Electrical Safety At Home, Work And School
Learning about electrical safety at home, work and school happens as an ongoing exercise. Solar power provides convenient clean residential energy in the form of DC to your bank of batteries and to your inverter to get AC. Both DC and AC forms of power are forms of electricity that have potential to harm or kill following an accidental exposure or contact.
At the end of this article I have outlined some of the added risks that are present when working on solar panel systems.
You will be hard pressed to find a home today in the US that is not connected to take advantage of electricity and therefore has none or uses no electrical appliances. The operation of appliances makes life much easier. Using electrical appliances can save us time and effort. We can take our electrical gadgets for granted and so often it is easy to overlook the fact that we need to be careful about their potential to inflict harm. Every member of the household using electricity should be aware of the basic safety principles and tips for electrical safety at home.
Follow the same electrical safety tips outlined below when you use electrical appliances, extension cords, light bulbs and any electrical equipment. These guidelines apply to electrical safety at home regardless of the origin of your electricity being from solar panels, wind turbine, a bank of batteries, a fuel powered generator or the utility’s power grid. Following the rules below can ensure electrical safety in the workplace since the basic safety principles remain the same regardless of the place of using the power.
Teachers and staff at schools observing these precautions by following the electrical safety tips at school will prevent the convenience derived from electrical appliances becoming a dangerous hazard.
Electrical Safety Tips for Appliances
Most households today operate a maze of appliances, each one for a specialist activity, and most of these appliances use AC electrical. Your day starts with breakfast, so maybe using an electric toaster, oven or microwave is part of the routine. At some time during each week your household activities will probably include using appliances like the dishwasher, clothes washer, vacuum cleaner or hair dryer. These electrical gizmos, gadgets or appliances are intended to make your life simple and easy.
While enjoying the convenience of these appliances we might forget the fact that it is AC electricity we use when operating each one of these tools. Using electricity requires us to be vigilent to the risks and follow electrical safety procedures. Observing these tips below, and keeping the appliance scrutinised, can eliminate the risk from a potential fault or hazard having an adverse impact. Let’s have a look at some of these electrical safety at home tips for your appliances.
- Ensure that the appliance you purchased or use was approved by a reputable consumer testing laboratory.
- Read and follow the safety instructions that come with the appliance.
- Unplug those appliances when they are not in use. Store appliances away carefully with their cords carefully bundled to reduce kinks and ensure they are out of reach of both children and pets.
- Place heat generating appliances, like televisions and computer monitors, at a safe distance from the wall so that air may circulate around them for their cooling.
- Never drape any material (flammable or otherwise) over operating appliances. Keep combustible items like clothes, toys, curtains, toys away from heaters, radiators, and operating appliances.
- Never place electrical appliances close to water sources such as bathtubs, sinks, or pools and be aware of putting them under vents from which an occasional moisture drip might damage a running appliance or cause the electrical short circuit.
- Never use any electrical appliance with wet hands or clothes, while you are standing in or over water, and avoid working near a sprinkler or in an area where there is rain.
10 Electrical Safety Tips at Home
Most household and commercial electrical appliances comes with a cord that may be attached to the appliance or in some applications it can be detachable. There will be occasions where the cord is too short, so you may also need an to add length with an extension cord to reach the electrical outlets. Note that using an extension cord involves some added risk because the longer lead length creates a potential trip hazard and the plug connection is a point that might catch on furniture or come loose.
We need to keep some home electrical safety tips in mind for these cords as well.
- Regularly inspect the electrical cords for cracks, frays or kinks, both in the cords of appliances and any extension cords.
- You might have one of the strings of coloured lights that people hang up to decorate houses or trees at Christmas. You need to check the whole length of the string before you put them up or turn them on.
- Don’t use the cords of appliances like ropes to tie them up onto walls or onto similar things as this may break the wires inside their plastic casing, which will not be visible from outside.
- When fixing an appliance at its designated place, do not staple or nail through the cords to hold them in place. Use electrical twist ties or approved electrical fixing brackets that are specifically designed for this purpose.
