Electrocution or electrical shock injury can occur when an electrical charge travels through the body or a limb. The severity of the injury is primarily determined by the voltage level of the charge. But under certain circumstances, low voltage charges can be as dangerous as high voltage ones. There are reported cases of fatalities by shocks of only 50 volts!
Electrical injuries represent a serious workplace health and safety issue. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that there are nearly 1,000 people that die from electrical shocks in the U.S. each year. BLS data also indicates that there were 24,100 non-fatal electrical injuries from 2004 through 2014, the most recent 10-year period for which data is available.
The leading electrical injury event for non-fatal injuries between 2003 and 2014 (after which changes were introduced in injury event codes) was “contact with electric current of machine, tool, appliance, or light fixture,” which accounted for 37% of the injuries during his period. The second leading non-fatal electrical injury event was “contact with wiring, transformers, or other electrical components,” with 35% of injuries. Other leading event categories included “contact with electric current, unspecified” (11%) and “contact with electric current, not elsewhere classified” (10%). “Contact with overhead powerlines,” which was the cause of over 40% of fatal electrical injuries, accounted for only 2% of the non-fatal injuries.
Factors that can determine the severity of an electrical shock injury include:
Tissue damage from the current can occur to the nervous, respiratory, and/or cardiovascular systems, and skin burns are the most common. Neurological problems can be immediate or develop over a period of up to three years, and sometimes may be permanent. Damage in the form of heart fibrillations can result in death.
While many electrocutions are work related and the risk of electrical shock varies greatly across different industries, private consumers also receive electrical shock injuries, often from defective electrical appliances or from not carefully following directions in the appliances’ owners’ manuals.
Special care should be taken around frayed or damaged wiring or sagging power lines, and children should be supervised or otherwise be prevented from biting into electrical cords or inserting items into electrical outlets.
Electricity can be found all around us, and electrical shocks can occur when we least expect them. But electrical shock injury or death that occurs as the result of someone’s negligence can be especially tragic. It is not always immediately apparent if such is the case, so after seeking medical attention, the equipment or appliance involved should be preserved (but not touched!). If safe, and if at all possible, photograph the scene and the victim’s injuries.
If you or a loved one is the victim of an electrical shock injury, you may be entitled to compensation. America Law Center can advise you and help protect your rights. Please contact us today for more information.
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