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.
10 Easy Ways to Prevent Home Electrical Hazards
1. Never mix water and electricity. Always keep electrical appliances away from water and moisture. Whether it's on or off, if a plugged-in appliance falls – or is accidentally dropped – into water, do not attempt to retrieve or unplug it. Go immediately to your home's panel board and shut off power to the corresponding circuit. Once that's done, the appliance can be safely unplugged and removed from the water. Once the device has dried thoroughly, have an electrician evaluate whether or not it's fit for continued use.
2. Pay attention to what your appliances are telling you. When an appliance repeatedly trips a circuit breaker, blows a fuse, or gives you shocks, it's not just a coincidence – these are signs that something is wrong. Prevent further – and possibly more dangerous – malfunctions from occurring by immediately unplugging the appliance and discontinuing use until a professional electrician can inspect it, make repairs, and ultimately declare the appliance safe.
3. Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI). In new construction homes, GFCI receptacles are a requirement anywhere that electrical outlets and water will be in close proximity to one another. GFCIs detect current leakages (or ground faults) in electrical circuits – such as would occur when a powered device made contact with water. The GFCI then shuts off power to that receptacle almost instantaneously, preventing electrical shock, burns, and electrocution. If you live in an older home that didn't come standard with GFCIs, installing them in place of traditional outlets in your bathroom, kitchen, and garage is an easy way to prevent severe electrical injuries – and at very little cost.
4. Make sure you're using the right size circuit breakers and fuses. If fuses and circuit breakers aren't the right size and wattage rating to match the specifications of their circuits, they're going to fail right when you most need them to perform. Read packages carefully when shopping for replacements. If you're not sure which size to buy, have an electrician take a look at your panel box and label it with the circuit breaker or fuse size needed (for easy future reference). And as long as you're making a trip to the hardware store, stock up with a few extra – you'll be happy to have them on hand when the next need arises.
5. Protect kids with outlet covers. Outlet covers prevent babies and small children from sticking their fingers and other objects into unoccupied receptacles, protecting them against shock and electrocution. You can either use the plug-in type, or opt for special child safety wall plates, which feature built-in, retractable covers that automatically snap back into place when outlets aren't in use
6. Avoid cube taps and other outlet-stretching devices. Cubes taps – those little boxes that allow you to plug several appliances into a single outlet – may seem like a major convenience, but they can actually put you on the fast track to circuit overload, overheated wiring, and even fire. If you absolutely must use one, do the math before plugging in. Know the maximum power demand that the cube-tapped receptacle can handle, and be certain that the collective pull (power requirement) of the devices you're plugging into it doesn't exceed that rating.
7. Replace missing or broken wall plates. They're not just there for the looks – wall plates also protect your fingers from making contact with the electrical wiring behind them. Broken wall plates, or the absence of them altogether, can be especially dangerous in the dark – when trying to locate a switch by touch, you may end up being shocked or electrocuted if you miss the mark and end up hitting live wires instead.
8. Keep electrically powered yard-care tools dry. Whether it's raining, just finished raining, or you've recently run the sprinklers, never attempt yard work with electrically powered tools in wet conditions. Protect yourself from shock and electrocution by keeping your electric hedge trimmer, weed whacker, and lawnmower safely unplugged and stowed away until precipitation has stopped, grass and foliage is dry, and puddles can be easily avoided.
9. Match the light bulb's wattage rating to the lamp. Whenever choosing light bulbs to use with a lamp, be sure to consult that lamp's maximum wattage specifications (they're often printed right around the light bulb socket). Always opt for a light bulb with wattage that’s equal to or less than the maximum wattage listed on the lamp – too strong a bulb can lead to overloaded lamp wiring, as well as fire.
10. Be kind to you cords. Take care to treat power cords gently – never nail or tightly tack them down, and regularly check to make sure that they're not pinched between or underneath furniture. Excessive pressure on power cables can damage insulation (exposing the conductor), or compress the conducting wire, which can lead to overheating and put you at risk for an electrical fire.