Electrocution: what you should know and safety tips for the home

Electrocution: what you should know and safety tips for the home

The convenience of electricity can quickly turn into the inconvenience of tragedy, but this can be averted by being safe and keeping a close check on all things electrical in your home.

When providing safety tips, fire safety experts often warn that electrical malfunction leads to electrocution and fire. And they repeatedly advise householders to have inspections done inside and outside the home by certified electricians and promptly do the necessary preventative maintenance.

What does it mean to be electrocuted?

Electrocution is death or severe injury by electric shock, with an electric current passing through the body. The word is derived from “electro” and “execution”, but it is also used for accidental death.

Symptoms of electric shock

When someone has been electrocuted, this person could have any or all of the following symptoms, according to Better Health. 

  • Unconsciousness
  • Difficulties in breathing or no breathing at all
  • A weak, erratic pulse or no pulse at all
  • Burns, particularly entrance and exit burns (where the electricity entered and left the body)
  • Sudden onset of cardiac arrest

In rare cases, victims don’t exhibit any symptoms, but that could mean they could still have internal injuries. Always take someone who has been electrocuted to a hospital for observation. Some symptoms are delayed.

Some injuries and further complications may not yet be obvious. An examination in hospital is important after any electric shock.


According to Arrive Alive: Home, when it comes to protecting your loved ones in and around your home, it is vital that you ensure electrical safety by randomly checking for breakages in electrical equipment from broken wiring, frayed cords to fuses and the circuit breaker and assess the wear and tear of appliances. 

Identify any missing parts such as screws, covers and switches, signs of overheating of applianes; proper labelling of switches at the mains; faulty connections, loose fixtures or fittings and faulty appliances will trip switches.

Take the time to switch plugs on and off to ensure correct connectivity; read instructions for your appliances’ proper and safe use. Also, avoid overloading plugs, unplugging unused appliances and switching off plugs, ensuring that all plugs used in your home are SABS approved – all of these could save a life should an emergency arise.


With more people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic and using electricity-intensive equipment, often running cables to make-shift work areas where children play, there is a greater potential for unsafe and dangerous situations to occur.

Doing this is especially dangerous when babies or children play with their water bottles near their parents’ workstation with high voltage chargers, thereby creating the risk of electrocution or short circuits.

Water safety

Water is a super electricity conductor, and the general rule is to keep moisture away from electrical appliances and wall sockets. Common sense should prevail at all times, along with teaching children and reminding the elderly that electrical appliances must not be used in the bathroom, including the ubiquitous cellphone; wet hands and bare feet should never touch plugged-in devices; unplug the kettle before filling it, don’t touch the taps or the fridge door while holding a plugged-in blender, for example; use a dry chemical fire extinguisher or dry sand and not water to put out an electrical fire; never use extension leads in wet areas like the bathroom, the pool area and near sinks, switch off and unplug all portable appliances like hairdryers and phone chargers and when an electrical device falls in the water, it must be discarded.

These are just some scenarios that create conditions for the human body, which is made up of 70% water, to turn into a super conductor for electricity and death by electrocution.

Householders have to be constantly vigilant when it comes to curious babies and children who stick their fingers into sockets and older adults who often throw caution to the wind for the sake of what’s more manageable and convenient such as plugging in the electric blanket while sipping a hot toddy in bed.

Child Safety

In homes with small children , they should be taught not to play with electric sockets; use tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles and outlets as a precautionary measure. And above all, appliances and electrical equipment should be kept far away from crawling babies or toddlers.

Arrive Alive: Home suggests the following precautions for child safety around electricity: don’t leave live wires dangling loosely in case the toddler plays with them and chews on them; cover all unused outlets with safety plugs; don’t leave the cords of your kettle or hot iron dangling as it could lead to severe burns if the child tugs on the cord and it topples off the counter. And when it comes to heaters, keep a close eye on children so that they don’t touch the hot bars through the grill.

Older children should also be continuously reminded of the dos and don’ts of electricity. When they’re out and about, they shouldn’t be allowed to play on or near an electrical installation, or be allowed to climb electric poles or fly kites or release metallic balloons near power lines.

In an emergency, like electrocution or any other accident, having emergency services at your fingertips can be the difference between life and death. This is why an app like iER is so essential. iER is South Africa’s only dedicated emergency response and disaster management network backed by its emergency-trained call centre staff trained to respond to any emergency 24 hours a day, every day!

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