I don't think I have ever seen an electrician use a metal ladder....They usually use those orange fiberglass jobs. Now that will give you some insulation! I would be worried that the plastic feet on the ladder would wear through and ground you!.....later, Ross
Okay, I've read the whole thread, all 20ish posts, very interesting. But now my question is, why touch the conductor in the first place? 3/4" down is the insulation, use that and forget about "will I or won't I?" I work as an electrician, I have to work live sometimes, I also use a fiberglass ladder. But I always grab the wire by the insulation, most of the time I'm more worried about arcing under load, or short cct's. I know it was a hypothetical question, my answer is "just don't touch it".
If you are talking about 120 volts amd you are wearing regular (but DRY) shoes, you likely will not feel a thing.
The most likely source of a shock when working in a hot junction box is touching both the metal box (or the grounded fixture) and the hot at the same time.
I attended the same church as a professional electrician who routinely works "hot" on the 120 volt (household) stuff. When he was working at my place he did cross the metal box with hot and trip the beaker (and thus, finished, that piece of the job "cold."). He also told me that has been knocked out a few times from shocks and that once he was BLIND for 20 minutes after waking up!
The reason I needed him was that it was necessary to disconnect a tap on the meter side of my panel. It would have been a PITA to get the power company to pull and replace the meter. He did that job in about 10 minutes. But since he was there anyway, I had him do some other stuff. Being a pro, he worked about 5 times as efficiently as me.
I've felt a few tingles here and there, but it was so long ago I don't remember what the exact situation was. However, I'm very sure I wasn't wearing wet shoes, or standing in water. Being that I didn't do it on purpose, I must have "thought" I wasn't grounded.
Lets face it, that's pretty easy to do. The OP was talking about an electrician (at his office?) who was replacing fixtures live (I think). Let's say he's standing on a ladder of any material, body is half way up the drop ceiling. If he's right handed, he would probably be supporting the fixture with his left hand, possibly resting his arm on the tee-bar, goes to touch the bare conductor with his right hand, would he get a shock? (Oh yeah, he's wearing the brand new company golf shirt).
I'm not saying it's wrong to go around and touch live bare wires, I'm not even saying it's unsafe. But it is poor practice and quite unprofessional don't you think? Every good electrician has a good set of pliers, I just don't see the point in not using them.