Electrical Safety Guide

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Most people overlook the basic fact that electricity can kill. Hundreds of thousands of deaths occur every year due to electricity related incidents, most of which are due to negligence and not caring about electrical safety matters.

If you look at the statistics, many of these cases are of people who are not electrically savvy and think that doing small electrical repairs or work around the house or office is safe and will not end up in electrocution. The best way to avoid such mishaps is maintaining a level of electrical safety in and around your house, your work place and your community.

Queensland Australia Electrical Safety Act 2002: This act establishes a legislative framework to prevent mishaps due to electricity
Electrical safety for the workplace: A booklet by the government of South Australia that serves as a guide to achieving electrical safety at the workplace
Electrical safety explained by InterNACHI: An article on electrical safety on the official site of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors
Electrical Safety in Queensland, Australia: All you need to know about electrical safety in Queensland

Here are a few tips for electrical safety in and around your house:

General Measures

Maintenance
The first step towards a safe electrical environment is regular electrical maintenance. Taking care of your electrical wiring, switches and appliances is of utmost importance unless you want them to become potential killers.

Thousands of people get hurt every year only due to electrical equipment that is unsafe. Some indications that electrical maintenance is due include:

  • Wiring that is unsafe, faulty or exposed
  • Switches or sockets that are damaged or broken
  • Appliances that are damaged or broken
  • Extensions that are damaged

Wear Shoes
It is recommended that while using an electrical appliance or machinery one should wear shoes. It is a fact that in a third of all electric shock cases, the current passes to the earth via the person’s bare feet.

The best shoes to wear are those that have a rubber or plastic soles. Shoes that are torn, wet or don’t prevent the feet coming into contact with the ground will not serve the purpose.

Electricity and water
Electrical appliances and water do not go together. Any appliance that has been immersed in water should immediately be thrown away. Also be sure to unplug appliances that are used close to a wet surface or environment (hairdryers, shavers).

The most important precaution is to never touch anything electrical when your hands (or body) are wet.

Electrical Dangers: An interactive article for kids on electricity and how to use it safely
Awareness About Electrical Safety: An interesting presentation on how to ensure electrical safety around the workplace
Electrical Safety by Harvard University: A concise document about basic electrical safety for non-electricians
Electrical Safety Explained: Basic information on electrical safety by the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety
Electrical Safety Standards of the US department of Labor: A list of standards developed by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

Electrical Safety In and Around Your Home

Inside your house
The following precautions should be taken to ensure that your house is not prone to electrical hazards:

  • Appliances do not work properly if they are dirty. To avoid hazards at home keep appliances clean at all times and avoiding gathering of dust, food and dirt in/on them.
  • When you are not working with an appliance it is recommended that you unplug it. However, before unplugging an appliance, make sure the appliance and the switch are both off.
  • Appliances should also be kept away from extreme heat and cold.
  • Appliances should have enough space around them so as to prevent overheating.
  • Appliances with damaged cords should be replaced or their wiring should be fixed by a professional.
  • Extensions and power cords are generally used around the house. When using these, care should be taken to avoid placing heavy things on them or have them in the doorway so that the door is closed over them.
  • Another very important precaution when using extensions of power cords is to unwind them fully otherwise they become prone to heating.
  • Do not use extensions in wet areas unless they are made for such a environments
  • People generally overload power sockets. This should be avoided and wherever possible extra sockets should be installed.
  • Extension wires should be placed along walls and not over furniture where they can be pulled or tripped over.

Electrical safety at home: An article on the official site of Origin Energy Australia detailing safety measures for electrical safety at home
Switchboards, Fuses & Wiring
If you need to replace or repair a switch board, fuse or a frayed wire the best way is to get a professional to do it for you. However, if you want to do it yourself the following precautions should be taken:

  • Turn off the electricity from the mains and make sure it stays off or if you are re-wiring or fixing an appliance keep it unplugged.
  • Take all precautions considering that the electricity is on. For example, wear proper shoes and gear, don’t work on wet ground, use insulated tools, use a non-conductive ladders and other equipment.
  • Once you are done get your work inspected to ensure safety.

Outside You Home
To ensure the safety of your home and your family care needs to be taken with the electrical setup outside your house as well. The following tips should come in handy:

  • Make sure that when using ladders, boat masts, poles and other long items, they do not come in contact with overhead power lines.
  • Toys that fly (kites, planes, etc.) should also be kept clear of overhead power lines.
  • Do not trim trees near a power line. Always get the electricity distribution company to do it.
  • To keep trees from reaching power lines always plant trees that are power line friendly, i.e. trees that do not grow tall enough to reach power lines, or simply plant trees away from power lines.
  • Avoid using appliances near spas and swimming pools.

Electrical Safety Checklist: A checklist by the Consumer Product Safety Commission that guides you to properly maintaining electrical safety at home.
All you need to know about electrical safety: A comprehensive article by Energex that talks about all aspects of electrical safety.
Electrical Safety at Home: An article on the official site of Origin Energy Australia detailing safety measures for electrical safety at home
How Grounding Works: An article on About.com explaining what grounding is and how it can be achieved.

Protecting Stay Wires
These are wires that hold up power poles. If these wires get damaged, power poles can lean or even fall, resulting in major mishaps. To protect against stay wire mishaps:

  • Machinery should be kept away from them
  • Keep the area where the wire enters the ground safe by installing protection
  • Clearly attach markings to the wire to make the stay wire prominent

University of Western Australia: The electrical safety policy of the University of Western Australia
All about Energy Safety: All you need to know about Energy Safety, the regulator of technical and safety regulation of all the electrical industry in Western Australia.
ESFi: Official site of the Electrical Safety Foundation International
The National Electrical Safety Code (NESC): Details of the National Electrical Safety Code which has been developed by the IEEE
Electrical Regulatory Authorities Council (ERAC): The official site of the ERAC Australia

Electrical Safety in Extreme Weather

Extreme weather such as storms and heavy rain can wreak electrical havoc. For example, things can be thrown on to power lines or live power lines can fall on the ground. The following tips will help you stay safe during such weather:

  • Prepare beforehand for extreme weather by securing loose objects (outdoor furniture, tools, etc.) and trimming trees that hang close to your house.
  • Do not make calls using your landline during a lightning storm.
  • If you lose power, unplug all electrical devices. Rather unplug all non-essential devices during a storm to avoid damage by a power surge or a sudden power outage.
  • Keep a look out for fallen power lines and stay clear of them after the storm has ended.

Electrical Safety Council: a UK charity dedicated to reducing the risk of electrical accidents.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) explains Electrical safety: HSE is UK’s independent watchdog for work-related health, safety and illness. This section talks about different aspects of electrical safety at work.
Electrical Safety at University of Illinois: A document by the University of Illinois that details some basics of electrical safety.
Electrical Safety Policy: A policy document of the University of Florida detailing the University’s rules on basic electrical safety.
Electrical Safety Manual: A policy manual of Dukes University detailing the University’s rules on electrical safety so as to protect persons and property against the hazards arising from the use of electricity

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