For electricians the greatest occupational hazard is electricity itself.
While often the risk can be managed through taking proper precautions and following established processes, sometimes the unexpected happens.
If you find yourself involved in an electrical emergency on site, it's key that you know what (and what not) to do. In this article, we'll examine the steps you should follow, and the importance of occupational health and safety (OHS) in the electrotechnology industry.
What to do in an electrical emergency
Step 1: Don't touch someone receiving an electric shock
If one of your colleagues receives a serious electric shock, your first reaction will likely be to go to their aid. But first, stop and think. The human body is an excellent conductor of electricity, meaning that the charge that just passed through your co-worker could easily move into you if you make contact with them. Given that electricity has the capacity to kill or seriously injure, limiting the number of people exposed to the shock should be your number one priority.
In some cases individuals can appear to be 'stuck' to electrical currents. What's actually happening here is that the voltage is sufficiently high to cause the victim's muscles to contract. This means they can't let go of the cable or object administering the shock, which is clearly very dangerous.
Additionally, be careful if there is water spilled on the site. Water conducts electricity, so until the power is turned off (see step 3), take precautions when moving around the area.
Step 2: Call emergency services
Ideally, you'll have someone with you so that steps two and three can happen at the same time. However, if you're alone, it's important that you phone emergency services as soon as possible. Victims of serious electric shocks will need treatment from medical professionals, so get the emergency crew on their way before you try and deal with anything further yourself.
When you call, give as much detail as possible on where you are and what's happened – this will allow the crew to prepare en route.
Step 3: Turn off the power
If it's safe to do so without putting yourself in danger, turn off the power – this makes the emergency site much safer to move around when the ambulance arrives, and prevents further damage.
In situations where you can't turn the power off safely, try to separate the victim from the electricity source using a dry, non-conductive item such as a wooden broomstick, or the rescue crook from a low voltage rescue kit if one is readily available.
Step 4: Administer first aid
Only once the victim is away from the current can you approach them and begin first aid. Injuries from electric shocks can range from serious burns to cardiac arrest and death, and you need to know how to deal with different scenarios:
- If the individual is responsive – Attend to their injuries, for example place burns under cold water for 20 minutes, and then cover with dressings. If you don't have a first-aid kit with you, kitchen glad wrap is suitable, as long as it's not applied too tightly. Never put oils or ointments on burns.
- If the individual isn't breathing – For unconscious victims who aren't breathing, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until medical teams arrive to take over from you.
Before professionals arrive, knowing how to treat an injured person can literally be the difference between life and death for those involved in electrical emergencies. This is why it's important that electrical technicians are fully trained in how to perform first aid.
The importance of safety training
Each year, Australians involved in many different professions are injured and killed on job sites. As well as the devastating impacts on the friends and families of the victim, these incidents can have serious and long-term consequences for the businesses involved. This is why everyone in the electrotechnology industry should have a clear understanding of the role that OHS plays in their daily duties.
While electricity clearly can't be completely removed as a workplace hazard for electricians, the right training can give you the tools to be as prepared as possible should an accident happen.
In the NECA Education & Careers' CPR & Low Voltage Rescue course you will learn:
- How to respond to an emergency situation.
- How to perform CPR.
- How to carry out a rescue from a live LV panel.
- Assessing and priortising when working on or near energised exposed conductors or parts.
- Isolation principles.
- LV panel rescue procedures and tools.
Managers and supervisors need to be able to identify, assess and control workplace dangers. NECA Education & Careers' OHS Management for Managers & Supervisors course is designed to provide participants with vital knowledge, including:
- The legal basis of OHS.
- The core responsibilities of managers and supervisors regarding OHS.
- Emergency prevention strategies and response procedures.
- Electrical safety.
- Incident reporting.
We've been working in the electrotechnology industry for over 25 years, and are firmly committed to making the sector safer for all practitioners. This means we have a deep understanding of the risks facing electricians, and the ways that managers and supervisors can mitigate them. To find out more about OHS and first aid courses that can help your team stay safe on the job, get in touch with us today.