Electrical Burns: A Powerful Force Can Cause Severe Injuries
By Victoria Ipri, Staff Writer
In the United States alone, thousands of preventable electrical accidents happen yearly at work and at home. Many lead to catastrophic burn injuries, long-term disability and death, often the result of negligence by an individual or company failing to comply with standards. The result can be serious electrical burns requiring an extended, painful recovery.
What is an Electrical Burn?
When the powerful force that is electricity jumps from an appliance, outlet or wire and passes through the human body, an electrical burn results, burning the skin and perhaps causing substantial damage to internal organs, most notably the heart. While an electrical burn may appear only to harm the skin’s surface, what you are seeing are merely the entry and exit injuries caused by the electrical current. What’s taking place inside the body may be less obvious. Add to this additional injuries that can occur – for example, an electric shock is accompanied by a fall, resulting in brain or spinal injury – and you begin to understand the real dangers of electrical burns.
Three Main Electrical Accident Types
- Electric shock: Can be mild, moderate, or severe and likely leaves a slight tingling sensation. Severe electric shock often causes heart or respiratory failure.
- Electrical burn: Can be external or internal, occurring when electric current reaches bone and burns deep tissue.
- Electrical fires: When an electric current ignites flammable materials, this causes fire, made more dangerous by an uninformed individual attempting to douse the fire with water, exposing him or herself to an increased risk of electrical shock.
Five Common Factors Causing Electrical Accidents
- Timeworn or poor wiring
- Running electrical cords under carpeting
- Exposing electrical wiring to flammable materials
- Loose connectors
- Lack of preventive devices: ground fault circuit interrupters, three-pronged outlets, and/or polarized plugs
Electrical accident prevention methods include replacing old or damaged wiring, avoiding use of frayed or damaged electrical cords, using proper wattage bulbs in light fixtures and preventing overload of outlets. Most importantly, always hire a qualified electrician.