Electricity can become grounded unintentionally to equipment enclosures, fixtures and appliances which can in-turn present an electric shock or electrocution hazard.
If a ground-fault condition occurs , GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) provide a level of prevention from dangerous electrical shocks. These GFCI outlets or breakers are designed to detect unintentionally re-routed electrical current and act as an automatic shut-off switch. By providing this functionality, GFCI’s (when correctly installed) can reduce the risk of serious injuries related to exposure to electricity.
In the case where old fuse panels are present, GFCI outlets can be used. If a breaker panel is in use, GFCI breakers can be used in place of standard circuit protection breakers.
It is important to note that standard circuit breakers and fuses are designed to protect circuits not people. They only work to switch off a circuit when the maximum current is exceeded. An electrical shock that is below the threshold of a fuse or breaker will not automatically blow a fuse or trip the breaker. This is why GFCI’s have been designed. They provide additional safety for people.
GFCI circuits should be thoroughly tested by a qualified electrician. It is important to make sure they are functioning correctly.