Responding to Electrical Exposure Incidents
Contact with low voltage electricity or lightning is often the cause of an electrical injury, usually a burn. The electrical current needs to be broken before help can be given. If the casualty has been thrown by the current there may be a fracture; if unconscious the heart may stop. An incident with high-voltage electricity such as power lines is quite often fatal.
Begin by assessing the extent of the injuries – check to see if there is more than one burn – in some cases there will be a second burn where the current exits the body. It is also possible that there are internal injuries along the path the current travelled. If the victim fell or was thrown by the current other signs of trauma including broken bones or head injuries are possible as well.
NEVER touch a casualty who remains in contract with electricity. Don’t approach within about 20 yards of a person who was struck by high voltage electricity unless you are certain the supply has been turned off. If you are unsure call 9-11and keep all bystanders away.
Breaking Contact with Electric Current
If the casualty is still in contact with the cause of the injury you will sustain electric shock if contact is initiated. Follow these steps to break contact with electrical energy:
- Turn off the electric supply at the main. Low voltage AC energy can cause muscle spasms so the person will still be grasping the source of exposure and unable to release it.
- If you cannot find the main switch remove the source from the casualty using a length of wood such as a broom handle. Stand on a thick book such as a telephone directory, newspapers of other insulating material when performing this maneuver.
- If none of these options is successful stand on the insulating material. Loop a rope around the victim’s legs and attempt to pull him clear.
Treating the Injury
After breaking electrical contact assess the severity of the injury. Begin by cooling the burns to stop the injury process. Hold the injury under cool running water for about 10 minutes or until the pain eases. Remove the casualty’s watch or jewelry or any tight clothing that might restrict swelling. Cover the burns to protect them from infection and further fluid loss. Plastic kitchen film laid along the burn is sufficient but do not wrap it. Cover a hand or foot with a clean plastic bag. Tape closed ensuring the tape is on the plastic and not the skin. If you do not have these use a sterile wound dressing or clean cotton cloth such as shirt can be used. Treat other secondary injuries such as fractures, watching for shock. Call 9-11 and monitor the casualty until help arrives noting his pulse, level of consciousness, and respiration rate. If victim loses consciousness be prepared to begin CPR until help arrives.
For more information on loss control services contact Jeff Rausch, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, P: 502-708-3124 www.RMSC.com
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