If any part of the body comes in contact with a live wire which is exposed and not covered by an insulator, or with a cable or rail in which current is leaking, a person gets electric shock. In houses the blowing out of switches or fuses of faulty electrical connections can cause much injury. The injury may be quiet mild or very severe as to cause immediate death. Electrical shock is produced only when electric current passes through the human body which is in contact with earth. It passes even more quickly if the part is wet.
In wet conditions even lower voltage may be dangerous. A very strong current passing to earth through lower limbs may be less dangerous than weaker current passing through the hands and arms.
Very high voltage current may pass up to 18 meters by air and kill the rescuer. Therefore, do not approach the casualty till the switch has been turned off. These currents not only cause local damage but affect the respiratory and cardiac centers.
Effects of electric shock
- There may be fatal paralysis of heart.
- There may be sudden stopping of breathing due to paralysis of muscles involved in the respiratory cycle.
- Heart may continue to pump blood, while breathing has stopped. In this condition the face appears blue.
- There may be burns, either superficial or deep at the point of entry and exit of current from the body. They depend on the strength of the electric currnt causing the injuries.
Cautious and prompt action is required if the first aider is not cautious he may also receive severe electric shock or even die along with the casuality.
1. If the casuality is still in contact with the source, switch off the current. If the switch is not to be found, remove the plug or cut off the current by breaking the wire. Before cutting off the current, ensure that you stand on a dry piece of wooden board. Do not use scissors or knife.
When current is of low voltage the first aider should stand on an insulated material which is dry. Insulating materials are rubber soled shoes, wooden planks or piles of newspaper. Rubber gloves, if available should be worn. If not, dry coat, cap or other clothing may be used. Folded newspaper also gives protection.
When the current is of a very high voltage, as in the cases of over-head high voltage transmission lines, there is a great danger. The casualty may not be in actual contact with the wire as the current can pass through the gap in between causing an arc. The first aider in such circumstances must keep as far away as possible from the electric wires. The casualty is to be dragged out by means of a non conducting material.
- If the casualty is not breathing normally or heart has stopped functioning, give artificial respiration and external cardiac massage for long time (C.P.R)
- Treat for burns by applying a clean wet cloth for 10 minutes – then cover the burnt area with a clean absorbent cotton cloth and bandage lightly.
- Treat for shock
- Transfer to a hospital, or seek the help of a medical practitioner, who is nearest.
- Even when the casualty has recovered fairly well after first aid is given he must be examined a doctor if necessary.