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A Clinical Study of Electrical Accidents
  1. W. R. Lee
  1. Nuffield Department of Occupational Health, University of Manchester


    The report of a clinical study of 104 electrical accidents which befell 85 men is divided into two parts.

    Part I enumerates the different types of accidents as flash burn, Joule burn, arc eye, “held on” shock and “not held” shock, physical shock, and death. These are related to the different voltages involved ranging from 240/415 (medium) voltage to 33 kilovolts. There appeared to be no association between voltage and type of injury and no evidence to suggest that any of the voltages are free from hazard. There were 53 cases of flash burn, affecting mostly the face and extensor surface of the hands and arms. The 16 cases of arc eye caused no serious concern. Of the 15 Joule burns all except one occurred at medium voltages in “held on” accidents, the other being associated with an electric shock at 33 kilovolts. The majority of Joule burns affected the flexor surfaces.

    Part II of the paper deals with the 43 cases of electric shock (passage of current through the body). Thirty of these cases were “held on” to the circuit by the current. It was found that the longer a victim was held on to the circuit the greater appeared to be his chances of developing heart and chest symptoms suggestive of impending asphyxia, and of losing consciousness. Although about half of these men were released by an external agency and others struggled off, a number suddenly became free from the circuit without, they claimed, losing consciousness. This is difficult to explain. Artificial respiration was administered in two cases, one of whom was “held on” and was being asphyxiated. The other case received flash burns only and did not in fact receive an electric shock.

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