Electrocution happens when a part of the body touches any source of electricity. When this causes a current through the muscles, skin, or hair, you are considered to have been electrocuted. Electrocution is a common construction site accident.
If you’ve been in contact with a small current, you may not even know it. Larger currents can make it hard to let go of the energized item. Intense and high-voltage currents may cause tissue damage to the body, and they can cause fibrillation of the heart. When this is not fatal, it is called an electric shock. When it is fatal, it’s called death by electrocution.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Electric Shock?
The symptoms of an electric shock vary depending on the voltage. Some symptoms include:
- Burns – extensive burns can develop due to electric shock. Voltage levels of 500 to 1,000 volts may cause internal burns. The damage is caused by the current heating the tissues.
- Neurological effects – An electric current can interfere with the nerves of the body. This means that a shock can interfere with the heart, lungs, and other brain activity. Repeated or severe shocks can cause neuropathy if the person is not killed. If you are shocked with a significant amount of voltage, it is likely that you will lose consciousness quickly.
- Ventricular fibrillation – even a shock from a domestic power source, which is no higher than 230 volts or 50 to 60 Hz, to the chest can cause serious problems. A quick shock, which may be less than a second, can cause ventricular fibrillation, which needs to be treated with defibrillation. When the heart fibrillates, all of the muscles move independently, so it doesn’t maintain a pulse that is coordinated. This hurts circulation and the pumping of blood. This side effect of a shock tends to be lethal unless it is treated immediately. If you are shocked by 200 mA or more, the heart will likely be paralyzed by a muscle contraction, preventing fibrillation.
What Are the Factors of Lethality in an Electric Shock?
- Current – The chance of death is directly linked to the current; higher currents are more likely to be lethal.
- Duration – A long shock is more likely to be lethal than a short shock.
- Pathway – Shocks to the head or chest are more likely to be lethal.
- High Voltage – High voltage will destroy the skin, which reduces resistance and makes the electric shock worse.
- Frequency – high frequency currents tend to cause burning but do not reach the heart to cause cardiac arrest
How Can I Prevent Lethal Shocks?
In the workplace, there are safety laws that should protect you from being electrocuted. However, there are notable exceptions, such as Andy Roberts, who was killed when changing a light bulb. He came into contact with a bare wire of over 2,000 volts. This is why it’s important to report any bare wires or sparks when you’re working. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) makes and enforces rules relating to workplace safety and health in the United States. Any major issues you see at work should be reported to them for investigation.
Inspect equipment before every use; this is a regulation by the OSHA that may help expose problems before they become deadly. Utilities must be located before breaking into the ground to prevent hitting wires that are buried. The contractor is responsible for worker safety during excavation, so if there are any questions or problems, make sure the contractor is aware.
Photo By Tim Sheerman-Chase
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