My Personal Opinion About Being Shocked
Because of a popular news story, I have recently been asked several times about the possibility of being shocked by lights or railings in a swimming pool. I have personally been shocked several times by swimming pool lights and equipment. Keep in mind that I visit literally hundreds of pools each year and I am constantly called by people with problems, so I am prone to find these existing dangers. Here I want to recount a couple of my most memorable experiences in an attempt to educate you on why I was shocked and also why you shouldn’t be too worried about it.
First off, I have to deal with electricity on a daily basis and I have been shocked many times. It is something that you never get used to and it scares you each and every time. When I don’t get shocked, but instead arc electricity to ground, the intense flash of light and loud pop scares me even more, even though it is less hazardous to my health. Either way, it is a strong reminder of what we are dealing with on a daily basis and just how dangerous electricity is. These “shocking” experiences usually take place while I am wiring up pool equipment. I usually have an electrical box open that is labeled in five different places as being dangerous and most pool owners would never venture inside of it. Usually, when I get shocked on the rare occasion, it is somewhat expected. Other times, it is totally unexpected and the next two paragraphs will detail that.
The first time I remember being shocked by a pool light, I was called out to change a light bulb in a spa. Normally, you can remove a light from a pool or a spa without any danger and I approached this light in that way. I don’t remember turning off a switch or breaker (I’m not sure if it was indeed off or on), but I do remember removing the single screw that holds the light in the wall and pulling it up out of the water. As soon as the light broke the surface of the water, with me holding onto the metal face ring, my hand instantly felt the electricity running through it. I dropped the light back into the water immediately. I’ll never forget the homeowner standing right there with me, having a conversation, me stopping mid sentence, and her asking, “Did you just get shocked?” What I do not remember is the final outcome of that situation. I can tell you that I was not shocked until the light exited the water and I believe that the water acts as a grounding source, allowing us not to be shocked until the metallic object breaks the surface. This is why I believe a handrail is more dangerous than a light.
My most memorable experience of being shocked happened just a couple of years ago. I was called out to a property where a tree had fallen recently and I believe that is a key clue as to why I was shocked. While I was speaking to the homeowner, standing at the pool equipment area, I rested my hand on top of the heater cabinet. I felt a sensation that made me pull my hand away and stretch my wrist and arm. Initially I did not realize that I had been shocked. Again, I rested my hand onto the heater cabinet and again I felt this strange sensation. I yanked my hand off the heater and exclaimed, “The heater is shocking me!” The homeowner seemed a bit puzzled, but I brought out my electrical meter and used it’s non contact voltage detection to determine that not only the heater cabinet was electrified, but everything in the equipment area was as well. Essentially, the grounding wires had all become electrified with 120 volts for some reason. This made the light fixture electrified, as well as the handrail. None of the equipment would work under this condition and that was why I had been called out to begin with. I believe in this particular circumstance, the tree that had fallen caused a hot wire to cross with the bonding wire. This electrified the ground wire and made all of the pool equipment a death trap. In all of my 16 years of experience, I had never seen this happen before.
Part of my point in explaining my experiences here is to point out that this is not a common problem. In all of my years, I have only seen this happen a couple of times. We should not be blind to the fact that it can happen, but we should also not allow ourselves to become obsessed by it either. The most important lesson from this is to be vigilant about keeping our electrical boxes and conduits safe. If you notice loose wiring, rusted boxes, or missing covers then they should be repaired. If there is an issued with the pool equipment such as a tripping breaker or inoperable equipment, have it checked out.