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Responding to an Electrical Accident

electrical emergencyElectrical accidents cause countless injuries and claim the lives of hundreds of Americans each year. Injuries could be minimized and many lives saved if proper rescue techniques were used. Caution should always be a primary consideration during rescue in response to any electrical accident or emergency. At the same time, speedy and effective response is essential because to survive, victims must be rescued as soon as possible.   

When an electrical accident occurs, the victim may be incapable of moving or releasing the electrical conductor because of the effect of something called ‘muscle clamping.’ Muscle clamping is the contraction of muscles caused by an electrical current running through the body. As a result of this effect, attempts to rescue a victim of an electrical accident may pose a hazard for the rescuer. A rescuer who touches a victim who is still in contact with an electrical current could also be exposed to that current.

This means your employees must understand electrical hazards and know how to act fast and safely in an electrical emergency.

Basics of Electrical Rescue

The first rule of electrical rescue is that co-workers should never rush in to an accident situation. While one person calls for EMS and summons a maintenance worker qualified for electrical work, other responders should:

  • Visually examine victims to determine if they are in contact with energized conductors.
  • Inspect the area around the victim. Metal surfaces, objects near the victim, or the ground itself may be energized. Responders could become victims if they touch an energized victim or conductive surface.
  • De-energize any active electrical circuits, if possible. For example, the energy could be switched off at the circuit breaker or portable electrical equipment could be unplugged, if this can be done safely.
  • Once the power is off and it is safe to approach, the victim should be examined to see if he or she can be safely moved.

If the electrical circuit can’t be de-energized, emergency responders must use extreme care. They should:

  • Ensure that hands and feet are dry.
  • Wear protective equipment such as low-voltage gloves and overshoes, if available.
  • Stand on a clean, dry surface, or stand on a dry rubber blanket or other insulating material, if possible.
  • Use a nonconducting material (for example, nonconductive rope or cord, or a dry stick or board) to remove the victim from the conductor.

The victim may be unconscious, have a weak pulse, have difficulty in breathing or not breathing at all and may have signs of burns. First aid for a victim of an electrical accident may include CPR if the person isn’t breathing and has no pulse. If the victim is breathing and has a heartbeat, first aid for shock and burns may be required until emergency medical help arrives.

Watch this video to better understand the dangers encountered by responders to an electrical emergency:


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