10 Absolutely Easy Ways to Prevent Home Electrical Hazards
The convenience of electricity is so much part of our everyday life that it can be easy to forget that electrical hazards at home can pose a major threat to your safety. It’s very important to know how to avoid common home electrical hazards.
The main dangers of electricity at home – fire and electric shock – can be lethal in the absence of basic safety measures.
What Are Some Electrical Hazards?
Electrical issues are one of leading causes of house fires in Canada.
In British Columbia from 2004 to 2017, more than 2,600 electrical fires in homes killed or injured 150 people and caused over $150 million damage, according to the province’s Injury Research and Prevention Unit.
While there’s always a danger of sustaining burns in a fire sparked by incorrect household electrical safety, asphyxiation poses an even greater risk. Most deaths in house fires are caused by smoke inhalation.
Electric shock is the other major electrical hazard at home, and can result in:
Death through heart failure.
Understanding the inherent dangers of using electricity and recognising common electrical hazards at home will go a long way towards keeping your family and your property safe – so here are 10 simple ways to avoid electrical hazards in the home.
1. Keep Electrical Appliances Dry
Electricity and water can be a deadly combination resulting in electrocution. Keep electrical appliances well away from water and moisture.
If you happen to drop an electrical device into water when you’re using it, shut off the power supply at your home’s electrical panel before unplugging the appliance or trying to retrieve it. It’s also a good idea to get the device checked by an appliance technician to make sure it’s still safe to use once it’s dried out.
If you’re doing jobs outside the house, never use power tools in wet conditions.
2. Make Sure Your Electrical Outlets Are Safe
Electrical safety outlet covers reduce electrical hazards at home if you have young children.
These devices avoid the risk of electric shock by preventing kids from sticking their fingers or small objects like pins or paper clips into the outlets.
A better solution is to replace your outlets for Tamper Resistant Receptacles (TRR) which are now required by code.
Check outlets for loose plugs that could start a fire or cause shocks, and don’t overload outlets with multiple adaptors and plugs.
Never break off the third prong on a plug to plug it into a two-pronged socket. Replace two-pronged sockets with three-pronged sockets.
3. Fit the Right Bulbs in Light Fixtures and Lamps
When buying light bulbs for your main lighting fixtures or lamps, make sure you get the wattage right.
A bulb greater than the fixture or lamp’s maximum wattage can overload the wiring, posing the risk of overheating and outbreak of fire. For instance, if you have a lamp rated for a maximum of 60 watts, a 100-watt bulb will draw more power through the wires than it can safely handle.
Make sure bulbs fit securely to avoid overheating.
4. Safeguard Against Electrical Surges
Switching off electrical equipment like TVs and computers when not in use will safeguard against overheating or a power surge that could cause a fire as well as damage the electronics.
Consider using a surge protector while equipment is switched on – especially useful if you live in an area with an unstable power supply.
5. Be Careful with Electrical Cords
It can be dangerous to have electrical cords that:
Run under carpets or rugs.
Go across furniture.
Are in high-traffic areas.
Are nailed to a wall.
Inspect your electrical cords periodically to make sure they’re not frayed or otherwise damaged.
Extension cords should only be used as a temporary measure.
Get rid of all cords and plugs that are worn or frayed.
Don’t Yank Power Cords Out of Wall Sockets. Pull the plug, not the cord.
6. Make Sure You Have GCFI Protection
According to the Canadian Standards Association, casualties from electric shock have dropped because of increased use of GFCIs – ground fault circuit interrupters.
These devices shut off power immediately if they detect a mismatch between incoming and outgoing current. The Canadian Electrical Code insists that GFCIs are installed in wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms.
7. Don’t Ignore Persistent Circuit Breaker Trips
Circuit breakers trip when a short circuit or overload occurs. If this happens continually, it’s a clear sign that something’s amiss that could develop into a major safety issue.
Causes of persistent circuit breaker tripping include:
A faulty appliance.
Old or damaged wiring.
Deterioration of the circuit breakers themselves.
8. Leave Electrical Repairs to the Experts
Falling into the temptation of trying to save a few dollars by doing your own electrical work is a recipe for disaster.
The ever-present risk of electric shock makes it extremely unwise to attempt DIY electrical repairs or rewiring.
There can also be a hidden danger after an amateur electrical job – problems may be lurking in the wiring system that could spark a fire at any time.
DIY repairs or upgrades to a faulty appliance are also dangerous.
9. Be Alert to the Risks of Phoney Electrical Products
Counterfeit goods that don’t satisfy electrical safety requirements may be highly dangerous. Look for electrical products with an official certification mark such as CSA (Canadian Standards Association).
10. Get a Professional Electrical Safety Inspection
If you suspect a problem with your home’s wiring system, an electrical safety inspection and risk assessment is essential for your peace of mind, the wellbeing of your family, and the safety of your property.
If your home has aluminium wiring, an electrical safety evaluation is recommended at least every five years.