Electrical injury



Electrical injury is a physiological reaction caused by electric current passing through the body. Electric shock occurs upon contact of a (human) body part with any source of electricity that causes a sufficient magnitude of current to pass through the victim's flesh, viscera or hair. Physical contact with energized wiring or devices is the most common cause of an electric shock. In cases of exposure to high voltages, such as on a power transmission tower, physical contact with energized wiring or objects may not be necessary to cause electric shock, as the voltage may be sufficient to "jump" the air gap between the electrical device and the victim.
Electrical current can cause interference with nervous control, especially over the heart and lungs. electric shock which does not lead to death has been shown to cause neuropathy at the site where the current entered the body. The neurologic symptoms of electrical injury may occur immediately, which traditionally have a higher likelihood for healing, though they may also be delayed by days to years. The delayed neurologic consequences of electrical injury have a worse prognosis.
OSHA found that up to 80 percent of its electrical injuries involve thermal burns due to arcing faults. The arc flash in an electrical fault produces the same type of light radiation from which electric welders protect themselves using face shields with dark glass, heavy leather gloves, and full-coverage clothing. The heat produced may cause severe burns, especially on unprotected flesh. The arc blast produced by vaporizing metallic components can break bones and damage internal organs. The degree of hazard present at a particular location can be determined by a detailed analysis of the electrical system, and appropriate protection worn if the electrical work must be performed with the electricity on.
The voltage-current characteristic of human skin is non-linear and depends on many factors such as intensity, duration, history, and frequency of the electrical stimulus. Sweat gland activity, temperature, and individual variation also influence the voltage-current characteristic of skin. In addition to non-linearity, skin impedance exhibits asymmetric and time varying properties. These properties can be modeled with reasonable accuracy. Resistance measurements made at low voltage using a standard ohmmeter do not accurately represent the impedance of human skin over a significant range of conditions.
The comparison between the dangers of alternating current at typical power transmission frequences (i.e., 50 or 60 Hz), and direct current has been a subject of debate ever since the War of Currents in the 1880s. Animal experiments conducted during this time suggested that alternating current was about twice as dangerous as direct current per unit of current flow (or per unit of applied voltage).
People who survive electrical trauma may suffer a host of injuries including loss of consciousness, seizures, aphasia, visual disturbances, headaches, tinnitus, paresis, and memory disturbances. Even without visible burns, electric shock survivors may be faced with long-term muscular pain and discomfort, fatigue, headache, problems with peripheral nerve conduction and sensation, inadequate balance and coordination, among other symptoms. Electrical injury can lead to problems with neurocognitive function, affecting speed of mental processing, attention, concentration, and memory. The high frequency of psychological problems is well established and may be multifactorial. As with any traumatic and life-threatening experience, electrical injury may result in post traumatic psychiatric disorders. There exist several non-profit research institutes that coordinate rehabilitation strategies for electrical injury survivors by connecting them with clinicians that specialize in diagnosis and treatment of various traumas that arise as a result of electrical injury.
Electric fences are barriers that uses electric shocks to deter animals or people from crossing a boundary. The voltage of the shock may have effects ranging from uncomfortable, to painful or even lethal. Most electric fencing is used today for agricultural fencing and other forms of animal control purposes, though it is frequently used to enhance security of restricted areas, and there exist places where lethal voltages are used.