Guests staying at a hotel are looking forward to enjoying the amenities—a nice soak in the bubbling Jacuzzi tub, a dip in the sparkling swimming pool—without incident. So imagine the surprise, pain, injury (often followed by insurance claims and lawsuits) that can ensue when an electrical fault results in a guest being electrocuted.
Electric shock is a dangerous condition associated with the possible release of energy caused by contact with or approach to energized electrical conductors or circuit parts. Depending on the length and severity of the shock, electric current discharges can cause serious and permanent internal and external injuries, or even death—anything ranging from thermal burns on the body to muscle, brain, nerve and tissue destruction from a current passing through the body, broken bones, or cardiac arrest due to the electrical effect on the heart. Other injuries or illnesses may include muscle spasms, palpitations, nausea, vomiting, collapse and unconsciousness.
Hotel owners and managers know that electric shock exposure exists for workers when they are working in proximity to energized exposed electrical equipment or circuit parts. Electric shocks from faulty electrical equipment may also lead to related injuries, including falls from ladders, scaffolding or other elevated work platforms. However, many are surprised to find that guests, too, are also at risk, as was the case in one claim recently where the swimming pool water became electrified (affecting all those in the pool) after the pool lights came on, triggering a fault in the system. One adult swimmer managed to help a child out of the water before becoming incapacitated by the current in the water. In another case, a hotel guest was electrocuted while attempting to adjust the hot water faucet in the Jacuzzi bathtub in his guest room. Again, a situation where water and hot wires were not adequately shielded from each other resulted in injury and a claim against the hotel’s umbrella policy.
Make sure you take care of the obvious for the safety of your guests:
- Ensure only appropriately licensed or registered electricians carry out electrical work so you know the work has been done according to current safety standards and without dangerous shortcuts.
- Don’t overload power sockets when installing guest items in a room. Use power strips, not double adapters, to power multiple items.
- Inspect all guest rooms and especially bathrooms for signs of poor electrical installation and faulty hair dryers, coffee makers, televisions, radios and other electrical appliances, which can lead to shock.
- Immediately repair or replace any appliances with stripped, frayed, or loose wires or cords to reduce the chance of a guest accidentally making contact with exposed parts of electrical appliances or wiring.
- Tag and date each inspected item after testing for easy recognition that an item is in good working order.
- Switch off electricity where possible before working on equipment.
- Use battery operated tools rather than power tools connected to the electric supply where possible.
- Ensure that all means of escape are properly maintained and kept free from obstruction.
- Ensure that the fire alarm can be heard in all parts of the building, including the bathrooms in each guest room.
If an electrical emergency does occur:
- First and foremost, it is imperative that qualified maintenance employees with the proper training and requisite knowledge and understanding of electrical work practices and procedures are responsible for handling an electrical emergency, to avoid injuries. Training can be either in the classroom or on-the-job type.
- If you can do so safely, turn off the electrical current. Unplug the cord, remove the fuse from the fuse box, or turn off the circuit breakers. Do not attempt to rescue a person near active high-voltage lines—call 911.
- If the current can’t be turned off, use a non-conducting object, such as a broom, chair, rug, or rubber doormat to push the person away from the source of the current. Do not use a wet or metal object. If possible, stand on something dry that doesn’t conduct electricity, such as a rubber mat or folded newspapers.
- Once the person is away from the source of electricity, check the person’s airway, breathing, and pulse. If either has stopped or seems dangerously slow or shallow, start first aid.
- Give first aid for burns. Do not apply ice, butter, ointments, medicines, fluffy cotton dressings, or adhesive bandages to a burn, do not remove dead skin or break blisters.
- If the person is faint, pale, or shows other signs of shock, lay him or her down, with the head slightly lower than the trunk of the body and the legs elevated, and cover him or her with a warm blanket or a coat.
- Stay with the person until medical help arrives.
For your own and others’ safety:
- Stay at least 20 feet away from a person who is being electrocuted by high-voltage electrical current (such as power lines) until you are certain the power has been turned off.
- Do not touch the person with your bare hands if the body is still touching the source of electricity.
- After the power is shut off, do not move the person unless there is a risk of fire or explosion.
The precautions you take to help ensure your workers are safe on site when working with and around electrical components serve to protect hotel guests as well.