10 Easy Ways to Prevent Electrical Hazards
1. Have only licensed electricians install, repair and dismantle jobsite wiring. That way, everything will be completed according to electrical safety codes, ensuring greater protection for the workers who will be using the wiring to power tools and equipment. Bringing in a professional electrician also prevents the injuries that result when less-qualified individuals attempt electrical jobs that they aren't properly trained to do.
2. Always plug into a GFCI. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter protection is required at every plug-in point associated with your jobsite's temporary electrical supply – right down to extension cords. Make sure that only GFCI receptacles are installed, and that portable GFCIs are kept on hand in case additional grounding needs arise.
3. Check each extension cord before use. Ensure that insulation is completely intact (free from cracks, tears, or abrasion) and that power extension cables haven't been knotted, which can cause conductor damage and increase the risk of fire.
4. Do a thorough check for electrical wiring before cutting through any wall, floor or ceiling. Any time that a tool inadvertently makes contact with an unseen electrical line, the person holding that tool is likely to be shocked or electrocuted. Always size up the situation before you get started to reduce your risk of injury.
5. Inspect power tools on a regular basis. Look over the tools' power cords and plugs for any sign of damage to the insulation, blades, or grounding pin. If you find signs of excessive wear and tear, take tools out of commission until they've been properly repaired. Maintain awareness during electrical tool use as well; if a tool starts to overheat, smoke, give off a burning smell, or shock you on contact, discontinue use immediately.
6. Check insulated tools for damage before each use. Once the insulation layer of an insulated hand tool becomes nicked, cracked or cut, the tool is no longer effectively insulated – it actually becomes more of an electrical conductor, and can increase your risk of injury. If a tool has damaged insulation, it is no longer safe to use – destroy and replace it right away.
7. Never modify electrical plugs. Under no circumstances should you ever file down the blades, remove the ground pin, or otherwise modify an electrical plug so that it will fit into a socket – doing so only increases the likelihood of shock, electrocution, and fire. Either have a certified electrician change the device's plug, or replace outdated two-prong receptacles with grounded outlets that can accommodate a ground pin.
8. Keep extension cords in a safe place where they won't be stepped on or driven over. The force of a vehicle – or even repeated treading by pedestrians – can cause an extension cord's conductor to become misshapen or break, a problems that can lead to electrical fires. Because it occurs in the core of the cable, conductor damage isn't always obvious to the eye, so play it safe from the start by guarding jobsite extension cords with heavy-duty cord covers.
9. Ensure that all electrical components stay dry. It's one of the cardinal rules of electrical safety: don't mix electricity and water. Store power tools and cables above water level when not in use, cover outdoor receptacles, and never use electrically powered tools in a wet environment.
10. Use the right extension cord for the job. Before you plug in, make sure that the wattage rating of the extension cord you're using is greater than the pull (or power requirement) of the equipment it’s powering. Using an extension cord to supply more wattage than it's rated for can cause conductor strain, overheating, and possibly even fire.
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