Helping Victims Recover: Supporting Team Members After an Electrical Incident
Mention electrical incidents or staff becoming exposed to electricity in the workplace, and most people’s thoughts will turn to electricians or electrical contractors. However, electricity and power sources are so common everywhere that virtually any worker could become the victim of an electrical incident.
When that happens, employers need to ensure that their workers not only have access to adequate first aid, but they may also need to provide long-term support. Here is a closer look at the impact of electrical accidents and incidents and how to assist in recovery.
A Closer Look at Workplace Electrical Incidents and Common Causes
According to a 2022 report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 126 workers died in 2020 because they became exposed to electricity. This figure represents a marked decrease compared to 2019, and it is the lowest number of fatalities in the nearly three decades this Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) has been going.
Is it time to celebrate the improvement? Perhaps not yet, as lockdowns and company shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic most likely contributed to the decrease. There is some reason to be cautiously optimistic, though. Looking at the trend of electrical incidents over the past 20 years, they seem to be declining overall.
The CFOI divides injuries and fatalities into two basic categories, depending on the type of exposure.
- Indirect exposure is responsible for 40% of fatalities. The cause of these accidents is often contact with electrical energy through a conductive material. Examples include electricity being conducted through a metal ladder a worker is standing on. Another scenario would involve electricity being conducted through a body of water.
- Direct exposure to electricity causes the majority of fatalities in this area. Nearly 60% of all electrical accidents and injuries happen in this manner. Causes include direct contact with a faulty electrical source, touching a live wire, or being struck by an electrical arc.
Statistics also show that workers in the construction and extraction industries are most likely to be affected, followed by people in installation, repair, and maintenance occupations. Together, they account for nearly two-thirds of all victims. The remainder is comprised of different occupations that are not necessarily associated with danger from electricity.
Understanding the Impact of Electrical Incidents on a Victim’s Health
Not all electrical incidents are fatal, but they can still lead to serious injury. Medical professionals tend to distinguish between visible and invisible injuries from exposure to electricity. Invisible, or less visible injuries often require long-term support.
The most common visible injuries from exposure to electricity include burns or fractures. While burns are easy to spot, fractures may be harder to detect by a layperson. Pain or a deformity in a specific body part could indicate a fracture.
Burns tend to be most severe in the location where the person came in contact with the source of electricity and the ground. A victim’s head, hands, and heels are common locations of electrical burns.
Fractures could result from an electric shock itself but also from the victim being thrown off the electrical source. That is how a spinal injury or internal injury could happen and put the victim in serious danger.
Invisible injuries, on the other hand, may be harder to spot and take longer to be diagnosed or connected to the incident. Those include tight muscles, twitching, or a loss of sensation.
How to Provide Immediate Care and an Emergency Response for Electrical Injury Victims
First Aid for victims of an electric shock starts by checking for danger in the immediate area. After all, emergency responders need to avoid injuring themselves. Switching off or disconnecting power supplies is important, and first responders need to be especially careful in wet environments.
Next, trained first responders need to check for breathing, alert emergency medical services, and provide CPR if necessary. If the victim is responsive and breathing normally, it is time to check for burns and other wounds. First responders can cool the burn area under running cold water for as long as 20 minutes. It is essential to have the appropriate supplies in the first-aid-kit, such as burn dressings, bandages, gauge pads, etc. to provide immediate care.
If your first aid kit contains dressings that will not stick to the skin, cover any burns to avoid infection. Remember to apply and secure dressings loosely to allow space for swelling.
Anyone who has been hit by high-voltage electricity should be evaluated by a medical professional, even if the person appears to be fine initially.
Restoring Physical Functionality and Enhancing Mobility
So-called invisible injuries may not seem overly serious at first sight, but they can have serious long-term impacts on victims of electrical incidents.
Some people struggle to walk or use everyday tools. Their speech may also be impaired, making it harder to advocate for themselves or even explain their symptoms. When that is the case, patients may require support from several medical professionals. For example, a physiotherapist may be able to help with improving strength and mobility. Occupational therapists focus on teaching seemingly simple, everyday tasks like holding a pencil and writing or using cutlery to eat.
In many cases, victims affected by invisible injuries may also need the support of a counselor or psychologist. Therapy can improve sleeping patterns, help overcome mental health challenges like anxiety or depression as well as keep victims motivated. In short, recovery often requires a team.
Tips and Strategies for Electrical Safety to Prevent Future Incidents
Recovery from electrical incidents is a tough journey for many of the victims affected. Working with a team of medical professionals, it is certainly possible to achieve a full recovery. However, nothing beats prevention.
What does that mean for employers? No matter what the nature of the company’s business is, make sure you schedule regular checks and maintenance of electrical installations and appliances. If your team works in hazardous environments, such as construction sites, they need access to properly insulated tools and appropriate personal protective equipment.
Lastly, employers have a responsibility to educate and remind their teams about the danger and potential impact of electrical incidents. Leading from the top by implementing suitable safety protocols can go a long way toward protecting workers and continuing the decrease in electrical fatalities overall.
Medshop is a global leader in medical supplies and services. Established in 2005 in Melbourne, Australia, Medshop began its journey catering to nursing students and allied health professionals. Today, the company serves a diverse clientele, including government agencies, hospitals, universities, private practices, and the general public, spanning across multiple countries. www.medshop.com.au/
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