EMS, first responders and everyone must know these safety tips when rendering first aid for electric shock
Helping people who have suffered electric shock injuries – and families who have lost loved ones to electrocution – is the primary focus of my electrocution law practice for more than 35 years.
I also devote a considerable amount of my professional and personal time to educating people about how they can protect themselves and their families from electrocution and electric shock injuries. Sharing what I know and writing educational blogs like this one was a big reason behind why I created my electrocution lawyer blog.
Today, I want to talk about what people such as emergency responders and EMS should do when they are called to an accident scene involving a patient who has suffered electric shock.
Specifically, I will discuss:
- General accident scene considerations
- Treating patients with electrical injuries
Safety tips when rendering first aid for electric shock at an accident scene
As EMS World noted in its “Patient Care” article, “Electrical Injury and Burn Care: A Review of Best Practices”:
- “Scene safety is especially important with electrical injuries. These scenes may pose an ongoing danger of electrical shock to responders as well as the patient. Rescue should only be initiated and performed by those who have been trained appropriately and have the resources to attempt it safely. One aspect of scene safety is ensuring the patient is no longer in contact with the electrical source or located within the concentric circles of “step voltage”, and, if necessary, delaying care until there is no obvious risk to responders . . . . If the patient is still in contact with an energized source, or even within 25 feet of one, do not touch them until the source has been removed, disconnected, or deenergized. If a responder comes in contact with the patient or “step voltage” from an energized power source located within 25 feet of a patient before the electrical source is disconnected, they may also receive a shock.” (quoted with modifications)
- “Overhead power lines downed at a vehicle collision may also represent a serious threat. . . . Consider a downed power line energized until you’re notified otherwise by such a professional. Other dangers include power lines that may be down and remote from responders yet remain in contact with the ground or with other conductors that would typically not be energized,” such as “guy wires that counterbalance the weight of lines by securing the top of the power pole to the ground . . ., or “step voltage” concentric circles of deadly power.”(quoted with modifications)
What treatment should be included as part of the first aid for electric shock rendered at an accident scene?
Electric shock can be unlike many other injuries, especially because its effects on the body are not always immediately apparent to EMS, first responders and other care providers.
At a minimum, the following treatment strategies (which are discussed in the EMS World article) should be considered:
- “Initial care of the patient with an electrical injury includes airway management and support with supplemental oxygen as needed. . . . For all patients with electrical injury, apply a cardiac monitor.”
- First responders should “complete a head-to-toe physical examination that includes identifying the different contact points (surface burn sites), assess for fractures and neurological deficits also caused by the shock, and begin monitoring the patient’s cardiac rhythm.” They should also “[e]xamine the body for thermal burn injuries.”
- First responders should be alert to internal injuries as well. “If the electric shock was significant enough to produce thermal burn on the skin’s surface, suspect internal injury. Continually reassess injured areas throughout care and alert the receiving hospital of any pertinent findings.”
- “Most contact points develop full-thickness thermal burns and should be managed as such. . . . Fractures or dislocations may occur as indirect injuries and should be managed accordingly, including cervical spine assessment and immobilization as indicated.”