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Electric Shock: Prevention of Injuries

What is an electric shock?

An electric shock happens when you have contact with an electric current and the current passes through your body. It can cause serious injury or death.

How can I help prevent electric shock?

Some simple precautions can prevent electric shock hazards around the home.

  • Inspect electric cords for fraying. If you see a crack in the insulation, repair or replace it. Cords can be frayed if they get moved a lot, are in the sun, or are chewed by an animal, or if you have had them for a long time.
  • Do not plug too many things into the same outlet. This can overload electrical circuits.
  • Replace all older two-pronged outlets. All outlets in the home should be of the 3-pronged type. It is not safe to use adapters that allow you to plug a 3-pronged appliance into a 2-pronged outlet for an extended period of time.
  • Insert plastic safety caps in all unused electrical outlets if small children are in the home. Keep extension cords out of the reach of children. A young child may put the end of an extension cord in his or her mouth and suffer a severe electrical burn.
  • Keep all electric appliances away from places where there is water, such as a sink, toilet, or bathtub. Do not handle extension cords or electric appliances and do not plug anything into an electrical outlet while you are wet or if the appliance is on a wet surface.
  • Check electrical outlets used near sources of water, such as the bathroom sink, or near a hot tub, spa, or swimming pool. All such outlets should be a special type known as a ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, outlet.
  • Keep electric appliances, outlets, and light bulbs away from flammable liquids or products that produce vapors.
  • Make sure that all power tools are grounded or double insulated. This means there is an extra barrier between you and the electricity.
  • Make sure that children do not play or climb near electric lines on a power pole or where the lines enter a house.
  • Stay clear of electric power lines when you are trimming trees or using gardening tools.
  • Do not handle fallen wires. Report fallen wires to the police or local utility right away. If you are in a car and a wire has fallen on it, stay in the car and drive away if you can. Do not touch any metal in the car until the electrical source has been removed. If you cannot drive away, do not get out of the car. Wait for help.

To protect yourself from lightning strikes:

  • Watch for developing thunderstorms. If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance.
  • When a thunderstorm is approaching, seek shelter right away in a safe building or vehicle. A safe building is one that is fully enclosed with a roof, walls and floor, such as a home, school, office building, or shopping center. Picnic shelters, dugouts, sheds, and other partially open or small structures are NOT safe. A safe vehicle is a car, SUV, minivan, bus, or tractor with a hard top.
  • When you are in your house during a storm, you still need take precautions. Avoid contact with plumbing. Stay away from showers, sinks, bathtubs, hot tubs. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry. Also, avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm arrives. Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches. Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls because lightning can travel through metal wires or bars in the concrete.
  • Stay inside until 30 minutes have passed since you last heard thunder.
  • If you are caught outdoors during a thunderstorm, there is NO safe place to be outside. If you can possibly run to a vehicle or building, DO so. If you absolutely cannot get to a safe shelter, there are things you can do that can lessen the chance of being struck by lightning: Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall and isolated objects. Lightning typically strikes the tallest object. That may be you in an open field or clearing. Get to a low spot and stay at least 15 feet apart from other members of your group so the lightning won't travel from one person to another if one of you is struck. Keep your feet together and sit on the ground. Do not lie flat on the ground. Being under a group of trees that are shorter than others in the area may be safer than being in the open. Don't hold any object that might conduct electricity, such as a shovel.
  • If you are swimming or boating when a storm is approaching, get out of the water, and get away from it. If there is no time to get out of your boat and onto land, stay low and avoid contact with the water. If the boat has a cabin, go into the cabin.

Many local power companies have booklets available to help identify potential electrical home hazards. Call your local power company for more information.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-07-27
Last reviewed: 2010-04-01
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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