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Electrocution: What you should know

It doesn’t really matter how many people it takes to change a lightbulb, as long as safety measures, like switching the light switch off, are in place.

Is an electrical shock always hazardous?
Common household electricity may only cause pain or a spark when you touch it briefly. This does not necessarily require medical treatment unless a heart rhythm disturbance was triggered. Prolonged contact with an electrical point will cause general body seizure movement and can cause severe burns, muscle damage, fractures and heart rhythm disturbance. If you are electrocuted in this way, medical attention must be sought even if you feel well afterwards as the muscle damage could lead to kidney failure. Direct contact with power lines and cables at electrical substations is often fatal.


  • Do not overload power points
  • Avoid exposed electrical wires
  • Stay indoors during lightning storms
  • Do not let children near plug points for electricity
  • Childproof power points
  • Never undertake any electrical work unless you understand what to do. If you do know what to do, you should still be careful as mistakes can happen.
  • Treat all electricity connections and wires as live, even if they were switched off at the distribution board (sometimes referred to as ‘mains’)
  • Never work in wet areas or with anything electrical and wet. Mowing the lawn or using power tools in wet weather, for example, is dangerous.
  • General safety tips in your home should be to inspect your appliances regularly, making sure that the power cords are not cracked or frayed; if an appliance sparks or smokes when it is switched on, replace the appliance immediately; make sure there are no unprotected live wiring sources in or around the home.
  • When there is a power outage, treat all electricity points as live.
  • Always read an electrical device’s manufacturers manual and do not service electrical parts yourself that are marked for specialist repair only.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Burn wounds
  • Injuries, including fractures and spinal injuries, caused by muscle contraction and being flung against items
  • Heart rhythm disturbances
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Cardiac arrest


  • Avoid exposure to the electricity source. If possible, switch it off.
  • Remove the patient from the electrical source to a safe area.
  • Check the patient’s circulation, airway and breathing.
  • If there are no signs of life, start CPR immediately.
  • If a patient is breathing but unconscious, place the person in the recovery position.
  • Cover the burn wounds with clean, non-absorbent material.
  • Call ER24 on 084 124.
  • Follow the telephonic advice and first aid until an ambulance arrives.