Electric shocks can be fatal. Each year there around 1000 accidents at work involving electric shock or burns are reported to the Health and Safety Executive. Furthermore, around 30 of these are fatal. The majority of these fatalities arise from contact with power cables, either overhead or underground.
Of the accidents involving electric shocks which take place in the home, many involve children biting electrical cords or poking a metal object into electrical sockets. Or they happen when an electrical appliance meets water such as a bath or paddling pool. Water greatly increases the risk of fatality.
The shocking facts and figures about electric shocks
- electrical burn injuries account for around 5% of burns unit admissions
- for each death, there are two serious injuries and 36 reported electric shocks
- death is most common in young males, at a ratio of 9 male deaths to 1 female death, with most deaths occur in spring or summer months
- electricians are at highest risk group due to their jobs. Those working with electrical tools also form a significant proportion of this patient group
High voltage danger
The danger from an electrical shock depends on the type of current, how high the voltage is, how the current travelled through the body, the person’s overall health and how quickly the person is treated. If the person survives the initial shock, their prognosis is usually good. However, even when the electric shock is not fatal, it can lead to permanent injury.
Your own safety is paramount
If you touch someone who is holding onto an electrical wire with a live current, there is a strong chance that you will be electrocuted too. As a result, it is vital you always ensure the area is safe if someone has been electrocuted.
Do not touch them until you have turned the electricity off at the mains. Furthermore, ensure you know where the mains is located and how to turn it off. Touching the socket where the appliance is plugged in, before disconnecting the mains, could lead to further injury.
Stop the current
If someone has had an electric shock, switch off the electrical current at the mains to break the contact between the person and the electrical supply.
Can’t reach the mains supply?
If you can’t stop the electrical current, move the source away from you and the person using a dry, non-conducting object made of cardboard, plastic or wood. A wooden broom handle can work.
If a baby or child has grasped a damaged wire, it is possible the electric shock can cause muscle spasm and as a result they will be unable to let go. Always try and switch off the power supply. Once the electricity has been switched off, they are safe to touch.
When to dial 999 or 112 for an ambulance
If the person isn’t breathing or if the injured person experiences any of the following dial 999.
Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
Muscle pain and contractions
Loss of consciousness
Whilst waiting for medical help:
Check for response and then check for breathing.
Unconscious and breathing
If they are unconscious and breathing – put them into the recovery position.
Unconscious and not breathing
If they are unconscious and not breathing or show no signs of circulation such as coughing or movement – start CPR. Click here to learn how to do CPR
Conscious and breathing
If they are conscious and appear ok, do get them checked by a medical professional.
Don’t be distracted by burns
Do not be distracted by any burns. Electrical burns have an entry and exit and burn all the way through the inside. Therefore, the electrical burn itself, may not be the most important injury. Furthermore keep checking for more serious and possibly life-threatening conditions resulting from the electric shock.
Heart and electric shocks
Electrocution can interrupt the heart rhythm. Electrical burns can go right through the body.
Waiting for the emergency response
- be calm and reassuring
- keep them warm and dry
- treat superficial burns with cool, running water
UK socket safety
It is extremely difficult to electrocute yourself with a UK socket as all sockets have built in automatic shutters for protection.
However, sockets are not the only source of electric current, and babies have little fingers and are curious; hence the importance of knowing the appropriate first aid response.
Certain socket covers can damage sockets and remove the automatic shutters – be extremely careful when choosing socket covers to ensure they meet the appropriate safety standards.
Faulty wiring and electric shocks
Old electrical appliances can have wires which become damaged and frayed over time and can, as a result, can give an electric shock when touched. Sometimes pets can chew and damage wires and they too can experience electric shocks – click here to learn more about how to help your pet if they have been electrocuted.
Have your electrics regularly checked by a qualified electrician.
Read our article about dealing with electric shocks and pets by clicking here
It is strongly advised that you complete an online or attend a practical or online first aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Click here or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses. First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made or actions taken based on this information.