- The electrical outlets into which you plug the cord should hold the plug firmly.
- Do not pull or flick an extension cord to pull out the plug as a loose cord might result and that may cause sparking. Never unplug an appliance by pulling at the cord. Instead, after switching the appliance and the power outlet to off, gently grip the plug and pull it from the outlet.
- Do not place any electrical cords beneath carpets or rugs because the bump (however small) can create a tripping hazard. Also, any frayed wire in the cord will not be visible to inspect so a spark from a frayed lead might start a fire. This is an important point for electrical safety in the workplace where areas are carpeted and workers either tape electrical cords to floors or put them under rugs.
- Do not tightly roll the appliance cords as this may increase the temperature in the wire and a rolled cable is difficult to cool.
- Never make ad hoc modifications to the plug of the cord to make it fit into a power socket. Do not consider clipping off the third prong or filing off part of a wider prong for higher amperage plugs to make it fit into a smaller amperage outlet.
- Keep in mind the positioning of the electrical outlets in the house or workplace when placing your appliances so extension cords are not needed. You should use indoor grade cords for your appliances.
Electrical Safety Tips for Electrical Outlets
When plugging appliance cords into electrical outlets check that the electrical outlet supports the design and wattage of the appliance. Here are some electrical safety at home tips for power outlets:
- Never insert non-electrical objects (things like pens, pencils, keys or any such) into an electrical outlet. You might observe this happening when the third earth pin of a plug is needed to put a plug into a earth protected power outlet. Fit the correct plug or find a safe close fitting plug adapter.
- If you have some power outlets at home that are rarely used or not being used, make them safe to children by using a cover plate or place childproof caps over them.
- If the power outlet is loose or broken, or the wiring is exposed to view, replace the outlet. The wiring inside the electrical outlet must remain be covered at all times.
- Never plug multiple cords and adaptors into a single electrical outlet as it may overload the outlet.
- Install a residual current device (RCD) which is a ground fault circuit interrupter to each circuit, particularly covering areas of the home that pose the greater electrical risk. Those room like the kitchen, bathrooms and poolside cabana, where water and electricity are close together, present a hazard but also remember that crawl spaces and unlined rooms like garages and unfinished basements also pose a threat if the wires are not in protective conduits.
Electric Safety Tips for Light Bulbs
Most rooms are illuminated by a humble light bulb. Light bulbs have a place in your household for providing light but they can also become a potential electrical hazard. These electrical safety at home tips are advised:
- Always use bulbs that match the wattage requirements of the fixture in which they are being used. Using a bulb of higher wattage leads to overheating of the fixture.
- You can get the same luminosity or intensity of light using a lower wattage compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb without the heating effect of running an incandescent light bulb. Switching to the CFL bulb is a good way of saving you electricity and money.
- Always unplug the light fitting or turn off the light fixture before you commence changing any light bulb. The replacement bulb should be inserted tightly (screwed in or the bayonets fully rotated in their slots) so that it does not fall out or cause sparking from being loosely inserted.
- If a CFL bulb is damaged and breaks open the windows of the room and you should clear the room of people and pets. The Nebraska Recycling Council recommends that you should keep people out of the room for at least fifteen minutes after the windows had been opened.
Electrical Safety Tips for Kids
Electrical safety at home includes being aware of electrical safety outdoors. Educate your kids to recognise electrical hazards that can be a threat. It may save your kids or their friends from electrocution when they were simply playing outdoors. You could explain to your children about the risks and dangers of electric power lines and discourage them from ever climbing power poles.
- Kids like to climb trees. A power line that passes through or very near a tree it might look to a child like a hand hold but one that could be fatal should you let that happen. Arrange to prune those trees that grow under and around power lines or completely remove them; especially those trees near to where the power lines approach the house.
- Tell children to fly kites, model aircraft or balloons in clear areas of an open parkland, away from power lines. If a kite gets caught in power lines have them leave the kite and advise adults who can alert the power company.
