Objective: To describe the epidemiology of electrical fatalities in Western Australia between 1976 and 1990.
Data sources: Data for the study were gathered from hospital records, autopsy reports and findings from State Energy Commission and coronal investigations.
Data extraction: Information that was abstracted included age, sex, occupation, voltage, history of incident and autopsy findings.
Data synthesis: There were 104 victims. Death occurred most frequently in young men exposed to low voltage current during summer, and nearly half the fatalities occurred in the workplace. Water was present in up to 52% of fatalities. Without exception, all victims developed a lethal arrhythmia at the time of exposure to the electric shock, which usually resulted in death at the scene.
Conclusion: When a victim is exposed to a fatal electric shock, the lethal arrhythmia occurs at the time of electrocution and is just as likely to occur at home as in the workplace. Electrical fatalities can be prevented largely by the use of residual current devices.