Physical Contact with Electricity

Problem: Person suffers electrical shock.

Background: Electrical shock can paralyze chest muscles, making it impossible to breathe. Call immediately for medical help. If a victim is no longer in contact with the source of the electricity, and is not breathing, immediately give mouth- to-mouth resuscitation if possible. When the victim begins to breathe, treat for traumatic shock. Keep warm with clothing or blanket, and position feet higher than head to help blood reach the brain.

What to do: If you find someone in contact with live electricity indoors, don’t touch the person since the electricity could travel through them to you as well. Shut off the power by pulling the plug, turning the switch, or turning off the power at the circuit breaker. If you can’t turn off the power, you can try to free the victim using a dry rope or stick that won’t conduct electricity to you (use extreme caution and don’t use anything wet or made from metal to move the victim). Call for emergency medical assistance. If you find someone in contact with a live wire outdoors, call the fire or police department for emergency medical assistance. Then also call your electric utility company to tell them the exact location of the victim so they can immediately shut off the power.

Special advice: Power lines downed by storms or accidents are very dangerous; the body can act as a lightning rod and carry the current to the ground. Be alert for power lines, especially when working with scaffolds, ladders and tools, when in stalling antennas, when trimming trees or flying kites. Call the utility company to help locate underground conduits before digging in your yard. Don’t use electric mowers or power tools on a wet surface, and keep appliances away from water, including tubs and showers.

Helpful hint: Call for help if you must work near utility poles or power lines. Tennis shoes or work gloves will not protect you from electrical shock. Power company employees use special precautions, such as rubber protectors, insulating rubber safety gloves and hard hats, plus years of training, to keep them selves safe.