Why Is Electricity Dangerous?
Current electricity is the flow of electric charge across an electrical field. It’s produced by moving electrons – and is measured in amps. It flows through a conductor which is heated by the current. The two main kinds of electricity are direct – like the energy you get from a battery – and alternating like the plugs in the wall that you can turn on and off.
So, why is electricity dangerous? Read on…
What is electric shock? Your body is a good conductor of electricity – an electric current can pass through it easily. When this accidentally happens, this is known as an electric shock. The effects of electric shock can cause:
Burns – electrical burns can affect internal organs which may result in destroyed tissue, loss of sensation and bodily functions, and serious kidney and blood circulation problems. Lip burns are common in children that have bitten an electric cord.
When current passes through the body it burns at the point of contact with the skin – with currents above 10 amps causing serious burns that may need the affected limb to be amputated.
Cardiac arrest – if the current passes through the heart it can cause heart failure as electrocution can cause the heart to beat irregularly or even cause it to stop.
Muscle spasms – and loss of muscle control happens as a sudden and large rush of electricity enters the body – and paralysis can also be experienced. This may be followed by falling which can be fatal.
Issues with the nervous system –– when nerves are affected by an electric shock the results are pain, numbness, and tingling. Weakness and difficulty in moving limbs can also be a consequence.
If the central nervous system is affected there may be experiences of seizure, amnesia, or respiratory arrest. Long-term damage can cause psychiatric disorders.
Other disorders – following the electric shock a range of additional complaints may appear such as the development of cataracts if the current passed through the eyes.
Reasons for Electric Shocks
What causes electric shock? Some of the causes are listed here…
- Damaged or worn electrical cords or extension leads
- Faulty appliances or appliances that have come into contact with water
- Defective or old household wiring
- Lightning strikes
- Powerlines that have been knocked down
Recognise the Symptoms
The typical signs of an electric shock include:
- Breathing irregularly or not at all
- A faint pulse or no pulse at all
- Entrance and exit burns
- Heart failure
Know How to Help
You must immediately switch off the power supply. And don’t touch the victim until that has happened – as you may be shocked too. The first aid for electric shocks is to check the breathing as you may need to start CPR.
Call for an ambulance and follow any instructions given over the telephone.
If breathing is steady and the casualty is responsive you can cool the burns with running water – for about 20 minutes – and cover with loosely wrapped cling film. Don’t apply any ointment.
Be careful not to move the patient if they’ve fallen from a height as they may have spinal injuries – keep them calm by talking reassuringly until the ambulance arrives.
The treatment of electric shock will depend on the severity of the injuries. Minor burns will be treated with antibiotic ointments and dressings, and severe burns may need surgery to remove damaged muscle, carry out skin grafts, or even amputation.
Eye injuries will be referred to an eye specialist. And broken bones will need casting, splinting, or surgery for stabilisation. Internal injuries will require ongoing observation.
Reduce the Risk Checklist
Follow the guidelines for electrical safety tips to ensure the potential risk of getting an electric shock is minimal. Here’s how to be safe with electricity:
- Make sure all wiring and electrical jobs are carried out by a qualified electrician
- Have safety switches installed
- Don’t let children or pets play with electrical cords
- Use safety plugs in sockets that aren’t in use
- Pull the plug out of the socket rather than pulling on the cord
- Don’t use damaged or frayed extension leads
- Keep electrical appliances dry
- Disconnect the power supply before attempting any DIY tasks
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