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Workplace Electrical Injuries: What You Need to Know

Electricity can be hazardous. Do you know what to do in case of an electrical injury in your workplace?



Electricity is essential to the modern workplace. While generally safe and reliable, electricity can be hazardous, even fatal, if treated improperly. Learn about the common injuries associated with exposure to electricity and what you should do in case of an emergency.

Recognizing the hazards

Shocks and burns are common injuries that result from exposure to electricity. Electrical shock happens when contact with an energized device sends an electric current through the body. Effects range from a slight tingling sensation to immediate cardiac arrest. The severity of the shock depends on the amount of current, the path of the current and the length of contact time.

Burns occur when electrical current flows through tissue or bone, generating heat that causes damage. Arc or flash burns result from high temperatures caused by a nearby electric arc or explosion. Thermal contact burns happen when the skin touches hot surfaces of overheated electrical conductors or energized equipment. Electrical burns are among the most serious and require immediate medical attention.

What to do in an emergency

If you suspect an employee has suffered an electrical shock or burn, seek medical assistance immediately. Have someone else call for help; don't leave the victim alone unless there's no other option.

An electrical shock can cause muscles to freeze, rendering the victim unable to pull free, lengthening exposure time and the severity of the injury. If an employee is shocked by electricity and still in contact with the circuit, don't touch them; try to shut off the circuit. If you can't shut off the current quickly, pry the victim from the circuit with something that doesn't conduct electricity, such as dry wood.

Once the electrical current is no longer flowing through the victim, call out to them to see if they're conscious. If the victim is awake, tell them not to move. Shock victims can be seriously injured without realizing it.

Quickly examine the victim for signs of bleeding. If there's major bleeding, place a cloth over the wound and apply pressure. If the wound is located on the victim's arm or leg and it's bleeding profusely, gently elevate the injured area while keeping pressure on the wound. Keep the victim warm and talk to them until help arrives.

If the victim is unconscious, call 911. Someone trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should immediately assess the victim and begin chest compressions if warranted. Emergency dispatchers can assist in the assessment of the victim and direction to start CPR.

Stay with the victim until medical help arrives. If the victim isn't breathing, doesn't have a heartbeat or is badly injured, the quick response of a team of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics will bring the best chance for survival.

Additional resources

See Electrical Safety Foundation International for information and resources to help make your workplace safer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides information on workplace safety standards, tips on working safely with electricity and more.


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