- Discourage your children from swimming or playing in water during an electrical storm.
- Store kitchen appliances out of the sight and reach of children. Kids might accidentally hurt themselves trying to operate live appliances.
- Working computers, projectors and television sets are connected through live electrical wires and playing with the wires poses a risk of electrical shock. Parents and teachers need to educate their children about the danger of playing with electrical wires.
Summary Of Ten Electrical Safety At Home Tips
- Repair or replace any electrical appliance, light fitting, switch or electrical tools that are flickering or becoming hot and remove from use anything that starts to give minor electric tingles and shocks.
- Do not modify, break off or reduce the earth prong of a plug of any appliance to make it fit the wall socket.
- Never overload a power outlet and switch by plugging in multiple adapters.
- Avoid using very long or multiple extension cords to provide power to a place not equipped with electricity.
- Know the position of fuse boxes, residual current devices and circuit breakers in your house and have some basic operational knowledge about reset them safely.
- If you have a blown fuse, before you look to fix the fuse, turn off and isolate all the appliances or lights that are connected to the circuit being protected by the fuse before you change the fuse. Do not start fiddling with switches and wires in the fuse box in dark conditions or with a candlelight. Have someone hold a flashlight to light the area when you replace a fuse or reset breakers at night time.
- In case of an electrical fire use a dry powder or CO2 fire extinguisher, DO NOT use water to douse the fire.
- If you need a faulty piece of equipment fixed, have a qualified electrician with appropriate certification and experience do the repair or rewiring of any electrical home appliances. For an amateur DIY handyman, it will be safer for your family and yourself to replace the gadget rather than suffer unintended consequences of doing repairs yourself. The fault might damage the appliance but an improper repair may make the appliance lethal for another when used later.
- If you ever come across a power line that is down, assume that it is live and immediately contact the electrical authorities in your area to alert them of your location. Do not try to ascertain if the line on the ground is live or not live.
- Call your emergency services operator immediately when you find an electrical hazard, injury or fire.
Working With Solar Electric Systems
Electricians are generally familiar with electricity coming from a single source; that being the utility side of the meter. Solar electric systems provide a second source of electricity from the solar electric system.
A solar electric system has the capacity to produce power even when the main circuit breaker is switched off. Electricians need to isolate the ‘load’ from the power source before they proceed to work on a solar electric system. With a solar PV system you work on the power source itself (the PV panels and associated wiring), which is fundamentally different than working on an isolated mains power system. Even in low light a voltage potential be developed that can lead to an electric shock that could cause an injury.
To stop a solar array producing power cover the panels with an opaque cover that blocks sunlight to the solar panel. Removing the source of sunlight will prevent a solar panel from generating electricity. Even when caution is exercised with the panels, the PV inverters’ capacitors could retain a charge for a long time after the power source is removed. Always read the safety information and use an electrical multimeter to check the electrical potential of the equipment you are working on.
Treat the solar PV array with the same caution as you wold treat the utility power line as a PV array can generate up to 600 Volts DC potential.
There is potential for an electric arc-flash hazard if you are adding or removing a solar PV panel. NEVER disconnect PV wiring while under load! The energy from an arc-flash can cause burns. Always open the DC Disconnect Switch before any work is started on a solar PV system. Before working on the PV array use a current clamp to check for electrical energy.
Solar Electrical Safety At Home
There are added and different risks of injuries arising from solar electric systems. The electrical injuries are the same as for every electrical source. They are:
- Death due to the electrical shock
Electrical Shock Resulting In:
- Electrical burns
- Convulsions and heart stoppage
- Injuries related to falling after the shock
- Numbness, tingling or paralysis of parts of the body
- Ongoing problems with vision, hearing or speech
Working With Solar Batteries
Working with electrical systems having a solar electric battery back-up can be a very dangerous part of solar system installation and maintenance activity. Energised batteries can be lethal! As part of electrical safety at home, make sure you understand the dangers and safety codes relevant to working with batteries and battery systems.
