In an electrical installation, an earthing system or grounding system connects specific parts of that installation with the Earth’s conductive surface for safety and functional purposes. The point of reference is the Earth’s conductive surface. The choice of earthing system can affect the safety and electromagnetic compatibility of the installation. Regulations for earthing systems vary considerably among countries, though most follow the recommendations of the International Electrotechnical Commission. Regulations may identify special cases for earthing in mines, in patient care areas, or in hazardous areas of industrial plants.
In addition to electric power systems, other systems may require grounding for safety or function. Tall structures may have lightning rods as part of a system to protect them from lightning strikes. Telegraph lines may use the Earth as one conductor of a circuit, saving the cost of installation of a return wire over a long circuit. Radio antennas may require particular grounding for operation, as well as to control static electricity and provide lightning protection.