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What causes electrocution
Safety switch located within sight of water heater, air conditioner, or equipment such as power saw can offer protection against electrocution

Resource:
How to wire safety switch
Electrocution: People get electrocuted, because they become the pathway for electricity to reach earth. Although it is not known exactly what electricity is, we can say that it has to do with charged electrons seeking to equalize the charge with other electrons. For example a static shock from rubbing feet across a carpet and touching a doorknob is caused by unequal charge. The electrons produced by friction of feet on carpet are equalizing with the charge of electrons on the doorknob. Of course the number of electrons is small so you are not harmed.
The shock from a live electric wire is much larger than a static charge from carpet. The power plant generator rotates a magnet past coils of wire, and this causes electrons to release from their atomic orbits and flow down the wire. These electrons are charged. The earth likewise contains electrons that have a different charge than electrons on the wire. Read about electric generation As a result, electrons on the wire will follow any pathway to earth in an effort to equalize the charge. Except the generator keeps pumping out charged electrons and if you become the pathway for all those electrons, it will kill you. That's one basis for electrocution, but doesn't cover all possible hazards.
The ground wire helps reduce the risk of electrocution by offering a resistance-free path for electrons to reach earth. What is resistance? Imagine that charged electrons are like marbles, and resistance is a hill that surrounds the marbles and stops them from rolling away. If there is no resistance, the marbles are free to roll away. Electrons will 'roll away' like marbles when they are attracted by unequal charge with other electrons. If there is some resistance, then the marbles can only roll away if the marbles get piled up so high that they spill over the top.
A properly installed ground should have no resistance, while a person's body offers a fair amount of resistance, and so the ground wire becomes that easiest pathway for electrons to follow. In normal circumstances, if electrons are running wildly into the ground wire, the Hot wire supplying the source of electrons becomes overheated by all the electrons pouring down the wire, the circuit breaker detects the heat, and trips, cutting off the flow of electrons. However, the breaker will not trip immediately, so the ground wire and breaker cannot protect someone exposed to live electricity while standing in water or on bare soil or touching a grounded object such as clothes dryer or hull of a ship. For that protection, make sure to avoid such hazards and install ground fault interrupter (GFCI) on any vulnerable circuit, such as bathroom, kitchen, and outdoor outlets, switches and equipment. The GFCI will immediately interpret the rush of electrons, just as they start to flow to earth, and cut off the circuit before the person gets killed.
Ground wires are permanent and do not need to be checked periodically at a home or business unless massive lightning strike melts the wire.
Resource:
How to wire GFCI
What is electricity
Difference between surge and ground
Other causes of electrocution
Rather gristly topic, but is different from above and does not include ground rod.
-Lightning. During a storm, friction, electromagnetic nature of earth, and temperature differentials cause pockets of charged electrons gather in the clouds. The charge is different from the the charge on the earth below, and different from the charge in other areas of the same storm. The electrons are not free to equalize because air offers high resistance. Air is a good insulator. As a result, the charged electrons must build up in massive numbers before they overcome the resistance of air. At that point, a bolt of lightning lets electrons flow until the resistance again exceeds the charge. If electrons build up again, another bolt of lightning will occue. If a person is struck by lightning, the electrons burn through the body, shorting out the brain, heart and nervous system. Outcomes vary. Lightning can hit nearby, and jump from object to object findng a pathway to discharge.
-Electric chair: Basically the human is connected to 2 Hot wires. When power is ON, the body is attached to electricity like a light bulb, except unlike the light bulb, the human has resistance which requires considerably more amperage. The final outcome, if done correctly, is resolved within minutes. If done incorrectly, the human may survive somewhat. In any case, there is a reason why a hood is placed over the person head, as electrocution would cause distroted expession on the face and executioners might be unpleasantly exposed to the spectacle.
-Stealing copper wire: This exciting profession attracts the affluent from society, giving them a lottery-like chance of electrocution, prosecution, or a few dollars today. If done correctly, the work offers exciting opportunities without benefits. Done incorrectly then negative outcomes range from serious burn injury to getting carbonized into a charcoal lump. Electricity causes muscles to contract, making it impossible to release oneself from the hazard. And so once grabbed, a person is stuck until the electricity burns through the body. Anyone grabbing the person will also become stuck unless a friend knocks them loose with a 2x4 or pulls them off using a belt or dry towel.

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