It is a very sad occurrence that most fatal electrocution (electrical shocks) happens to people who should know better.

The following will illustrate this and should help us to think twice before undertaking a risky behaviour, which we may not recognise as dangerous.

Many people think that the voltage or the difference in potential is normally the fatal element of an electrocution.

However it seems more likely that the current that flows as a result of a potential difference is the real reason people die from electrocution.

For example some people at home die as a result of experiencing a potential difference of just100 Volts of Alternating Current (AC). Direct current (DC) with a potential difference of just 40 Volts can also be fatal. The more accurate determination of the intensity of the electrical shock one may experience in an electrocution, lies in the small amount of current that passes through our human bodies. This is so small it is usually measured in mA or milliamperes.

We should be aware that any electrical device that we may use at home, under the right conditions, can kill us by passing a lethal amount of current through our bodies.

Any current between 100mA to 200mA or 0.1 ampere and 0.2 ampere can be fatal. If we come into contact with 10mA of current, this could feel like a painful to severe electrical shock.

The table below will better illustrate this.

 

Result

Safe Current Values

1 mA or less

1 mA to 8 mA

Causes no sensation – one may not realise any physical discomfort.

A not painful feeling of electrical shock, and a person experiencing this can still loosen their grip to let go as they still have control of their muscles.
Individual can let go at will since 

 

 

 

Unsafe current values

8 mA to 15 mA

15 mA to 20 mA

50 mA to 100 mA

100 mA to 200 mA

200 mA and over

A painful feeling of electrical shock; and a person experiencing this may still be able to loosen their grip to let go as they may still have control over their muscles.

 

A very painful feeling of electrical shock; and a person experiencing this cannot loosen their grip to let go as they do not have any control over their adjacent muscles. The person cannot let go.

 

Death may occur as a result of a heart condition called Ventricular fibrillation.

 

 

Ventricular fibrillation occurs for sure. Death may result.

The victim will experience up to third degree fatal burns, and severe muscular contractions. This is so intense that the muscles of the chest will constrict the heart. The heart will be paralysed for the duration of the electrical shock and stops normal rhythm. Death will result.

 

Thus we must all exercise better precaution when dealing with electricity. Even though it is invisible and odourless, we must train ourselves to be alert to the ever present danger and possibility of electrocution.

 

Prevention is much better than cure when it comes to electrical accidents.

 

We should learn to pay more attention and have a deep respect for all voltages and the resulting currents they cause.

 

We should attempt to improve our knowledge and understanding of the basic principles of electricity.

 

We should always ensure to follow safe work procedures. 

 

We must avoid taking shortcuts. We can improve our basic first aid theory and practical, to include CPR knowledge in the event that we can be called upon to aid someone at risk of an electrical shock.

 

If we operate hand held tools, such as a drill, we can do a physical inspection to check that it is in a safe operating condition. For example, there must be a third wire on the plug for create a pathway for the current to flow, in the event of an electric shock.

 

With this third wire, if there is a fault, the fault current should flow through to the ground instead of through person holding the tool. This will save the life of a person if there is a fault like a failure of the insulation of the equipment.