When a workplace electrocution occurs, a variety of signs and symptoms may indicate the presence of neurological, psychological, and physical injuries.
Shocked on the Job
Workers who survive electrocution may face various symptoms that range from mild to severe. External signs of electrocution, like burns, are usually obvious. The symptoms of long-term, internal damage may be more subtle. Since electrocution can result in a variety of permanent neurological, psychological, and physical problems that require rapid medical intervention, it’s important for victims and caregivers to be alert to the signs that complications may exist.
Some symptoms of electrocution may be delayed for up to 5 years. This poses a problem for injured workers who depend on workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses. When electrocution signs and symptoms are delayed, a workers’ compensation attorney may be able to resolve complex claim and benefit issues.
The severity of electrical injuries depends on several factors: the amount of voltage; type of current; length of contact with the electrical source; electrical pathway in the body; and the victim’s overall health. Electric shock may present various signs and symptoms including:
- numbness or tingling in limbs
- muscle spasms
- vision and/or hearing problems
- breathing difficulty
- irregular heartbeat
More serious problems may include loss of consciousness, seizures, burns, and compartment syndrome, muscle damage that causes limbs to swell. Compartment syndrome can be life-threatening if swelling compresses an artery.
When a person suffers electrical shock, the electricity follows the path of least resistance through the body creating heat that causes thermal damage to various tissues along the current’s path. Electric shock causes significant damage to skin, bones, muscles, and nerves with injuries including severe burns, muscle weakness or paralysis, sensory and motor damage, and traumatic brain injuries.
Low-voltage electrical injuries are often more fatal than high-voltage injuries. Low-voltage current of 60 volts or less creates muscle spasms that cause the victim to hang on to the electrical source. In many workplace injuries, workers are thrown away from the electrical source when arcing occurs. Arc flashes, common at 300 volts or greater, create an intense blast that throws the victim, disconnects electrical contact, and limits contact time.
High-voltage electrical shocks result in more severe acute injuries that may present late-onset symptoms over the course of time. Workers with electrical burns are left with permanent scars and chronic pain. If electrical current goes through the eyes, a worker may be left with cataracts or complete loss of vision.