Most electrical safety hazards can be prevented with common sense and plain, old good wiring.
For most people, preventing an electrical accident means not plugging too many things into one feeble extension cord (which they do anyway) or not using a hair dryer while taking a bath (hopefully they don’t do this). And while these are valid and important precautions, there are many other potential electrical safety hazards in any home. Taking a look at some of the most common causes of electrical accidents can help you appreciate the considerable power (and danger) of electricity and how to use it safely.
Cords and Plugs
According to the National Fire Protection Association (www.nfpa.org), electrical cords and plugs are responsible for the most civilian deaths related to electrical accidents each year. Yet these are among the easiest hazards to avoid: Never use a cord or plug with evidence of burning, melting or any other visible damage. If the insulation is damaged or missing, or the cord has come loose from the plug, replace the whole thing; never use a cord repaired with electrical tape.
Extension cords (including power strips and surge protectors) are the biggest offenders in the cord category. Don’t use extension cords for permanent hookups, conceal them in any way (especially under carpeting) or expose them to water or possible damage. Always use the right cord for the job, such as 3-prong grounded cords for all appliances and tools that require grounding. Also make sure the cord’s capacity well exceeds the demand of what’s plugged into it; heavier-gauge cords can handle more current than lighter-gauge cords. Avoid using 3-prong adapters to plug grounded cords into 2-prong outlets (while theoretically possible, the chances of a true ground existing here are extremely slight).
Fixtures and Appliances
Misuse of lamps and light fixtures is another top cause of electrical accidents. As harmless as it seems, using a 100-watt bulb in a 60-watt fixture (for example), can melt the fixture wires, creating a shock and fire hazard. The same danger exists when plugging a cord into an adapter outlet that screws into a light bulb socket. As for appliances, don’t use any device that sparks, smokes, buzzes, emits a burning smell or shows any cord damage. Unplug appliances before cleaning them. Never operate an appliance or equipment while standing in water.
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