also connect with us on Twitter and Facebook or learn more about Disabled World on our about us page.

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Disabled World provides general information only. The materials presented are never meant to substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Financial support is derived from advertisements or referral programs, where indicated. Any 3rd party offering or advertising does not constitute an endorsement.


Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2012, January 13). Preventing Electric Shocks from Static Electricity. Disabled World. Retrieved June 26, 2022 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/blogs/sparks.php

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