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National Burn Awareness Week 2021: Preventing Electrical Burns

Robert F. Spohrer

For many years, the American Burn Association (ABA) has persistently sponsored National Burn Awareness Week in an effort to educate the public regarding the dangers of burn injuries. Many people may wonder whether it is truly necessary to have a whole week dedicated to this effort; with severe burns rendering 450,000 United States residents in need of medical help on an annual basis, it is certainly an essential cause.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is, there are countless everyday tasks and scenarios that put us at risk of being burned, including cooking dinner using a stove, pouring ourselves a hot cup of coffee or tea, spending too much time in the sun, and using electrical appliances near open or running water. For this reason, the ABA focuses on one theme every year: From February 7th to 13th, 2021, National Burn Awareness Week will center on the theme of “Electrical Safety from Amps to Zaps (A to Z).”

What Is an Electrical Burn?

An electrical burn occurs when a person comes into contact with a current of electricity. Many of these burns do most of their damage internally, as the electrical current passes through the body and damages tissues and organs in its path. In some cases, the nervous system may be damaged as well.

On the other hand, some electrical burns result from ionization, which simply means that atoms without an electrical charge are converted into atoms with an electrical charge. These burns are called “arc burns” and do not do much internal damage; rather, they may burn large areas of the epidermis (outer layer of skin) and even push an individual back due to the pressure of ionization. Similarly, when an electrical arc passes over the body in a “flash burn,” most of the damage is done to the epidermis.

How Common Are Electrical Burns?

According to studies, electrical burns are quite common. One study cited that there are about 1,000 electrical burn-related deaths in the United States every year, with about 400 of these deaths resulting from high-voltage burns. Lightning caused somewhere between 50 to 300 of these total deaths (please note that there could be some overlap, as lightning is a high-voltage electrical current). In addition, there are no less than 30,000 non-fatal shock accidents every year — 20% of these involve children, with most incidents happening at home.

As for adults, their electrical injuries often happen while on the job: These burns are cited by the study as being the “fourth-leading cause of workplace-related traumatic death.”

What Causes Electrical Burns?
Being struck by lightning may be the first thing that comes to mind when hearing “electrical burn,” but an electrical burn can be sustained from a variety of scenarios, such as:

  • Using an electronic device/electrical appliance with wet hands;
  • Using an electrical appliance near water;
  • Using an electrical appliance while submerged in water (i.e. while bathing);
  • Sticking a metal object into an electrical socket or appliance;
  • Continuing to use cords with exposed, brittle, or frayed wiring;
  • Attempting to handle an electrician’s work on your own;
  • Relying on rubber-soled shoes to keep you safe;
  • Leaving electrical appliances plugged in when not in use; and
  • Not covering unused power outlets.

Electrical Safety Tips

Many electrical burns could have been prevented if proper precautions were taken. Therefore, to protect yourself and the people you know from suffering preventable electrical burns, proceed with caution when dealing with anything that has an electrical current running through it. For starters, refer to the above common causes of these burns and avoid putting yourself in those situations. For instance:

  • Do not use an electronic device while your hands are wet or near water;
  • Do not stick metal objects into electrical appliances;
  • Replace any cords that have exposed wiring;
  • And so forth.

Electricity is one of contemporary society’s best conveniences and luxuries. You do not have to stop using it completely to avoid being burned; just err on the side of caution instead of taking unnecessary risks.

First Aid: What to Do if Someone Is Electrocuted

If you witness someone being electrocuted or injured by another type of electrical burn, call your local emergency medical services (EMS) right away. As you wait for EMS to arrive, you should:

  • Assess the situation and locate the power supply;
  • Attempt to shut off the power supply if you can;
  • If you cannot shut off the power supply, try to move it away with a nonconductive object;
  • Check to see if the injured person has a pulse;
  • If they do not have a pulse, perform CPR;
  • Do your best to prevent the injured person from being chilled; and
  • Cover any open flesh wounds with sterile gauze or a clean cloth.

Please note: If the power supply is of a high voltage, do not attempt to turn it off. In fact, high-voltage electrical currents, such as those running through power lines, should not be approached. Remain at least 35 feet away from the power line and wait for a professional. You do not want to injure yourself as well.

Award-Winning Burn Safety Advocates

With more than $1 billion recovered on behalf of our clients, our attorneys at Spohrer Dodd have made a huge impact on the lives of burn survivors in the state of Florida. Our injury attorneys are committed to continuing to push the envelope in regards to our legal advocacy efforts, as we remain passionate about protecting the rights of plaintiffs against negligent parties in complex cases.
Contact Spohrer Dodd online today or call us at (904) 637-7721.