Electric shock

Electric shock can range from relatively mild – from a faulty telephone line, to a deadly shock – from the back of a TV set. An electric shock’s severity depends on a range of factors such as the current’s strength and the amount of time the patient was exposed to it. The amount of insulation protecting the patient (if standing on a wet surface – the shock will tend to be greater), the path the current took (if from the hand to the feet, it passes through the chest and therefore past the heart). For instance, if the patient has a weak heart, they could die from a shock that another person would survive.

If the patient has gripped the appliance shocking them, switch off the power to it. Smother any clothing that is burning or smouldering. Check that the patient’s heart is beating and that they are breathing. If either is absent, call for medical assistance and in the meantime administer artificial ventilation and/or chest compression treatment. Once the heartbeat and breathing have resumed, place the patient in the recovery position.

Electrical power is great, when used properly and treated with respect, however accidents can occur when something you thought was off, is actually on.

  1. Always switch off the power and unplug any appliance before dismantling it.
  2. Always mow AWAY from the power cord when using an electric mower; the same applies when using an electric chain saw, trimmer or any mains-powered tool.

Wear protective gear!

Fumes, dust particles, loud noise, flying fragments etc can cause major health problems and damage your hearing, for instance. There is a wide range of accessories that will protect your respiratory system, ears, eyes and skin from injury or damage. Ensure when working with materials that give off fumes or dust that you have the correct filter in the mask, and when in doubt, check.

Choose quality – even the most expensive pair of goggles to protect your eyes when using an angle grinder, or muffs to protect your hearing when routing, are far cheaper than the medical bills you would need to pay in the event of a problem.

Mind those eyes

Foreign objects in the eye are probably among the most common problems we face, and fortunately in most cases they are little more than an irritant. The other common problem is that of chemicals, liquids or fumes affecting the eyes.

If an object is in the eye, stop the patient rubbing it – they’ll want to, but it will only make the problem worse.

Tilt the patient’s head back and gently pull the eyelid back. If you can see the object, try to wash it out with sterile eyewash in an eye irrigator. If that doesn’t work, gently pour lukewarm tap water from a jug over the eye. If you still have no success, carefully remove it with the corner of a damp clean cloth, or wetted cotton bud.

If you cannot see the object, or cannot remove it (if it is embedded in the eye, do not attempt to remove it), cover the eye with an eye pad and seek medical attention.

In the case of a chemical or liquid in the eye, irrigate it to wash the substance out of the eye. Even if the patient is comfortable afterwards, it is as well to have the eye examined to ensure no permanent damage has been done.

The bottom line is, wear safety glasses, or in the case of working at the braai, keep your head inclined away from frying fat, and/or cover the braaing food with a purpose-made cover.

Gas and fume inhalation

The golden rule is always work in a well-ventilated space. If possible out in the open air, when using anything that gives off fumes. This includes working on your car – if the weather is bad and you’re working on the engine, open the garage door, otherwise you could end up with carbon monoxide poisoning.

You should also wear a facemask with the appropriate filter. Having said that, cleaning fluids, fires, leaks, electrical shorts and a host of other causes can produce fumes or gasses that can harm.

If a person has inhaled fumes, the first thing to do is remove them from the source. Get them out into the open air and lie them down with their head lower than the rest of the body. If they have stopped breathing, commence artificial ventilation immediately and call for medical assistance.