Electricity: It’s a part of modern life we often take for granted. But every once in a while we get a shocking reminder that electricity can be one of the biggest hazards in the home. Even a low voltage current can be fatal, especially for children.
Electricity naturally goes to the ground. If you are caught between an electrical source and the ground, a shock occurs.
If a wire is properly insulated, grounded, and otherwise uninterrupted, the electricity will keep to its designated path.
Use the following guidelines to steer clear of electrical hazards in the home:
- Inspect electrical equipment and cords for damage and wear, including extension and temporary cords. Look for frays, punctures, or any other kind of damage to the insulation on the wiring or damage to the plug. Replace damaged or worn out equipment.
- Don’t put cords in areas where they may get stepped on, tripped on, or driven over. Keep them well away from heat sources. Don’t yank on cords to unplug them as this can damage the wiring.
- Never remove the third prong on a plug to make it fit in a two plug hole. The third prong provides a grounding for the electrical current and is an important safety feature. All major appliances and power tools should be on three prong plugs.
- Don’t overload circuits with too many appliances. This can cause overheating and become a fire hazard. If the electrical load is heavy, use a cord designed to carry a bigger current. If the circuit breaker kicks in due to overloading, don’t just flip it back on without investigating what the problem might have been and have it fixed if necessary.
- Never operate anything electrical in a wet or damp place, or while standing in water. Water and electricity don’t mix. This may be a problem around leaky washing machines, when using power tools in a damp garage or workshop, or when using an electric lawn mower if the grass is still wet from rain or sprinklers. Keep electrical appliances away from bathtubs, pools and sinks. Consider installing Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) on any equipment that may accidentally contact water. These detect failures or leakages (interruptions) in electrical lines and quickly break the circuit before you get shocked or electrocuted.
- Home repairs like roofing, or gardening work like pruning might bring you into the proximity of overhead power lines. Contact with these is extremely hazardous so maintain a safe distance. Always assume a wire is “live” or energized.
- Underground power lines can be just as dangerous. If you are planning to dig anywhere around your property for building or planting, call your utility company to mark out the power and gas lines for you.
- Never use electrical space heaters near moisture. Unplug them when not in use and ensure they have an automatic switch off in case they get knocked over. Keep space heaters away from curtains, clothes and other combustibles, and ensure that electrical cords and plugs are in good condition.
- Faulty wiring can be a problem, particularly in older homes. Get an electrician to do a safety check on your wiring if this is a concern.
Most of us can’t imagine a life without electricity. Use it cautiously and sensibly and it will bring more power to you.