How to treat electrical burns

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An electrical burn can be extremely serious; a high voltage shock can stop someone’s heart. It’s important to know what to do if someone experiences an electrical burn either at work or at home. Here we give a brief explanation of the steps to take.

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Be extremely cautious of electricity

If you encounter a work colleague who appears to have suffered an electrical injury, be careful of the risk to yourself. Touching the person, or the electricity supply may result in an injury to you. Call for help, another colleague may have first aid skills or may be able to help.

Begin by finding the electrical source and turning off the power if possible. If you can’t turn off the power, use a piece of dry wood (or other non-conductor) to move the source away from the person.

If the person has been struck by lightning, or had an accident with a high voltage source, call 999 immediately. Electrical control components such as power supplies and transformers carry high power Click here. Stay well clear of high voltage cables and this BBC article is eye-opening https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34973207.

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Check for symptoms

Check for burn damage to the person’s skin, but remember that electrical burns may cause internal injuries that are more severe than they may appear on the surface. Also, there may be entrance and exit wounds.

If the person is suffering from serious burns, or any of the following symptoms, call 999 immediately:

– Cardiac arrest or irregular heartbeat
– Muscle spasms, contractions or seizures
– Unconscious or trouble staying awake
– Problems being able to breath
– Feeling disorientated

First aid

If the person is unconscious, check their breathing:

– If they have stopped breathing, or are not breathing normally, carry out CPR before calling 999.
– If they are breathing normally, put them into the recovery position.

Cool the burned skin with running cold water (not ice) and then cover loosely with a clean sterile dressing or bandage. Do not allow tape to stick to the skin.

Make them comfortable by removing any constricting clothing or jewellery. Keep them warm but be careful that a blanket or clothing doesn’t touch the burned skin. Don’t use cream or ointment and don’t give them drinks.

Remembering and carrying out the above steps may save someone’s life, or reduce the consequences of a serious burn.

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