Perth family shares safety warning after girl’s electric shock injuries
- 10-year-old received an electric shock while trying to fix a 240-volt tower fan
- Serious burns to both hands required skin grafts and ongoing treatment
- Discuss electrical safety with children and do not use damaged appliances
A Perth mother and daughter are encouraging families to talk about electrical hazards after the 10-year-old received an electric shock and serious hand burns from a broken fan.
Nevaeh Majok, of Tuart Hill, was hospitalised and required skin graft operations and ongoing care for five major electrical burns on her fingers.
Her mum, Mandy Sibaly, is joining with Building and Energy – the State Government electrical safety regulator – to highlight the dangers of handling damaged electrical equipment, particularly by children.
“There are so many ‘what-ifs’,” Ms Sibaly said. “I’m very thankful because it could have been much worse.”
Nevaeh said she dropped the tower fan in her bedroom on 23 April, causing the top plastic cover to dislodge and the button panel to fall out. Trying to be helpful by fixing it, she undid a screw to lift off the displaced cover.
“I had plugged the fan into the wall to see if it still worked,” Nevaeh recalled.
“While the cover was off, I reached over to get the lid to put it back on. When I moved my hands over the top of the fan, they were pulled towards it. I couldn’t get my hands off.
“My body was vibrating and I couldn’t feel my body properly. My little brother and sister were looking at me and I tried to speak, to say to them ‘Get out, don’t come near me’, but my voice sounded weird. My hands were stuck to the machine for about 15 seconds.
“Then it felt like the electricity wasn’t as strong and I was able to quickly remove my hands. I screamed and Mum ran in and I told her ‘It’s an electric shock’. It didn’t hurt at first but later my hands started stinging.”
Ms Sibaly said Nevaeh’s scream was unlike any she had heard.
“I could smell the burning and when I saw her hands I thought ‘I hope that’s burnt plastic and not your skin’,” she said.
“I was trying not to show how fearful I was. I’m so glad the other kids didn’t touch her.”
Nevaeh remained at Perth Children’s Hospital overnight to monitor her heart and begin the long process of treating her burns, which included two rounds of skin graft operations, dressing changes every two days and the use of a pressure machine, casts and splints.
Unable to use her hands properly, the Year 5 student missed several weeks of school. She will wear custom-made gloves for up to two years and continues to do physiotherapy and occupational therapy to maintain normal movement and minimise scarring.
Building and Energy’s Acting Executive Director, Matthew Peacock, said Nevaeh was very lucky to have avoided more significant injuries from the 240-volt appliance.
“Without the plastic cover, ‘live’ 240-volt uninsulated components inside the fan were exposed,” he said.
“It appears that electrical current flowed through Nevaeh’s body, without a fault path to earth, and she effectively became part of the circuit.
“In this case, the residual current device – or RCD safety switch – did not detect the fault because there was no imbalance of current between the active and neutral conductors.
“This incident is a timely reminder to stop using damaged electrical equipment straight away. Do not attempt to repair it yourself.”
Mr Peacock and Ms Sibaly are urging parents to talk to children about electrical safety and why they should immediately tell an adult about any shocks, tingles or damaged electrical appliances.
All shocks and tingles should be reported to the network operator, which is usually Western Power (13 13 51) in Perth and south-west WA or Horizon Power (13 23 51) in most other regional areas.
For more information, see Building and Energy’s electric shock fact sheet at dmirs.wa.gov.au.
Media contact: BEmedia@dmirs.wa.gov.au
Images (original, high-resolution versions available by request):
Ten-year-old Neveah Majok and her mother, Mandy Sibaly, with the tower fan that caused the electric shock. Building and Energy electrical inspectors have disabled the fan so it cannot be used.
Nevaeh’s injuries before and during treatment.
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