You can refer to the battery manufacturer’s guidelines for proper handling, installation, and disposal of batteries. The typical solar back-up uses lead acid batteries which contain harmful chemicals. Lead is can cause reproductive harm and acid will produce severe burns if it contacts your body.
Exercise care to prevent arcing at battery terminals by opening the main DC disconnect switch between the batteries and the inverter before doing any work on the battery bank.
Remove your personal jewelry that could make contact and conduct electricity to your body. Using insulated tools, wearing personal protective equipment and wearing eye protection when working on batteries is a recommended good practice. Expired lead batteries are considered hazardous to health and the environment so dispose of them to a recycling center.
How To Provide Aid After An Electrical Shock
Every electrical shock needs immediate emergency medical attention – regardless of the size of the shock and whether the person says they are feeling fine. When you find a person in contact with live electricity you need to act quickly. Find out the contact for the emergency services and put in somewhere that you can find it quickly. Call the emergency service number if you find a person who has made contact with electricity.
Here is an outline of what you can do before, during and after making the call:
Separate The Person From The Source Of Electricity
- Shut off power at the main switch, fuse box, or circuit breaker.
- Unplug the appliance if the plug is not damaged.
- If you are not positioned to turn the power off, try to separate the person from electricity source.
- Stand on something dry and non-conductive, such as papers or wood to reduce the risk of you becoming shocked.
- Use a non-conductive object like a wooden broom to push or move the electrical contact away from the injured person.
- Do not continue to separate the person from current if you start to feel a tingling sensation in your legs and lower body.
4. If the situation involves high voltage lines on the ground or across a vehicle contact the local power company to shut the power off.
- If there is a power line across a car, tell the vehicle passengers to remain inside. If however the vehicle is on fire, have them jump away clear from the vehicle without touching it and hop on one foot to a safe distance.
If The Person Is Unconscious, Start Doing CPR (First Aid DRSABCD)
- When there is no risk to you (check for Danger), check the person for a Response and Send for emergency responder. Check the Airway and that is Breathing and has a pulse. If not breathing or no pulse is found, start CPR. If there is a Defibulator connecting it may assist with CPR compression timing.
- Continue CPR until the person has a pulse and is breathing, or until the emergency paramedical service arrive and take control.
Check The Person For Other Injuries
- Check the person for signs of bleeding, apply pressure and raise the injured part to reduce blood loss.
- Check the person for signs of a fracture. The electrical shock may have caused the person to fall.
- Check the person for signs of burns, cool the burn and make the person comfortable until the paramedical team arrive and treat them.
Wait For Emergency Services Specialists To Arrive
- Keep the person comfortable and reassure that medical help is on the way.
- Hand over the injured person to a doctor or paramedic with a basic situational report and then let the doctor check the person for injuries.
- The person may be admitted to the hospital or a burn center. Provide your contact details for helping with any follow up reports.
Final Electrical Safety At Home Tips
Some countries have frequent periods of electricity outages and need to use standby sources of power such as solar generators, gas generators and batteries. Fortunately, in many places, the electricity utility’s power generation is so efficient and well run that people take for granted that their power will be available. Electrical lighting and power to run appliances in your house will provide convenience, save time and make life’s home chores easier. The convenience of electricity can also become a dangerous hazard if the wires, switches, electrical leads and appliances are not maintained in good condition.
This article has run through some safety tips relating to electrical safety at home to reduce risk factors and make electrical mishaps less likely. Apply the tips in this article to your home and workplace; teach your children to recognise a tingle from an appliance or to check the electrical lead they use and let you know when things are not right. Help kids to understand that if they see frayed leads, or recognise electrical dangers then they need to share the information so everyone stays safe from harm.
A good electrical awareness can start at home with respecting the electrical plugs and leads, switching off appliances after using them, along with keeping water and electricity separated. If you have not done a first aid course then consider doing the training and knowing what to do if someone gets an electrical shock. That knowledge could save them when they most need your help. If you have an electrical panel with RCD or breakers, know how to reset them. Have a torch available for the reset which can happen at night.
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