Epidemiology

There are no precise figures on the number of electrical injuries treated in US emergency departments each year, but estimates are as high as 17,000 victims per year who require emergency treatment. Electrocution accounts for 3 to 6 percent of admissions to burn centers and, since an estimated 50,000 patients are admitted to US burn centers each year, about 1500 to 3000 individuals sustain electrical injuries severe enough to require specialized care. Three distinct populations are at highest risk for electrical injury. The first trimodal injury peak occurs in toddlers who sustain electrical injuries from household electrical sockets and cords, accounting for about 20 percent of electrical injuries. The second peak is in adolescents who engage in risky behavior or have motor vehicle collisions involving high-voltage wires, accounting for an estimated 25 percent of electrical injuries. The third peak occurs in those who work with electricity for a living, accounting for about 25 percent of electrical injuries.

Unintentional electrocution caused 560 deaths in the United States in 1995: 144 were related to generating plants and transmission lines, 84 to domestic wiring and appliances, 42 to industrial wiring and machines, and 291 to unspecified electrical events. 1 The annual occupational death rate from electrocution is approximately 1 per 100,000, with utility workers having the highest death rate (10 per 100,000), followed by miners (5.9 per 100,000) and construction workers (2.5 per 100,000). 2 Fatal unintentional household electrocutions are most commonly related to unsafe hair dryer use in bathtubs.

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