Most of us take electricity for granted, fully expecting that the outlets, wiring, extension cords, and power strips in our homes will operate safely and reliably. But electricity can be dangerous when improperly handled, so it’s important to understand how it works before starting a new DIY project. Accidental exposure to electricity can have serious consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most common injuries caused by contact with electrical energy are electric shock, burns, and falls. Stay safe at home and on the job by taking necessary precautions whenever you’re engaging in any of these potentially risky activities.
Using Electric Garden Tools
Electric hedge trimmers, chain saws, and other gardening equipment typically require the use of an extension cord—and that cord can pose a hazard if you accidentally slice through it with the cutting blade. The danger is even greater if you are working on trees or high hedges or standing on a ladder. If you’re handling one of these heavy-duty tools, be sure to use a properly rated extension cord of adequate length and set tools on manual rather than automatic setting to stay safe.
Replacing a Circuit Breaker
Circuit breakers are the workhorses of your home’s electrical system and typically don’t require maintenance. But age and use can catch up with these sturdy stalwarts, and you may need to replace them from time to time. Never attempt to perform this job when the main power to the house is turned on. Before you make any repairs, be sure power to the system is completely off and disconnected—and if you’re not sure how to do the job, hire a reputable electrician to minimize your risk of injury.
Operating Kitchen Appliances
The kitchen appliances we use on a daily basis—the toaster, blender, mixer, slow cooker—can be hazardous if exposed to water. It is best to locate these appliances as far away from the kitchen sink as possible. It’s also important to note that kitchens should always be wired with ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets to prevent accidental electric shocks.
Working with Power Tools
Circular saws, drills, power sanders, and other electrically powered tools can deliver nasty shocks or burns. Protect yourself by practicing proper electrical safety: Periodically inspect the cords and plugs on all power tools or extension cords and avoid using any tool if the cord shows signs of fraying, nicks, cuts, cracks, or burns.
Confronting Downed Power Lines
A downed power line can be deadly. If you see a downed line, call 911 and report it immediately. Stay far away from the area, because the ground around a power line can conduct current. Be especially on guard if a downed power line is sitting in a puddle or water source. Water conducts electricity much more effectively than solid ground does, which makes that line even more dangerous.