Injury Severity

Several factors contribute to the severity of an electrical injury. When you evaluate victims for treatment and transport, consider all of the following:

  • Amperage. Higher amperage causes greater damage.
  • Voltage. As voltage increases, the body’s resistance decreases.
  • Duration of contact. Even a very low-voltage shock can be fatal if exposure time is long enough.
  • Path through the body. An electric shock that travels through the chest may interfere with heart and lung function, whereas a shock that merely travels through a hand or foot may cause only minor burns.
  • Skin moisture. Because water is a conductor, wet skin is about 100 times less resistant to electricity than dry skin.

Effects of electric shock may be delayed for up to 24 hours. Make sure that all electric shock victims receive a full medical examination where they are checked for internal burns and cardiopulmonary function.