Electrocution is the fatal exposure of a human body to an electric current. It can cause severe injuries and death by stopping the heart, damaging the brain, or burning the skin and internal organs. Electrocution is a serious workplace hazard that belongs to the ‘Fatal Four’, the leading causes of deaths among workers in the construction industry. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electrocution was the second leading cause of death in 2011, accounting for 9% of all fatalities in the construction sector. In this article, we will explore some of the common causes and effects of electrocution, as well as some tips on how to prevent it.
Causes of Electrocution
Electrocution can occur when a person comes into contact with a live wire, a faulty electrical equipment, or a lightning strike. Some of the factors that increase the risk of electrocution are:
- Working near overhead power lines or underground cables
- Using damaged or defective tools, cords, plugs, or outlets
- Overloading circuits or extension cords
- Removing or bypassing safety devices such as fuses, circuit breakers, or ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)
- Working in wet or damp conditions
- Lack of proper training, supervision, or personal protective equipment (PPE)
Effects of Electrocution
The effects of electrocution depend on several factors, such as the voltage, current, duration, and pathway of the electric shock. Some of the possible outcomes are:
- Burns: Electric currents can cause external and internal burns by heating up the tissues and organs. Burns can range from mild to severe, depending on the degree and extent of the damage. Burns can also lead to infections, scarring, or amputation.
- Cardiac arrest: Electric currents can interfere with the normal functioning of the heart, causing it to stop beating or beat irregularly. Cardiac arrest can result in death if not treated immediately with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or defibrillation.
- Brain injury: Electric currents can affect the nervous system, causing seizures, loss of consciousness, memory loss, or cognitive impairment. Brain injury can also lead to permanent disability or coma.
- Nerve damage: Electric currents can damage the nerves that control the muscles, sensations, and reflexes. Nerve damage can cause paralysis, numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness.
- Organ damage: Electric currents can damage the vital organs such as the lungs, kidneys, liver, or spleen. Organ damage can cause bleeding, swelling, infection, or failure.
Prevention of Electrocution
Electrocution is a preventable hazard that can be avoided by following some safety measures. Here are some tips on how to prevent electrocution:
- Be aware of your surroundings and identify any potential sources of electric shock.
- Follow the instructions and warnings on electrical equipment and appliances.
- Use only approved and tested electrical equipment and appliances.
- Inspect and maintain electrical equipment and appliances regularly.
- Replace or repair any damaged or defective electrical equipment and appliances.
- Use appropriate PPE such as gloves, boots, helmets, or goggles when working with electricity.
- Use GFCIs on outlets and circuits that may be exposed to water or moisture.
- Avoid contact with water or metal objects when working with electricity.
- Turn off and unplug electrical equipment and appliances when not in use or before cleaning or repairing them.
- Lock out and tag out any electrical equipment and appliances that are being serviced or repaired.
- Stay away from overhead power lines or underground cables and report any damages or hazards to the authorities.
- Seek shelter indoors during thunderstorms and avoid using phones, computers, or electrical appliances.
- Educate yourself and others about the dangers and symptoms of electric shock.
- Seek medical attention immediately if you or someone else experiences an electric shock.
Electrocution is a silent killer that can strike anyone at any time. By following these tips on how to prevent electrocution, you can protect yourself and others from this deadly hazard. Remember: safety first!