Electrical Safety in the Home

How to keep yourself safe in your home - Understanding the dangers of electricity

Ever since Benjamin Franklin invented the lightening rod in 1752, electricity became a prime commodity that the world cannot live without. Electricity has become the driving force in every modern technology and gadget that we are enjoying today. However useful electricity is, there is still quite a large incidence of electricity-related accidents all over the world. Every year, electrical accidents account for thousands of people who sustain shock injury, burns at varying degrees and worst of all, death due to electrical failures. A 7.5 watt Christmas bulb has the capacity to kill if the direct current passes through the chest of the victim.

Why is Electricity Dangerous?

Overhead power lines that carry about 500,000 volts are not insulated. Substations and transformers have "live" parts that are dangerous. Underground wires are well-insulated but any sharp object or a shovel can damage them thus creating power shock. Electricity always finds the shortest route to the ground. It will seek any good conductor that it can pass through to get to the ground. As your body is about 70% water, it is a good conductor of electricity. If you touch a live wire while your feet are touching the ground, electricity will pass through you to the ground causing an electric shock that can be harmful or even fatal.

Electric current can produce extensive burns in your body. The lung and heart muscles can also be affected by electric shock. Direct current (DC) can make muscles involuntarily contract while alternating current (AC) can cause the heart to fibrillate.

Power lines are not the only ones that can harm you if you make contact to them. Household electrical appliances and cords also have the potential to harm you if you don't know how to take precautions. In the temperate zone, December is the most dangerous month in terms of electrical fires. This is so because there are more indoor activities during this month that cause a rise in lighting, heating and appliance usage.

Electrical Safety Tips

A number of electricity-related accidents can be avoided by observing simple safety tips in the house. It is important to educate the children (and adults) about observing and practicing electrical safety measures.

Electrical Outlets and Cords

Check outlets for loose fitting plugs that can overheat and cause fire. If wall plates are missing or broken be sure to replace them. If there are children in the house cover all wall outlets as safety precaution and tell your children about not to play around the sockets. If possible cover wall outlets or sockets with furniture.

See to it that cords are in good condition and not frayed or worn. Cords should not be nailed on walls nor placed under heavy carpeting or put any furniture on them. If you are using extension cords, make sure that they are not overloaded. Extension cords are to be used on a temporary basis only. When unplugging cords remember to pull the cord from the outlet and not pull the cord itself.

Electrical Appliances

All unused appliances must be unplugged and their cords out of reach from young children, pets or unsafe situations. Make sure that appliances that generate heat have some clearance all around for cooling and air circulation. When using appliances follow instructions and do not do repairs that you are not qualified to do. It is best to keep electrical appliances from areas with water such as sinks, lavatories, pools, tubs or any overhead vents that might drip. Remember not to operate electrical appliances with wet hands or while standing in water. If you have radiators, heating vents or space heaters keep away articles of clothing, toys, curtains or any combustible materials.

Electric Light Bulbs

Always use the right wattage of bulb for any fixture because a higher wattage can cause overheating. There are varied types of compact and more efficient fluorescent bulbs out in the market that provides the same level of lumens but at a lower wattage. A loose bulb can cause sparks or short circuit so make sure you tightly screw bulbs in their receptacles. Many electrical shocks have been made because of failure to turn off the circuit when replacing bulbs so make sure you do turn off the fixture when replacing any light bulb.

Outdoor Electrical Safety

It has been observed that some people mistakenly use electric lawn mowers or tools when in the rain or in wet grass. Stop! You'll only hurt yourself. While you're at it, check for frayed or cracked cords. If need be, replace the cords. If there are parts of a tree that is near power lines, make sure you trim the tree. If you cannot do it, call the local fireman and ask for help in pruning the tree. Stay away from power lines too when flying kites or model airplanes. If there is an electrical storm (lightning) do not swim or play near water. If you see a downed power line, do not touch it even if it's not "live". Call the proper authorities.

Avoid an Electric Shock

How many times have you been told, as a young kid, not to insert anything inside a wall outlet? Here are some more ways to avoid getting electric shock.

  • Don't climb utility poles or play near substations
  • Don't put your finger inside a light socket.
  • Disconnect appliances when you want to clean them
  • Don't touch over head wires when carrying a ladder or any long object
  • Don't as in DO NOT touch anyone or anything that is touching a downed wire.

Remember that electricity is useful to us but remember too that it has the potential and the ability to harm us in many ways too. Be safe by observing safety measures.

"Good guide for the consumer. If in doubt call someone who is qualified and Part P registered"

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