Electrocution Injury

The most common source of severe electromagnetic injury on the farm is electricity carried in conducting wiring and used for machinery, light, and heating. Electricity causes injury through several mechanisms. Voltage and current flow disrupt nerve and muscle function. Electrical current stimulates contractions in both flexor and extensor muscles. At currents above 16 mA, the stronger flexor muscles predominate, rendering the victim unable to let go of an energized object they have grasped. Currents of 20 mA may lead to paralysis of respiratory muscles and death. Current at 100 mA leads to ventricular fibrillation, lower currents may also lead to fatal cardiac arrhythmias. Current at 2 Amperes and above leads to cardiac standstill and internal organ damage (6).

Conduction through the body is facilitated by moist conditions, such as contact with standing water and wet skin or clothing. Under dry conditions, the resistance of the body may be sufficient to limit current flow from a 120-volt source to 1 mA, a barely perceptible amount. Under wet conditions, resistance may be lowered to allow over 100 mA of current flow, sufficient to cause cardiac fibrillation. Skin damaged by electrical burns suffers further reduction in resistance, leading to increased current flow and injury (6).

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