Electricity is an integral part of our lives, which many of us today could not imagine living without.
Powering our appliances and providing our lighting, heating and cooling, electricity is so entrenched in our daily lives that it’s easy to forget that if used incorrectly, it has the potential to injure or kill. This page provides a range of electrical safety tips for both inside and outside the home and looks at ways you can make your home or office a safer place around electricity.
Our homes depend on electricity to provide us with light, food, heating, cooling and entertainment. Many electrical accidents occur in the home and the following are the main areas of concern.
We love our appliances and our homes are filled with them, from toasters and heaters to televisions and microwaves, but there are certain precautions relating to appliances that need to be observed to avoid the risk of electrocution.
- Inspect appliances regularly for faulty or damaged plugs, switches and cords and replace them or have them repaired immediately.
- If you do throw them away, make sure they can’t be used by anyone else.
- Switch off and unplug appliances before cleaning them.
- Never poke anything into an appliance such as a toaster.
- Never touch an appliance with wet hands.
- Turn off appliances like air conditioners, heaters and ovens if leaving your home.
- Make sure appliances like televisions and computer monitors that generate heat have several inches of clearance all around for good air circulation.
- Never fold an electric blanket up to store it, as the wires may bend or break.
Cords are how we connect our appliances to the power supply and these too need to be treated with care. Safety tips for electrical cords include the following:
- Extension cords should only be used as a temporary solution and should be placed around walls to prevent tripping, and never under rugs or carpet.
- Always remove a cord from the wall at the plug, as pulling on the cord itself is unsafe.
- Only use extension cords outside that are rated for outdoor use and make sure the connections are protected from the weather.
- Fully unwind cords before use to prevent overheating.
POWER BOARDS AND ADAPTERS
We use so many appliances in our daily lives that a single power outlet is often not enough, but caution should be used when employing double adaptors or power boards.
- Never piggy-back a double adapter as it can cause an electrical fire.
- Don’t overload a power board with too many appliances and make sure it has the correct amperage to support the appliances being plugged into it.
- Always use power boards with in-built safety devices such as overload switches.
- Check power boards regularly for signs of scorching or discolouration and replace immediately if discovered.
- Ensure power boards have adequate ventilation to prevent overheating.
- Always turn power boards off at the wall outlet if not in use for any length of time.
Lights may seem benign, but they are also capable of causing electrocution. The following tips should be observed when handling lights of any kind:
- Always turn the light switch off before replacing a light bulb.
- Never replace a light bulb or touch a light switch with wet hands.
- Always use a light bulb with the correct wattage to prevent overheating.
- If painting a ceiling, do not remove the plate around the light, but mask it instead.
- If tiling around light fittings or switches, have the plates removed by a licensed electrician.
Water and electricity do not mix and special precautions should be observed in wet areas. These include the following:
- Wear rubber-soled footwear when working in wet areas like the laundry.
- Keep stereos well away from swimming pools and spas to prevent splashing.
- Never use portable electric heaters in a bathroom.
- In the bathroom, always unplug and safely store hair dryers and electric shavers when not in use.
- Do not use extension cords in wet areas unless specifically designed for such use.
Electricity can be a threat outside the home as well as indoors and care should be taken here as well. The main areas of concern include:
Overhead power lines carry immense voltages, so particular care needs to be taken around them. Safety tips around power lines include the following:
- Before raising a ladder, putting up a boat mast or installing an antenna, look up and ensure there are no overhead power lines in the vicinity.
- Have trees professionally trimmed near power lines and preferably plant low-growing vegetation in such locations.
- Make sure your children know not to fly kites or climb trees near overhead power lines.
- If you are on your roof for any reason, stay away from the power lines connecting your home to the grid.
An even greater threat than overhead power lines are wires that you can’t see at all. The following tips should be observed in these circumstances:
- Call 1100 before digging any kind of hole or trench in your backyard, as there may be underground power cables.
- Before drilling into walls, find out where the electrical wires are, particularly around power points and light switches.
As with most dangers, the best form of protection is prevention and you can drastically reduce the risk of electrical accidents by observing these few simple rules:
- Never attempt DIY electrical work. It is illegal and can lead to electrocution or fires. Always use a licensed electrician.
- Replace old ceramic wire-type fuses with switch-type circuit breakers.
- Test safety switches every three months to ensure they are in good working order.
- Have safety switches or RCDs (Residual Current Devices) installed. In an emergency, they will cut power flow in one thousandth of a second, preventing electrocution.
- Have a licensed electrician do an electrical safety audit of your home or business to identify possible dangers.
While electricity does have the potential to kill, there is no reason why we can’t live safely around it. As long as we exercise common sense and teach our kids to do the same, electricity can continue to be a powerful ally in every aspect of our lives.
If you have electrical work that you need carried out, contact Power Integration today