Electrocution side effects
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25 people die annually as a result of being electrocuted in the workplace, whilst in the region of some 1,000 electrical accidents are reported to the Health and Safety Executive year in, year out. Which, statistically-speaking is shocking to say the least.
Admittedly many of us have experienced a short, sharp snap of electricity momentarily pulse through us when we exit our cars or even when walking across a carpet manufactured from synthetic materials, yet despite the applied voltage being recognised as high in their own right, the severity of the shock is restricted by the significantly minimal time in which the contact endures. Meaning that we’re rarely in harm’s way.
However we’re not always let off so lightly when it comes to coming into contact with electricity, and around our familiar home and workplace settings potentially dangerous situations involving electric shocks can present themselves quickly out of the blue.
From faulty wiring and overloaded sockets to water penetration and badly maintained electrical equipment, there are a number of ways electrocution can strike, and that’s before you even consider the scenario where someone handles electrical appliances with wet hands or even children inserting objects into exposed sockets.
Outside of the home surround and employment environments present countless opportunities for electrocution in their own right, with workers accidentally drilling into walls (or digging underground) also a – not so clear – but present danger, especially should they hit upon hidden cables.
Injuries which manifest in the immediate aftermath of such electric shocks can prove very serious for the victims, and in some more extreme cases (as highlighted in the HSE stats above) fatal even.
Essentially electric shocks can trigger a broad range of injuries, largely depending on two key factors. Firstly on the voltage of the current that the victim was exposed to, and secondly the duration of exposure to the current.
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So, where would you say that electric shock injuries are more common? At work or at home?
As we’ve already touched on, electric shocks can occur in home, work or school environments, as well as just about most public places given the right situation. Yet having acknowledged that fact, historically a greater volume of electric shock incidents happen in a working surround. And of course, should you be electrocuted whilst under your employers ‘duty of care’ (which by the law, all employees are covered by) then it could well be that blame is apportioned to them with regards to negligence.
Employers’ contractual obligations state that they must comply with a range of health and safety procedures, practice and protocol, and failure to adhere to this will inevitably lead to prosecution; especially so if an employee injures themselves while fulfilling the remit of their role.
What are employer’ responsibilities in terms of electricity hazards?
Put simply it means that your employer is responsible for ensuring a safe working environment; which effectively translates to all electrical equipment must be regularly safety tested, whilst in addition to this employees must also be afforded proper training before they can operate any electrical equipment they need to use in order to carry out their role.
What’s more, it’s imperative (from a HSE directive standpoint) that employers must ensure that all employees undergo dedicated health and safety training to ensure that they’re fully aware (and appreciative) of electric shock risks in their specific working environment.
Are there any particular occupations which are perceived to be at greater risk of being electrocuted more than others?
In a word, yes. People working on building or construction sites may find themselves at greater risk of electric shock (or electrocution), due to the underlying fact that they make a habit of drilling into the ground (or walls) where there may be electrical wiring that could be almost impossible to see.
Aside from construction workers there is a myriad of other vocational workers who could potentially be at risk of unwittingly succumbing to electrocution in their line of work. They can include any or all of the following examples, based on individual sets of circumstances, obviously, and not in any way exhaustive for the record;
- Construction workers
- Catering staff
- Hospital/care home staff
- Maintenance workers
- Ministry of Defence staff
- Office staff
- Theatre production staff
But what about outside of an employment environment. What other scenarios would I find myself more likely to receive an electric shock?
It doesn’t make for easy reading, yet theoretically almost everyone here in the UK is at risk from experiencing some form of electric shock, be it at home, work, school or just generally out and about as hinted earlier.
One of the primary causes of shocks of this nature tend to be faulty electrical products and goods which we useon a daily basis without so much as a second thought most of the time. Think along the lines of following everyday equipment;
- Computers (and peripheral equipment including plugs, laptops, chargers and a range of gadgets and other devices)
- Mobile phones (when charging)
- DIY tools (electric drills, chainsaws, jigsaws, etc)
- Kitchen or home equipment (kettles, irons, sewing machines, sunbeds, etc)
- Personal care/grooming products (hairdryers, electric toothbrushes, razors, etc)
- Sports equipment (electric golf trolleys, electric bikes and so on and so forth)
- Toys (electric train sets, electric cars)
- White goods (washing machines, tumble dryers and a variety of other electrically-sourced appliances found round our homes)
It doesn’t end there though. You’re just as likely to suffer an electric shock from what experts describe as ‘negligent building work’ which has been carried out on your property previously, which can often lead to damaging consequences.
