Fact Sheet

Electrocution

For staff and volunteers working on a building repair program, there may be a risk of electrocution. This can happen when using portable metal or conductive ladders near energized overhead power lines, when using power tools, or when work is being completed on the structure’s electrical system.

According to National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), electrocution victims can be revived if immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or defibrillation is provided. While immediate defibrillation would be ideal, CPR given within approximately 4 minutes of the electrocution, followed by advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) measures within approximately 8 minutes, can be lifesaving. Nonprofits should ensure that a number of its staff and volunteers are trained in CPR to help save the lives of workers who contact electrical energy. Nonprofits can also limit the probability that any of its staff or volunteers are electrocuted through prevention, safe work practices, and training in CPR and ACLS procedures.

Recommendations

Prevention

Prevention must be the primary goal of any nonprofit’s workplace safety program. However, since contact with electrical energy occurs even in facilities that promote safety, safety programs should provide for an appropriate emergency medical response.

Safe Work Practices

No one who works with electric energy should work alone; a “buddy system” should be established. It may be advisable to have both members of the buddy system trained in CPR, as one cannot predict which one will contact electrical energy. Every individual who works with or around electrical energy should be familiar with emergency procedures. This should include knowing how to de-energize the electrical system before rescuing or beginning resuscitation on a worker who remains in contact with an electrical energy source. All workers exposed to electrical hazards should be made aware that even “low” voltage circuits can be fatal, and that prompt emergency medical care can be lifesaving.

CPR and ACLS Procedures

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and first aid should be immediately available at every nonprofit’s work site. This capability is necessary to provide prompt (within 4 minutes) care for the victims of cardiac or respiratory arrest, from any cause. Nonprofit employers may contact the local office of the American Heart Association, the American Red Cross, or similar groups or agencies, to set up a course for employees and volunteers. Provisions should be worked out at each work site to provide ACLS within 8 minutes (if possible), usually by calling an ambulance staffed by paramedics. Signs on or near phones should give the correct emergency number for the area, and workers should be educated regarding the information to give when the call is made. For large facilities, a prearranged place should be established for the nonprofit’s workers to meet paramedics in an emergency.

Resources

Preventing Fatalities of Workers Who Contact Electrical Energy, NIOSH

Preventing Electrocutions of Workers Using Portable Metal Ladders Near Overhead Power Lines, NIOSH

Insource Safety, www.InsourceSafety.com

Electrocution Prevention Checklist