Reduce your Risk of Electrical Shocks

Electricity has been one of the greatest benefits to mankind. It has contributed to all major advances that we enjoy. At the same time, electricity can also be one of the most dangerous risks to our health and safety. Electrical shocks can kill.

Lightning or electric current causes electric shock injuries and deaths from machines, appliances, and outlets. Shock effects can range from a slight tingling to instant death. Most injuries from household appliances and other low-voltage sources usually aren't severe. But that isn't always the case. People have been killed by shocks of just 50 volts.

The severity of an injury depends on a current's pressure (voltage), amount of current (amperage), and type of current (direct vs. alternating). The extent of injury is also affected by skin resistance to the current, how the current passes through the body, and how long the body remains in contact with the current.

Types of Injuries
Common injuries from electric shock include:

* Damage to the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves)
* Damage to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems
* Cataracts
* Kidney failure
* Destruction of muscle tissue
* Broken bones from severe muscle spasms

Nervous system damage can be either minor and temporary or severe and permanent. Shocks to the respiratory and cardiovascular systems can disrupt breathing and heart action, causing instant death.

Emergency Situations
When individuals make contact with an electrical current, their muscle spasms can freeze them in place and prevent them from breaking away from the source of the current. If you see that happen, you should immediately shut off the main power source. If that can't be done, stand on a dry, non-conducting surface (e.g. paper, plastic, rubber) and use a non-conducting object to push the victim away from the current. Never touch the victim. You may become electrocuted, too.

If someone has received a severe shock, immediately call emergency medical help. Before help arrives, someone may need to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Prevention
Electrical safety is necessary both at home and at work. Follow these tips to ensure a safe environment:

* Identify possible electrical risks.
* Repair or replace damaged appliances, wiring, cords, and plugs (repairs should be attempted only by people with proper training).
* Never use electrical appliances in the bathroom or anywhere else they might come in contact with water.
* Keep children away from electric appliances and teach them about the dangers of electricity as soon as they are old enough.
* Use safety covers on electric outlets in homes with young children.
* Telephones, computers, hair dryers, and other appliances that could attract lightning should not be used during thunderstorms.

Outdoors
Lightning is a natural electrical risk. During a thunderstorm, go inside immediately. If you cannot reach shelter, move away from metallic objects such as golf clubs and fishing rods and lie down in low areas. Never stand or sit next to tall or metallic structures. An automobile is appropriate cover, but turn off the radio.
-- Dan Harvey

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