February 20

Administering First Aid After Electrical Shock

Electrical shock is a very common hazard for contractors working on construction sites. The hazard is exacerbated on large projects where multiple teams can be working in different areas on different things. Miscommunication is a huge culprit in construction site accidents.

Being able to properly apply first aid for somebody who has been electrocuted can be crucial in insuring they don’t suffer further injuries, including death. The following are steps that should be taken should a co-worker suffer an electric shock:

First Aid for Electric Shock
A person who has stopped breathing is not necessarily dead but is in immediate danger. The heart may continue to beat for some time after breathing has stopped, and the blood may still be circulated to the body cells. Since the blood will, for a short time, contain a small supply of oxygen, the body cells will not die immediately. For a very few minutes, there is some chance that the person’s life may be saved.

The process by which a person who has stopped breathing can be saved is called artificial ventilation (respiration). The purpose of artificial respiration is to force air out of the lungs and into the lungs, in rhythmic alternation, until natural breathing is reestablished. Records show that seven out of ten victims of electric shock were revived when artificial respiration was started in less than three minutes. After three minutes, the chances of revival decrease rapidly.

Artificial ventilation should be given only when the breathing has stopped. Do not give artificial ventilation to any person who is breathing naturally. You should not assume that an individual who is unconscious due to electrical shock has stopped breathing. To tell if someone suffering from an electrical shock is breathing, place your hands on the person’s sides at the level of the lowest ribs. If the victim is breathing, you will usually be able to feel movement.

Once it has been determined that breathing has stopped, the person nearest the victim should start the artificial ventilation without delay and send others for assistance and medical aid. The only logical, permissible delay is that required to free the victim from contact with the electricity in the quickest, safest way. This step, while it must be taken quickly, must be done with great care; otherwise, there may be two victims instead of one.

In the case of portable electric tools, lights, appliances, equipment, or portable outlet extensions, the victim should be freed from contact with the electricity by turning off the supply switch or by removing the plug from its receptacle. If the switch or receptacle cannot be quickly located, the suspected electrical device may be pulled free of the victim. Other persons arriving on the scene must be clearly warned not to touch the suspected equipment until it is de-energized.

The injured person should be pulled free of contact with stationary equipment (such as a bus bar) if the equipment cannot be quickly de-energized or if the survival of others relies on the electricity and prevents immediate shutdown of the circuits. This can be done quickly and easily by carefully applying the following procedures:

  1. Protect yourself with dry insulating material.
  2. Use a dry board, belt, clothing, or other available nonconductive material to free the victim from electrical contact. Do NOT touch the victim until the source of electricity has been removed.

Once the victim has been removed from the electrical source, it should be determined whether the person is breathing. If the person is not breathing, a method of artificial respiration is used.

Knowing what to do in the short window of time after a co-worker has suffered an electric shock could very well be the difference between life and death. All employees should be trained on how to handle first aid should one of their co-workers become victim to electrocution. Having trained employees is one of the most effective ways to mitigate injury should an electric shock take place on the job.

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