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Play it Safe with Electricity

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Electricity is a wonderful invention. It cooks food, heats coffee, lights your home and office, and powers your computer. Unfortunately, if you're careless with this useful tool, it will also take your life.

Plumbing problems can be annoying, but dealing with electricity requires proper respect. Electricity wants to take the quickest path back into the earth. Your body is a perfect conductor to help get it back to the ground, but not without damaging you in the process. Below are some tips to help keep you safe while enjoying the benefits of electric power.

Cord Safety

Treating your appliance cords with care and respect will help to keep you safe and your appliance working well.

  • Protect your appliances' electrical cords from heat, chemicals and water.
  • Never fold back the grounding prong of an electrical tool/appliance to make it 'work' in a two-pronged electrical plug. The third prong helps to ground the appliance, making it less apt to shock someone. Not applying that prong to the outlet increases the chance of electrical shock.
  • Never pull your appliance's cord to unplug it. You'll loosen and break wires inside, creating conditions for shocks and fire hazard.

Appliance Safety

You probably don't think of your handy coffee maker as a deadly weapon, but if you use it improperly, the electricity you use to run it could injure or kill you. Here are a few tips to consider when using appliances.

  • Never stick anything metal into a plugged-in appliance, such as using a knife to dislodge toast from the toaster.
  • Never use an appliance that seems to be working oddly, smells funny, or is sending off sparks or smoke. Unplug it and have it fixed or buy a new one.
  • Do not use appliances that are sitting in water, have cords hanging in water, or if you have wet hands.
  • If an appliance falls into water, do not stick your hands into the water to retrieve it.

Extension Cord Safety

Everyone uses an extension cord now and then to get power to an inaccessible location. When used properly, they're a life-saver. When used improperly, they can be a source of electrical shock.

  • Do not overload the extension cord with appliances or electrical items. Drawing too much electricity through the cord can cause a fire.
  • Do not damage the insulation around the wires of the extension cord. Avoid nailing, wiring or stapling it in place.
  • Keep the extension cord out of high-traffic areas, such as doorways and other used areas. Stepping on the cord can damage the insulation, not to mention the potential for injury when the cord is pulled and tripped over.
  • Never use a frayed extension cord, or one that has visible damage to the plug or insulation.
  • Unplug and put away the extension cord after use.

Outlet Safety

You can't use your appliances without an outlet, so you'll want to take extra precautions when plugging in to power up your day.

  • Never stick anything into an outlet except for an electrical plug with an undamaged cord.
  • Outlet plates should be firmly screwed into the walls. Never use an outlet without a faceplate, as shock can occur.
  • Never use a screwdriver to adjust the faceplate or plugs without turning off the current to that outlet.
  • Do not plug in too many things to one outlet, using additional outlet plugs or too many power strips. This creates an environment for shocks and fire hazard.

Repairs and Replacements

If you ever need to replace an outlet or a light fixture, and you want to do it yourself rather than hire an electrician, never begin work until you have:

  • Switched the circuit's breaker off at the breaker box, eliminating the flow of electricity to that outlet or fixture.
  • Tested the outlet or fixture with a voltage detector to be absolutely certain there is no electric current running where you're going to be working

Finally, if you really want to be able to handle your own basic repairs, take a lighting and wiring class such as those offered by most home improvement stores. You'll learn hands-on how to do simple electrical jobs safely.

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