Summary

This report provides an overview of cases admitted to hospital with an electrical injury or a fatal electrical injury in Australia between 1 July 2014 and 30 June 2016.

Hospitalised cases with any electrical injury

In the 2-year period, almost 1,100 hospitalised cases were identified as having an electrical injury involving exposure to an electric current or lightning.

Close to half (46%) of those were aged 25–44 (487 cases), with similar proportions reported for both males (46%) and females (44%).

The highest age-specific rates were 5.7 cases per 100,000 young men aged 15–24, and 1.7 cases per 100,000 young women aged 25–44.

A total of 103 male and 9 female cases (11% of cases) hospitalised with any electrical injury during 2014–15 to 2015–16 were due to Exposure to electric transmission lines. A further 5% were Victims of lightning (58 cases).

Exposure to other specified electric current—such as contact with cords and switches or electric current from domestic appliances or machinery—was the most frequently reported cause (73%). The remaining cases were due to Exposure to unspecified electric current (84 cases) or Other external causes (39 cases), including 9 cases due to an act of intentional self-harm by electrocution.

Nearly half (47%) of all electrical injury cases requiring hospitalisation occurred while the person was working for income (497 cases), and 14% occurred while the person was doing unpaid work, including household maintenance (150 cases). About one-third (32%) of electrical injury cases had no activity specified at the time of injury.

Overall, electrical injuries accounted for 2,425 admitted patient care days for the 2-year period, and patients stayed an average of 2 days. Of hospitalised cases with any electrical injury, 8 (about 1%) died before being discharged, including 2 Victims of lightning.

Fatal electrical injuries

During the 2-year period, 55 deaths involving electrical injury were found in the National Mortality Database—50 males and 5 females.

Of these deaths, 8 (15%) were Victims of lightning, all of them males. A total of 17 deaths were due to Intentional self-harm by other specified means including electrocution (31%), while 18 deaths were due to Exposure to other specified electric current (33%).

Supplementary analysis of the National Coronial Information System found that 2 deaths due to lightning and 7 deaths due to electrocution by electric current occurred while the person was working for an income. All work-related deaths in the 2-year period were males.

Lightning deaths most often occurred:

  • in a recreational area, cultural area, or public building (2 fatalities; 25%)
  • in the countryside (2 fatalities; 25%)
  • or on farms or other place of primary production (2 fatalities; 25%).

In contrast, 73% of deaths due to electrocution by electric current occurred in the home, including 13 unintentional deaths, and 14 deaths associated with intentional self-harm.