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I’ve often been asked if peeing on an electric fence is dangerous – probably relating to a gentleman stopping on the side of a road to relieve himself and the possible legal repercussions against the fence owner.
ALL electric fences that are adjacent to a public freeway must legally be signposted every 50 meters warning the public that the fence is energised. It is very possible that a person stops between signs and does not notice them as the legal signs are quite small.
The question whether a person will get a shock from an electric fence is debated. I have personally been in the company of a person getting a shock from a fence he was not aware of - much to the mirth of his friends. He received a substantial belt and did complain bitterly. There are also YouTube clips of people and dogs peeing on a fence and getting a shock, so – Yes, it is possible. (See links below)
There are some annalists who disagree on these kinds of reports, saying it's not possible to be electrocuted by urinating on an electric line. A stream of urine quickly separates into individual droplets. Because the urine isn't a steady stream, it would be highly unlikely that a powerful electric current could travel up it. In order to consider this , normal mains runs at 220 volts but electric fences run at +5000v and will jump a gap based on 1 mm per 1000 volts of electricity. Because the fence is higher off the ground urine won't have time to separate into droplets, and the current can travel up the stream.
Nonetheless, though it may be rare, there are a handful of cases in which an individual (always male, it seems) has been shocked when a strong electric current travelled up his urine stream.
The American "MythBusters" program also found that peeing on an electric fence can be a shocking experience. Because the fence is higher off the ground urine won't have time to separate into droplets, and the current can travel up the stream.
Looking at footage available it is clear that the recipient does get a substantial temporary shock which is not lasting and really is no more than pretty uncomfortable.
This should not be confused with those that pee on the electrified third rail of a train. Despite the assumption that you will not transmit a current up a urine stream there are many cases of people being killed doing just that.
One story, recounted by Marshall Houts in "Where Death Delights" (Dell Books, 1968), involves a man named Joseph Patrick O'Malley, who was struck by a train in a New York City subway tunnel.
O'Malley's autopsy revealed "the burns on the head of the penis and on the thumb and forefinger were obviously electrical burns … The stream of urine had come into contact with the 600 volts of the third rail. The current had coursed up the stream to cause the burns on his body as the electricity entered it."
In other words, O'Malley was fried before the train hit him.
In any case, if you need to pee, it might be wise to find a rest-room — or a nice, private bit of non-electrified shrubbery.
You DO get some idiots who don't believe the science and test it themselves.