We depend upon electricity and electrical appliances every day of our lives. As appliances and buildings get older electrical fittings and installations may become hazardous.

In addition, accidents and negligence can precipitate exposure to raw electric current. Therefore, for you and your family’s sake, it is vital to know how to treat electrical shock without putting yourself in danger.

It is important to know that the severity of an electrical shock depends on:

  • the type of electrical current;
  • how high the current voltage is;
  • how the current travelled through the person’s body;
  • the person's overall health;
  • and how quickly the person is treated.

Zero Tolerance Electrical are 24-hour emergency electricians in Cape Town.

Please contact us, if you feel that your home, office or household appliances are not electrically safe.

How to treat an electrical shock emergency

Step 1 – Removing danger

When someone has received an electric shock, it is important to ensure that all power sources have been turned off before you try to treat their casualty.

High Voltage Electrocution


Why? This is because high voltage power sources have the ability to ‘jump’ or ‘arc’ distances of 18m or more.

It is important to stay at least 25m away from the victim until the power has been switched off.

Low Voltage Electrocution


When confronted with someone who is still in the process of being electrocuted you should:

  • Firstly, attempt to turn off the power at the source.
  • Secondly, remove any power cables still in contact with the person.

Step 2 – Check for a response

It is important to check whether the person is conscious.

  • Gently tap or shake their shoulders while asking them - ‘Open your eyes if you can hear me’.
  • If they do not respond, ask the question again however, this time ask the question separately to each ear.
  • Do not move the person unless their surroundings are dangerous.

Step 3 – Opening airways

There is a chance that their airway may be obstructed. Open their mouth to ensure that there are no visible obstructions.

To open their airway, lift their chin and their head back. This will free their tongue from the back of their throat.

Assessing breathing


To do this, watch for the rise and fall of their chest and listen for breathing sounds.

By putting the back of your hand near to their mouth to feel for air being exhaled.

Continue to do so for 10 minutes, if breathing is present, continue straight to ‘what to do if they are unconscious’ section.

They aren’t breathing


If the person is not breathing, call for emergency medical services. It is important to ask for a defibrillator as the person may be experiencing cardiac fibrillation.

  • Fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can cause blood clots, a stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

How to treat an electric shock emergency

Click on the image above for a video presentation on CPR.

After contacting the emergency services begin full cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

  • To begin, ensure that the person is on a firm, flat surface.
  • Place your hands, one on top of the other, in the centre of the person’s chest.
  • Compress their chest up to a maximum depth of approximately 4-5cm.
  • After 30 compressions, open their airway again by tilting their head back and lifting their chin.
  • Close their nostrils with your thumb and forefinger.
  • While closing their nostrils, blow air steadily into their mouth until you see their chest rise – this will take about a second.
  • Blow for about a second, with 2 breathes within 5 seconds.
  • After this process, remove your mouth to the side and let their chest exhale – it is important to breath in fresh air before breathing for the casualty.
  • Repeat this process so that you give 2 affective rescue breathes in total within 5 seconds – if their chest does not rise, repeat another 30 compressions.
  • Then try again with 2 breathes.
  • Return your hands to the correct position on their chest and continue to give a further 30 compressions.

It is important to continue with CPR until:

  • The person shows signs of breathing again;
  • The emergency services arrive.

Step 4 - What to do if they are unconscious?

Assess the person for any other injuries by doing a quick head to toe examination. During the examination, make sure to check pockets for sharp objects.

Upon completion of the examination, place the person in the recovery position. If you have first-aid training your ‘Recovery Position’ may differ, in which case, make use of the position you have been taught.

However, if not, the steps below will guide you through the positioning process.

The Recovery Position

  • Place their nearest arm at a right angle to their body;
  • Draw their furthest arm across their chest, placing the back of their hand across their chest;
  • Raise their furthest leg by grasping the back of their knee;
  • Gently pull their knee until the person turns over to their side, facing you;
  • Ensure the person is fully turned over and stable;
  • At this stage, make sure that their airways are still open and air is still circulating.
  • Draw up their leg at a 90-degree angle;
  • Keep monitoring their ABC’s (airway, breathing and circulation)
  • Treat any injuries you may find.

How to treat an electric shock emergency

Step 5 – Treating electrical burns

Being exposed to electricity can cause severe burns to skin. In extreme cases, internal organs can be burned.

In these cases, the electricity may enter through their hand and leave via their feet, causing entry and exist burns.

Conscious casualty

  • If the person is conscious, cool their wounds for a minimum of 10 minutes under cold water.

Unconscious casualty

  • If the person is unconscious, after putting them into the recovery position, cool their burns with wet dressings.

Seizures and Muscle Spasms


After exposure to electricity, seizures and muscle spasms may be present for some time – these indicate a seriously ill casualty.

During a seizure, it is important to protect the person from hurting themselves or knocking their head. However, do not restrain the person.

Casualty without any injury


If there is no injury present and the person appears to be OK, it is still advisable to seek medical attention or take them to the hospital.

This is because certain organs and systems may be affected only hours after the electrical shock.

Zero Tolerance Electrical – Electrical contractors Cape Town

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Whether you are looking for domestic electrical installations or electrical repairs, you can contact us at any time, day or night, 24/7 and our mobile electrician will come to you.