Electrical work can be challenging and rewarding, but it can also be hazardous. Professional electricians must make informed decisions about potentially dangerous materials and situations on a daily basis.
While adequate training and OSHA safety standards prevent many on-the-clock injuries, accidents still can occur. In this blog, we list four injuries that can occur during electrical work, and we’ll provide you with the information you need to respond appropriately if you or one of your co-workers experience these injuries.
1. Electrical Burns
Perhaps the most obvious potential injury for electricians is electrical burns. Because most electrical jobs are completed with the power turned off and while wearing gloves, burns do not occur as often as one might imagine.
When electrical burn incidents happen, they usually affect the hands or forearms. Always check that the individual is no longer touching a live wire before offering medical assistance.
If the burn went through clothing, do not attempt to separate the cloth from the skin since this action may cause further damage. If the burn occurred on bare skin, use a sterile, lightweight covering to shield the area from airborne particles. Only use gauze or a similar material for this purpose since most other types of cloth can leave fibers in the wound.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible, especially if the injured person develops shock or loses consciousness for any length of time.
2. Electrical Shock
Electrical shock can occur with or without accompanying burns. As with electrical burns, always remove the source of the electrical shock before attempting to help the injured person.
Immediately following an electrical shock, a victim may become confused, disoriented, or clammy. Keep the person warm and call for emergency responders if the injured person does not seem to recover within a minute or so. Take note of any abnormal symptoms, such as seizure or breathing changes, since these signs can indicate a more serious medical situation.
Even when electrical shock is minor, it can cause nerve damage, especially in the hands. If you suffer a mild electric shock at work, see your doctor as soon as possible to assess any potential lingering effects of the incident.
Many electrical jobs require professionals to work while standing on ladders. As with any job that requires use of a ladder, falls can occur, especially when the ladder is used improperly, placed on an uneven surface, or chosen poorly. Never use a ladder that’s too short for the room you’re working in since stretching out to reach the ceiling can contribute to loss of balance.
Falls can occur at the same time as electrical injuries because high amounts of power may throw the victim a short distance. Always look for the symptoms of electrical injuries before treating fall-related injuries.
Once you have ruled out or dealt with any electrical injuries, ask the injured person to describe any areas where he or she feels pain. Falls, especially from higher positions, can cause broken or dislocated bones. If you see any significant bleeding or bone deformation, call an ambulance. Slow bleeding by covering the injury with a cloth and applying pressure until first responders arrive.
In some situations, a fall may result in a concussion. If the injured person throws up, experiences dizziness, loses consciousness, or develops a headache, let the EMTs know
When cutting electrical components, tools could slip and injure an electrician’s hands or arms. If you or someone else on your jobsite cuts themselves, cover the wound and attempt to stop the bleeding. If the bleeding does not stop or the person begins to feel faint, seek medical care. You should also seek immediate care if the laceration has punctured the victim’s hand or severed a significant amount of flesh.
Once the bleeding stops, wash the wound with water and assess its size and depth to determine whether stitches are needed. Minor cuts can be covered by a common bandage or closed using a butterfly bandage. Deeper lacerations need stitches to heal properly and should be evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible to limit the threat of infection.
Limit other workers’ exposure to an injured person’s blood as much as possible to reduce the risk of disease transmission.
The correct response in the aftermath of an injury can minimize the pain and lasting damage that the victim experiences. Follow these guidelines and stay up-to-date on required safety and first aid training to ensure that you are equipped to handle these common injury types.
As mentioned in the introduction, the best ways to reduce the occurrence of jobsite injuries is through proper training and adherence to strict safety standards. Sign up for an electrical course to refresh or expand your skillset and learn more about safety in the electrical industry in our previous blog, “How OSHA Applies to HVAC Techs and Electricians.”