Electric Shock First Aid


An electric shock is the pathophysiological effect of electricity entering and exiting the human body.


In all my years as a sparky I have never experienced a major electric shock. However, I thought that it would be on benefit to explain the first aid required should someone experience an electric shock.

Because the human body is composed primarily of water it is an excellent electrical conductor. If outside electrical energy enters our bodies we will sustain a shock when the voltage encounters, and interferes with, the internal electrical energy our nervous systems produce. The shock to our bodies, and the amount of damage the electricity does to them, depends upon the voltage our bodies are subjected to, upon its level of energy, and upon how much our bodies resist the flow of the electrical energy.

Electric shock can cause cardiac arrhythmia’s (abnormal heart rhythms) and burns which can lead to death. Sometimes an electric shock victim can appear to be unharmed, however, the burns may be internal and everyone should have medical attention following an electric shock.

Symptoms of electric shock


Difficulty breathing or not breathing at all

A weak pulse that is irregular or an absent pulse

Cardiac arrest

entrance and exit burns (where the electrical current has entered and exited the body)

Seizure (a “fit”)

Muscle pain and/or weakness


Dial 000 or instruct someone to dial 000








1) First consider the danger to yourself. You are no use to the victim if you also receive an electric shock. Be extra careful near water as water conducts electricity and you may be shocked.

2) Turn off the power supply. Remember that just turning off the appliance (if that is the cause of electric shock) will not stop the electrical flow. Remove the fuse from the fuse box or turn off the circuit breakers at the meter box.  DO NOT touch the person if they are still touching the source of electric shock.

3) If the power supply can’t be turned off use a broom, wooden pole, or chair to push the person away from the source of electricity. Do not use metal objects and if possible stand on a rubber mat or folded newspapers whilst you are doing this.

4) When the victim is safely away from the source of electricity check their breathing and pulse. If either are absent or very low commence CPR.  If you are unsure of how to perform CPR tell the operator and they will go through the steps with you over the telephone. However, it is a good idea for all individuals to learn the basic resuscitation technique.

5) If the victim has a stable pulse and an ordinary breathing pattern remove clothes that are easily removable, check him/her for burns. Treat any burns as explained here.

6) Once first aid is given to the burns and if (still waiting for medical assistance to arrive) sit with and reassure the victim.

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