How do electrical safe boots prevent electrocution?


You’re wearing boots that prevent you from being electrocuted and touch an ungrounded hot wire. How are these boots preventing electric shock?

In: Engineering

Electricians boots have a thick layer of rubber that blocks electrical current through your feet. It doesn’t mean if you touch a live wire you won’t get electrocuted.

They insulate your body from the electric current. Like the insulation on a wire protects you from the voltage inside.

There are two types of “electrical safe boots”. Non-conductive and conductive. The first is the far more common of the two.

Nonconductive soles of the shoe will prevent you from becoming part of a circuit. So if you accidentally touch a live circuit with your hand, electricity won’t flow through your hand, through your body, through your leg, and to the ground because the shoes prevent the flow from your legs to the ground. That one break interrupts the whole circuit. These are common for electricians and builders, as live circuits might not be adequately protected during the building process.

Conductive (or static dissipating) shoes work exactly the opposite way. They make sure you are grounded so that you don’t create a static charge, and accidentally make a static shock. Not important for most jobs, but very important around sensitive electrical equipment and explosives. They won’t prevent you getting electrocuted.

Heavy leather boots with a rubber outsole help to prevent your body from becoming grounded through your feet. They do not protect you from shock if you are grounded through other body parts.

Think of an electrical circuit like a closed loop pipe of water. A wire is like the pipe, and electrons like the water, voltage like the water pressure, and water flow rate is amperage. A person touching a live supply wire is like someone magically inserting a tee in the pipe, with their body as the newly connected pipe. If there’s a way for the water escape through the new pipe, the water will take the path of least resistance, eroding the hell out of the new pipe. But if the pipe’s capped, and the water can’t go anywhere, the new pipe will fill with water, but no water will flow through the pipe. Electricity works the same way; it needs to flow from a supply to a ground. If you touch a live wire while wearing non-conductive boots, you’ll get shocked as the wire brings you to whatever voltage it is, but there won’t be electricity flowing through you. The human body can take voltage changes, but it’s wrecked if electricity flows through it. Non-conductive boots basically act like a cap in a pipe; preventing high pressure water/high voltage electricity from flowing to atmospheric air/ground.