Electricity is a part of our everyday lives and most of the time electricity is extremely useful, allowing us to enjoy things such as television, radio, kitchen appliances, tools, and other household items that enhance our lives.
Sometimes, electricity is not our friend. As with most things, there is a downside and the potential for danger. This happens when we become exposed to electricity in ways we were not meant to. Avoiding hazardous electrical situations is easy if we are aware of the possibility of danger, follow simple safety rules, and take the time to learn about how electricity works.
How Electricity Works and Travels
The electricity in your home travels in a circuit from an electrical source called a power plant. Power lines outside your home deliver the electricity from the power plant to your home. The power lines are called electrical conductors.
An electrical current, whether from a power plant or even in the form of lightning, are always trying to reach the ground. Electricity will take shortcuts if they are available. Unfortunately, YOU can become the shortcut the electrical current takes to reach the ground if you make direct contact with it. This is why it is so important to stay away from all forms of electricity that may cause a problem.
Recognizing Potential Hazards
Electrical problems that remain undetected can ruin appliances and even start fires in the home. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that over 50 people die each year due to electrocution in the home. Just as many individuals suffer from electric shock caused by faulty outlets and household appliances. The CPSC publishes a fire safety checklist that every homeowner should use to detect potential hazards.
The best way to ensure that your home is properly wired and free from electrical hazards is to schedule regular inspections. A list of licensed electrical inspectors can be obtained from the International Association of Electrical Inspectors. There are also signs to watch for that should be reported immediately:
The Fire Protection Research Foundation has more information, statistics, as well as lists of questions to ask your landlord or real estate agent before purchasing or renting a home.
In order to protect small children from the risk of electric shock, it is best to purchase outlet covers. These covers fit inside the outlet itself and prevent a child from putting dangerous objects into the socket.
Always keep hair dryers and other bathroom appliances unplugged and put away when not in use. A child attempting to wash their hands could easily knock a blow dryer into the sink. This could result in serious shock or even death to a child. Children are never too young to learn to respect electricity. Living Safely with Electricity is a fun and educational teaching aid designed especially for children.
Working Safely with Electricity
If you need to work on anything that deals with electricity be sure to use precautionary measures:
- Unplug all appliances before working on them
- Turn off circuit breakers when working on wires or electrical outlets
- Never work on electricity while standing in or near water
- When splicing wires, match color to color and double check to be sure the power is off
Additional tips for working with electricity can be found at the USA News and the Safe Electricity website, which has printable information in English and Spanish.
Electrical Safety Outside of the Home
Be aware of possible hazards outside of the home as well. Look up and around for power lines before using long poles or ladders. Never attempt to trim trees near power lines. Leave that to the professionals.
When building a deck, installing a sprinkler system, or even planting a tree, always call the city to double check the location of underground utility lines. When electricity is involved, there is no such thing as being overly cautious.
After a storm, tornado, or hurricane, use extreme caution when driving. Never attempt to clear the road or sidewalk of downed electrical lines. Call a utility company or your city officials to notify them of downed power lines.
If an electrical injury occurs, it is important to act quickly. Turn off the main power to the house to prevent further injury. Call 911 to report the accident. If the patient is breathing, stay with the person until help arrives. Do not move the individual unless absolutely necessary. More emergency medical information regarding electrical injury is available at the government website, Medline Plus.