Electricity is an indispensable part of our lives. There is no assessing the breadth with which it facilitates the smooth functioning of modern human society. You only need to think of the wide array of electrical appliances that you use at home when you get set for the day. Following proper electrical safety procedures and knowing the emergency protocol to follow in case of an electrical accident, is therefore as much about being a responsible citizen as it is about personal safety. Electrical emergencies are mostly associated with shocks, burns, fires and explosions.
Causes of Electrical Accidents
Since most electrical wiring is behind the scenes and beyond the realm of common knowledge, the best way to prevent a wiring-related electrical accident is to have your home inspected by a certified electrical inspector. He can look for all of the most common hazards and also give you a cost-estimate of the solutions.
- Misuse of lamps and light fixtures is one of the common causes of electrical accidents. As harmless as it seems, using a one-hundred-watt bulb in a sixty watt fixture (for example) can melt the fixture wires, creating shock and fire hazard.
- The same danger exists when plugging a cord into an adapter outlet that screws into a light bulb socket.
- As for appliances, don’t use any device that sparks, smokes, and buzzes, emits a burning smell, or shows any cord damage.
- Unplug appliances before cleaning them. Never operate an appliance or any equipment while standing in water or in moist conditions
- Fixed wiring is the second most common cause of electricity-related house fires. Potential problems with household wiring systems can range from overloaded circuits (and improperly rated or installed circuit breakers) to damaged wires to loose connections of switches and other devices.
As a general rule, the best approach to preventing electrical accidents is following the advice written in product manuals and on the labels of cords, appliances, fixtures, and other devices. It also means purchasing and using only electrical products that are approved. Never modify or tamper with electrical equipment, and don’t be lazy about repairing or replacing old, outdated and damaged devices.
How Does Electric Shock Affect Your Organs?
- How electric shocks affect the skin depends on the skin’s resistance to current, which in turn depends on the wetness, thickness, and cleanliness of the skin. Thin or wet skin is much less resistant than thick or dry skin. When the skin’s resistance to current is low, the current may cause little or no skin damage but severely burn internal organs and tissues. By contrast, high skin resistance can produce severe skin burns but prevent the current from entering the body.
- The nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) is very sensitive to electric shock injury, and neurological and cardiac problems due to electrolyte disturbances are the most common consequences suffered by electric shock victims.
- Neurological damage can be minor and clear up on its own or with medical treatment or it can be severe and permanent.
- Damage to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems is the highest at the time of injury. Electric shocks can paralyse the respiratory system or disrupt heart action, causing instant death.
- Also at risk are the smaller veins and arteries, which can develop blood clots. Damage to the smaller vessels is often followed by amputation after high-voltage injuries.
- Strong shocks are often accompanied by violent muscle spasms that can break and dislocate bones.
- The victim may also suffer a fall or an electric arc may set clothing or nearby flammable substances on fire.
- Many other injuries are possible after an electric shock, including cataract, kidney failure, and destruction of muscle tissue.
Safe Work Practices
People working with electric equipment need to implement safe working practices. They include:
- De-energizing electric equipment before inspecting or undertaking repairs.
- Using electric tools that are in good condition.
- Using good judgment when working near energised lines.
- Using appropriate protective equipment.
- If work is to be performed near overhead power lines, the lines must be de-energized and grounded by the owner or operator of the lines, or other protective measures must be provided before work is started.
- Protective measures (such as guarding or insulating the lines) must be designed to prevent workers from contacting the lines.
- Unqualified employees and mechanical equipment must stay away from overhead power lines.
Protective Equipment for Electrical Workers
Electrical employees whose occupations require them to work directly with electricity must use the personal protective equipment required for the jobs they perform. This equipment may consist of rubber insulating gloves, hoods, sleeves, matting, blankets, line hose, and industrial protective helmets.
To maximise his or her own safety, an employee should always use tools that work properly. Tools must be inspected before use. Tools that are used by employees to handle energised conductors must be designed and constructed to withstand the voltages and stresses to which they are exposed.
First Aid during Electrical Accidents
- The rescue team for electrical accidents should first ensure their own safety. The source of electricity must be sealed and the supply of electricity to the area of the accident must be cut off before they step in to rescue the victims.
- Get the injured persons away from the scene and ensure the scene is safe.
- Electrical injuries include burns which can be superficial or deep, damage to internal organs, fractures, dislocations, thermal injuries and others.
- After removing the person to a safe site, first aid may be given, e.g. splint for a fracture, bandage for an external wound.
- The victim must be taken to a medical facility because the injury may be seemingly superficial externally, in the form of only a small burn at the entry and exit site, but could involve major damage to internal organs.