Effects of Electric Current
in the
Human Body





The following information is from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) publication 3075, Controlling Electrical Hazards, available at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/3075.html or https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3075.pdf.

What effect do shocks have on the body?

An electric shock can result in anything from a slight tingling sensation to immediate cardiac arrest. The severity depends on the following:
  • the amount of current flowing through the body,
  • the current's path through the body,
  • the length of time the body remains in the circuit, and
  • the current's frequency.
This table shows the general relationship between the amount of current received and the reaction when current flows from the hand to the foot for just 1 second.

Effects of Electric Current in the Human Body


Current Reaction

Below 1 milliampere Generally not perceptible
1 milliampere
Faint tingle
5 milliamperes Slight shock felt; not painful but disturbing. Average individual can let go. Strong involuntary reactions can lead to other injuries.
6–25 milliamperes (women) Painful shock, loss of muscular control*
9–30 milliamperes (men) The freezing current or " let-go" range.* Individual cannot let go, but can be thrown away from the circuit if extensor muscles are stimulated.
50–150 milliamperes Extreme pain, respiratory arrest, severe muscular contractions. Death is possible.
1,000–4,300 milliamperes Rhythmic pumping action of the heart ceases. Muscular contraction and nerve damage occur; death likely.
10,000 milliamperes Cardiac arrest, severe burns; death probable

* If the extensor muscles are excited by the shock, the person may be thrown away from the power source.

Source: W.B. Kouwenhoven, " Human Safety and Electric Shock," Electrical Safety Practices, Monograph, 112, Instrument Society of America, p. 93. November 1968.