From when we were children, it has been instilled into our minds that electricity equals danger. While this is an indispensable source of power, it is also something that quite easily has the potential to cause devastating injuries, serious damage to property and in the worst cases, death.
But what is it that makes electricity such a threat? Surely something that is naturally created cannot be that harmful? In truth, electricity is one of the most powerful and dangerous natural sources on the planet because it interferes with the delicate electrical currents that run through our bodies.
In this article, we are going to be looking at why electricity is dangerous and giving you some important safety rules that should always be observed when working with electricity or simply being in its presence.
What Makes Electricity So Dangerous?
Electricity is not just something that we use to power our kettles or keep the internet connection up and running, although these things are incredibly useful in modern times. This is a form of power that runs through almost everything on the planet. This includes humans.
The cells in our bodies are made up from various compounds including calcium, potassium and sodium to name a few. Each of these compounds has its own electric charge.
Of course, this charge is not enough for us to notice as we live our lives but it is most certainly there.
Furthermore, the human body conducts electricity so when a high electrical current passes through it, there is nothing preventing it from running through the entire body. Your tissues may act as a way of helping the electricity pass through you as opposed to repelling it.
As it moves around, electricity generates heat. This is in much the same way as anything that is moving will create heat; rub your hands together and you will soon see that they warm up – it’s all to do with kinetic energy.
But this also means that if electricity is allowed into the human body, the serious heat that it creates can cause some shocking damage.
In the UK, there are laws surrounding electrical work and who can undertake it. Many companies expect their electricians to go through rigorous training before they will even consider offering a job and there is good reason for this. Working with electricity can be incredibly dangerous, particularly for someone who does not know what they are doing.
Moreover, trying to undertake electrical work in your own home to save a few pounds could result in the loss of life. It simply is not worth it.
What Is An Electric Shock?
A lot of the time, we think about an electric shock and imagine those cartoons where an unfortunate duck or cat touches a live wire; their body starts flashing and their skeleton becomes comically visible. But in reality, an electric shock is no laughing matter. This is an injury that kills an enormous number of people each year. In the USA alone, more than 300 deaths and 4000 injuries are caused by accidental electrocution.
An electric shock is caused when the human body comes into contact with an electrical source. As this connection is made, electricity goes coursing through that specific area of the body, causing what is referred to as a shock.
As this happens, the muscles may contract and tense which can then make it difficult for the victim to let go of whatever is delivering the shock. But what is even worse is the effect that the electric shock can have on the heart. The heart operates on an intricate system of electrical pulses; this is why we see doctors using electricity to restart the heart. But of course, this is delivered in very low, controlled doses rather than the extreme currents that cause an electrocution.
This electricity can adversely affect the heart rhythm and at worst, cause it to stop entirely. Furthermore, the lungs can become affected making it challenging for the person to breathe.
However, one of the most common injuries of electric shock is burning; this can occur to the top layers of the skin right the way down to the internal organs, depending on the severity of the shock.
The Dangers Of Getting An Electric Shock
As we have seen, there are several ways that sustaining an electric shock can affect the body. In some cases, very lucky people may not obtain any injuries at all, if the current is low enough. You may have experienced an ‘electric shock’ when some static electricity, which happens when there is an imbalance of electrons in any given surface. These transfer to your body at a much faster rate than usual, giving you that minor shocking feeling.
However, in the case of being exposed to a more significant shock, patients risk death, at the most severe level.
But aside from this, electrocution can result in some very serious injuries, some of which can be life altering. Since the muscles are affected at the moment of shock, this can cause tearing of the muscles and ligaments which can range from mild after pain to loss of movement.
Where burning is concerned, this can range from very mild to so serious that amputation of the affected limb is required. In some extreme cases, more than one limb may be lost. This is because the nerves and blood supply to the limbs can be significantly damaged from the burn, causing them to die.
Rules For Electrical Safety
While everything we have discussed sounds incredibly frightening, and it is, there are things that you can do to ensure that you and those around you are not affected by dangerous electrical currents.
These are electrical safety rules that can be taught to children but are also rules that should be observed by adults whether at home or in the workplace. They may be simple but they could be enough to save your life.
- Never insert anything other than a compatible plug into a wall socket, especially if it is live.
- Do not expose your electrical fitting to any form of moisture.
- Plugs should never be removed from sockets using the cable; always take hold of the plug cover and gently pull it out.
- Never approach any electric equipment such as power lines, substations or power poles. Children should never be allowed to climb on or play near these things. The risk of death is incredibly high.
- Always hire the assistance of a qualified electrician to carry out any electrical work within the home or workplace, regardless of how small or insignificant the job may appear to be.
- For landlords and homeowners, you should have your property checked at least every five years by a qualified electrician who will identify any problems and rectify these.
- If you notice any sparks, overheating or other electrical issues within the home, unplug any appliances, turn off the power using your fuse box and call for assistance.
- Never use appliances, power outlets or other electrical equipment whose wiring is exposed.
- Always make sure to use the correct fuses with your electrical devices. Using a fuse that is too large could cause excessive currents, overheating and potentially could serve as a fire hazard.
- Your fuse box should always be clearly labelled and you should be familiar with its location and function in the case of an emergency.
Potential Electric Hazards
Electricity is all around us and this means that we need to be on constant alert for electrical hazards. We are, of course, not suggesting that you must take shelter and live your life in fear of electricity. Quite the opposite, electricity is an incredible gift but one that we should use responsibly. As such, always keep your eyes open for potential electric hazards.
- Faulty wiring that could result in a fire
- Exposed live wires which could cause electric shock
- Exposing electricity to flammable or explosive materials
- Wiring that is not adequate for its purpose; this is a good reason to have the electric circuits checked before moving into a property.
- Damaged wire insulation
- Touching, playing near or interacting in any way with overhead power lines, including those that have fallen
- Liquid or moisture around electrical sockets, wiring or other power sources.
Electricity has been around since the dawn of time but in the last few hundred years, humans have figured out how to use this as a source of power and now, we couldn’t live without it.
However, while it is extremely useful, electricity also has a dark side; it is a potential killer. But this only happens when good care is not taken and this can be avoided by following some basic electrical safety rules.
Electric shock is an injury sustained from contact with live electricity and this can be devastating. If you receive an electric shock, you could be lucky enough to get away with a minor burn but in other situations, it could be fatal.