Meanwhile we must remain vigilant when we’re on our holidays too, as tourists can just as easily be injured during breaks abroad should the rooms/hotels they’re staying in having been subjected to sub-standard maintenance work in the past; including dodgy electrical wiring.
Returning a little closer to home and there’s always the possibility that unsuspecting members of the public could receive electric shocks (due again to faulty wiring) when attending a cross-section of public amenities we do by force of habit. From leisure and shopping centres to libraries and museums.
What are the recognised major side effects of electric shocks?
The main injuries predominantly associated with the receiving of an electric shock (and subsequent involuntary muscle spasms) are as follows, and range in extent of severity from mild to potentially fatal dependent on a number of factors at the time.
To reiterate the key point we made above, the extent of an electric shock is governed by how sustained the exposure to the current/source of the shock is and the volume of voltage passing through it into the victim.
- Fractured bones/broken bones
- Breathing difficulties
- Muscle/nerve damage
- Dislocation injuries
- Tissue necrosis
- Mummification (fingers)
- Amputation/loss of limb
- Spinal injury
- Brain injury/traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Cardiac arrest
Examining just a few of the main issues/immediate side effects of electrocution, here we highlight four to serve as a bitesize yard measure.
- Muscle Spasms – Powerful muscle spasms often result from being exposed to an electric shock, and together with being painful to the individual on the receiving end, the forceful and overwhelming nature of the incident can cause the person affected to grip the object that’s transmitting the electricity in an involuntary manner. Furthermore in some cases, the jolt from the muscle spasms can be strong enough to fracture (or break) bones or dislocate the individual’s joints
- Burns – Typically the legacy of being affected by high voltages of electricity and/or a sustained shock which tends to endure more than a few seconds, burns are a common side effect of coming into direct contact with an electrical source
- Falling – On many occasions a victim of an electric shock is thrown backwards (or to the floor), thanks to the powerful and all-consuming and brutal nature of the force beyond their physical control, which naturally can bring with it subsequent injuries if the victim makes contact with surrounding objects. Suffice to say this situation can be even more frightening (and physically damaging) should the person be working at height at the time of electrocution
- Unconsciousness – Electric shocks can cause people to lose consciousness, stop breathing or even stop the heart
So in terms of compensation from a personal injury claim, what sort of figure could I expect from an electric shock injury pay-out?
Again, this all depends on individual circumstances rather than just a broad estimation, yet is normally divided into the two core areas. These are referred to as 'General damages' for pain, suffering and loss of amenity’ and 'Special damages' to cover medical fees and out-of-pocket expenses.’
With regards to the former this will cover the extent of the injury (once assessed), along with the estimated recovery time and rehabilitation needed. Also taken into account will be whether or not additional medical treatment (such a skin grafts or even lifelong care) is required; more especially in the case of life changing electrocution injuries.
The latter is concerned more with the expenses incurred along the line of the recovery process in the wake of the electrocution injury, which might well comprise of sessions of physiotherapy, loss of earnings, travel expenses to hospital or damage to personal items and clothing.
Elsewhere ongoing care, loss of future salary and pension or adaptations to your home would be included in the event of catastrophic electric shock injury.
How do I make a claim for an electric shock injury?
Providing that the victim suffered an electric shock that wasn’t deemed to have been their fault, then there’s every reason to believe they’d be entitled to some degree of financial compensation based on the successful pursuit of a personal injury claim.
Of course, they would need to contact and thereafter consult with a dedicated claims specialist who would take on their case and represent them in a legal capacity going forward, so as to ultimately aid and benefit their cause for recompense against those parties proven culpable.
What’s more, the claimant must be fully aware of statutes of limitations from the outset; which fundamentally means they must submit their claim within strict time limits. So it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. On this note, personal injury claimants usually have three years from the date of the injury to make a claim for compensation.
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