Why did I get bit? 1 red, 1 blue, 3 white wires

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Billbill84

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Hi all. So yesterday I replaced a light fixture in the kitchen that i loved, she hated (another story lol), I killed the breaker and confirmed the wires were dead and put my little tester on it and found 1 wire still live and it was a red wire that didn't connect to anything simply came thru one conduit then left out to another piece of conduit. I had no need to mess with it so I proceeded.
My wires for the fixture swap were 1 blue and 3 white inside the elec box, again, tested and all dead, or so I thought lol. I just swapped in the new light for the old with same concept, house blue to light black and house 3 white to light 1 white and done! BUT as I was preparing the 3 white bundle to accept my white wire I was gripping them firmly and untwisting them bam...the white wires bit me!!! Not too bad but enough for my wife to hear some choice words spew out of my pie hole like a sailor as they say. Simply touching any of the wires didn't do anything to me but when I applied the firm pinch grip to them white ones I got bit!
Is this typical? Can anyone tell me if they ran into anything like this before and why the heck would this happen?
Pics don't really apply but I'm proud of my wrk so have a look
 

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Billbill84

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Next time I'll kill the main breaker still curious as to why touching the wires didn't bite but pinching and twisting them white ones bit me.electricity is scary. I have a lot to learn
 

JoeD

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The red passing through probably was sharing the neutral with the blue you powered off.
 

Snoonyb

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When working with electricity, there is a learning curve.

Use lineman pliers, they are insulated, when twisting groups of conductors together.
 

pjones

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Your life is an expensive price to put down for a lesson. You are lucky it didn’t take full payment. This is why I don’t like walking people through these procedures. There are too many little things that need to be said in order to be safe to be able to describe it in a post. People go to school for 4 years in order to be able to work on that stuff safely in Canada. You can’t fast track all that in one day of research based off of other people’s experiences. Electricians don’t work by themselves until after their schooling (at minimum their first year completed) and at times, for safety, they always have a partner with them at their side, depending on the scope of work.

If you have a shared neutral, or a bad connection, or if you are a better path to ground, or for many other reasons you will get shocked when preforming the task as you described it. A volt stick only tells you if you are at a different electrical potential from what you are testing. It can give false results if you are not grounded. Were you standing on a wood chair without touching anything to ground yourself? Was the neutral at a raised potential when you tested it?

I’m not pointing a finger at the OP, this is observed all the time on this and other forum. I commend the OP for having the courage to say what happened. The problem is that people don’t know what they don’t know. They think they do and that is why these kind of accidents happen. They don’t understand the limitations of their tools. They don’t understand how little amperage it takes to kill someone, they don’t understand how houses and appliances are wired, they don’t know even though power has been turned off that electricity can still be present in the circuit.

I understand the desire to save a few bucks by doing it yourself but is it really worth your health? Go ahead and patch that drywall, fix that P-trap under the sink, but electricity and refrigerant, and gas are the three that can have major health consequences and people should not be touching them if they do not have proper training on how to do so safely.

Bill, I’m glad you are ok. It was probably a shared neutral that got you, and improper method of testing for electricity.
 

zannej

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Bill, I'm very glad you're OK. A friend of mine had a similar incident only he got bit a lot harder. He had turned off the main breaker in the house but apparently there was still something on from somewhere & it zapped him so badly he lost feeling in his right hand (which was touching the wires) and both feet. He was unable to drive because of it because he couldn't feel how much pressure he put on the pedals. He did regain enough sensitivity to drive now, but it is still diminished. He still can't feel anything in his right hand.

Question for the electricians, when he put the wires together, did that give a larger/stronger path for the electricity & could that have affected why he got zapped?
 

Billbill84

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Bill, I’m glad you are ok. It was probably a shared neutral that got you, and improper method of testing for electricity.
Thank you! Your post def got me thinking twice before doing this again. That shared neutral in a bundle of 3 in the box, the living room ceiling fan also had a bundle of 3 white and that particular room still had its breaker on at the time of the event so possibly one of the 3 white in the kitchen ceiling was connected to the 3 white in the live room so that could of been why I got bit?
 

Billbill84

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Bill, I'm very glad you're OK. A friend of mine had a similar incident only he got bit a lot harder. He had turned off the main breaker in the house but apparently there was still something on from somewhere & it zapped him so badly he lost feeling in his right hand (which was touching the wires) and both feet. He was unable to drive because of it because he couldn't feel how much pressure he put on the pedals. He did regain enough sensitivity to drive now, but it is still diminished. He still can't feel anything in his right hand.

Question for the electricians, when he put the wires together, did that give a larger/stronger path for the electricity & could that have affected why he got zapped?
Thanks! And yikes! Sorry to hear that about your buddy definitely makes me rethink things!
 

afjes_2016

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We are taught in electrical trade school not to fear electricity but to respect it. Fearing it helps making a mistake easier which could be worse than just fear.

Being an electrician and going to all the different homes helps give you an awareness of all the different scenarios you may face out in the field. I could have received a serious shock at times by just listening to what the home owner said - "oh, this breaker shuts of the power on the circuit you need to work on", "I know I don't have another breaker panel in the house" (but there was), etc.

Even as a licensed electrician (retired) I always knew my limitations and when to say to a customer - "Sorry, this is above my head" and they appreciated that. I never made believe I knew something just to make a dollar. I would rather walk away from a potential job (disaster possibly) than tackle something that could bring dangerous consequences later.
 

Jeff Handy

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Definitely a shared neutral.
You can put a tester on that neutral bundle, to the ground wire or metal box, it will not light up.
Or it will light so dimly you will not see it.
You can touch the exposed metal, and probably feel nothing.
But once you pull them apart, they are seeking a path back to the neutral bus bar, or to ground, or to each other through your fingers.
You can fry an expensive appliance like a tv or computer or fridge by pulling apart a bundle like that, if the other circuit is drawing any power.
And nowadays, most appliances are always on, even if they seem to be turned off.
Always best to kill main power to the whole house first, in the main panel, from the service entrance.
Not just to the sub panel you might be working in.
People add new circuits and wires years later after home construction, and tap into neutrals as they see fit, right or wrong.

Turn off sensitive things like electronics, computers, etc first.
To avoid the big voltage surge from going off and on all at once.

And I have gotten plenty of shocks touching wires that should have been dead, after I turned off a switch to a fixture.
Because uncle Joe or cousin Moe put the switch on the white wires in the switch box.
Or because someone ran a circuit extension, and attached the wrong color wires together.
 

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