Are Electric Fences a Serious Safety risk to Humans?

Touching an electric fence leaves a vivid and painful memory and the voltages are also high in comparison with standard mains electricity, because of this most will assume that the risk to life and limb must also be high. In fact, the opposite is true. Consider that hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world are “exposed” to the millions of electric fences every day—yet electric fences account for (but are not always the cause of) less than one serious injury per year worldwide. Compare that to thenumber of annual injuries and deaths that occur from human exposure to tractors, skid loaders, ladders, PTO shafts, balers, mowers, combines, bulls,stallions, shotguns, knives, etc. This is not to suggest that there is no risk.
There is, indeed, a small level of risk. And with risk, there is also liability to the fence’s owner.

The voltage being sent throughthe wires is high, but the current or amplification (amps) is very low. A220-volt shock will hurt just as much as a 10,000-volt shock, as long as the
current or amps are the same. Amps are what kills. Electric fence energisers put out high voltage (around 8,000 volts), but very low amperage or current (around 120 milliamps). This is 120 Thousands of an Amp ( normal mains electricity is 13 Amps). It should not even kill a squirrel.

This output is made safe in two ways, firstly by releasing the flow of electrons from the capacitor in regular pulses of about 1/300th of a second approximately a second apart. The amperage component of the electrical charge is greatly reduced to figures in the range
of 15 – 500milliamps. (The majority of units operate in the 100-150milliamp range)*. Compare this with two other scenarios.

  1. Static Electricity when you touch a door, about 30000 volts at 5
    milliamps for 1/1000th. of a second, unpleasant but not lasting.
  2. Mains Electricity. 220volts at 13 Amps and constant, unpleasant
    and regularly causes death.

The energy pulses through the wires or conductors. This means once every second for 1/300th of a second it sends a pulse of electricity down the line. The reason for the pulsating current is that when the wires are touched and deliver a shock – whatever touches it has a chance to remove itself. When an animal touches the electrical wire, it causes a muscle contraction in the animal that is similar to what humans feel as a muscle cramp. With a continuous supply of current as you get with mains electricity this results in the grabbing effect that is so dangerous and the victim is unable to release the source of the current. With the pulsing of an electric fence this cramping is transitory and the victim is able to retreat from the source of energy. The animal will associate this unpleasant feeling with touching the fence and will be discouraged from touching it again in the future.

If the current did not pulse (like most electrical appliances -  hair dryer, radio, toaster, etc.), then whatever touched it would continue to be shocked until the power went out or something pried them off.

With low amps and a pulsating current, electrical fencing is a safe product. It is the amperage within the electrical charge and the constant connection that makes electricity dangerous.

The one issue may occur if an animal gets trapped in the fence for a period of time and is unable to extricate itself. This could be as a result of animals with horns, hedgehogs that roll up into a ball or any other reason they have become trapped. This varies for different animals and unfortunately can result in the death of the animal. Fortunately this is very rare and in my 30 years of working with electric fencing I know of 3 incidences where an animal has been killed.  For this reason, the HoriSmart energisers has been developed that are able to recognise what is touching the fence, treat it accordingly so increasing the safety accordingly.

What NOT to do!

  • Never Place your head near an electrified wire. Accidental head or neck contact
    can occur when pushing a voltage probe into the soil or when checking
    voltage. Be very careful when you do so to avoid head-to-wire contact!
  • Never allow anyone else to touch a modern electric  fence. It is not a game!

What to do!

  • Instruct all visitors and children to never touch electric fencing.
  • The legislation that applies in Europe to fences accessible to the general public stipulates that an internationally recognised warning sign be displayed at the beginning and end of a fence and at every 50 meters interval

Warning: In 1991 an accidental fatality occurred when a young child’s head
contacted an electrified fence while the child was crawling on wet grass. The
fence was correctly installed and functioning properly. The energiser was an
approved unit. As a result, we strongly advise against allowing toddlers access
to any electrified fences. Also, due to this incident and others, experts now
suggest that human contact by an energised wire to the head and neck maybe the
most dangerous point of contact. We urge all to especially avoid this kind of
contact.

* These figures vary between all the manufacturers.

About admin

Agrisellex association with Electric fencing began 31 years ago in Central Africa where electric fencing was used to assist farmers, wildlife conservation entrepreneurs to control all aspects of African wildlife. We moved to the UK in 2000 and have become involved in all aspects of English Electric Fencing over these 13 years. Agrisellex has a long association with horizont Agrartechnik gmbh. This German company has been producing Electric fencing products for 60 years and is synonymous with German quality. Find us on Google+
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10 Responses to Are Electric Fences a Serious Safety risk to Humans?

  1. Pingback: Electric Poultry Net plugged directly into a 220v Mains Outlet??? | Electric Fencing Blog

  2. Ginny says:

    Thank you for this post. I had a question regarding receiving a shock from an electric fence during pregnancy. I’m currently 20 weeks pregnant and we are on a vacation in Denmark. While we were on a hike today, I backed into an electric fence and received a fairly fierce shock to my bum, which then traveled down my right leg. Do you know if an electric fence shock can be harmful to a foetus? I can still feel my baby kicking, but not quite sure if I should make a visit to the hospital. Thank you for your help!

    • admin says:

      Terribly sorry to read this, This is not something I have come across and strongly suggest you contact your doctor to put your mind at rest. Electricity does take the shortest route to earth so would go down your leg but it does stimulate contraction of muscles. I really do hope that you have the happy outcome you deserve.

  3. david cordes says:

    is accidentaly touching fence electrictape ,safe if you have a pacemakerfitted and over 65years of age . especially if you are 25 meters from any signs on fence

    • admin says:

      If you have a pacemaker then extra caution should be taken at any point of the fence of the fence – distance from a warning sign has no bearing on the strength of the fence. It is not logical to have a warning sign every meter.

      There is no evidence to say an EF will be more dangerous to a PM wearer simply because no actual work has been done to show either way but patients with PM’s have been subjected to cardiac electrical stimulation in emergency situations by medics with success. Saying that, a PM works on an electrical charge being administered to the heart muscles so it is logical to be cautious when applying additional electrical impulses.

  4. Lex says:

    Hi, I was walking in a field yesterday and tried to get pass under an electric wired fence. My head likely touched the wire and I assume I blacked out for half a second as I found myself on the ground on the other side without any memory of crossing it. My friends just thought I tripped.
    I was perfectly normal after and continued on with my day. Is this something I should be worried about, have you ever heard of delayed responses to head shocks? I’m 22 and in good health. Thanks.

    • admin says:

      It has happened to me on numerous occasions, the first time, like you, I did not realise what had happened and stood up into the wire for a second hit. Fortunately before the days of video clips or it would be on Youtube. I’m OK – at least I think so. The very low amperages will have no effect on you.

  5. Daniel says:

    I was opening an electric fence this evening and my right arm touched the wire as my left was resting on star picket. The electricity went across my chest and now my muscles around heart ache and feel funny. My pulse is not racing but just dont feel 100%. should I worry or will this just pass.

  6. Christian MacKenzie says:

    I can only say that I’ve been shocked ONCE and I now pay close attention when I see an Electric Fence.

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