What a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s the current – both the amount and the type – that does most of the damage. It only takes really small amounts of current, particularly if it’s alternating current (AC), to kill you.
Given that electricity is just about everywhere and we all use it every day it’s important to give electrical appliances and circuits the respect they deserve and if the following steps are taken you can avoid electrocution.
- Unless you’re a qualified electrician don’t mess about with electrical stuff. Don’t install your own power points or additional lights, don’t rewire your electrical appliances – leave it to those who have been trained in doing it properly and safely and who know what they’re doing.
- Use an earth leakage device. These have various names such as safety switch or residual current device but essentially they quickly and automatically switch the electricity off if they detect faults in electrical circuits and equipment. If one isn’t installed on the electrical supply you’re using, get a portable one that sits between the power outlet and the appliances you’re using.
- Check power cords attached to portable appliance such as power tools and kitchen appliances as well as extension cords making sure there are no cracks or splits in the insulation and that terminating connections are in good condition and are not loose or have exposed wires. On equipment used infrequently, do this before every use and, while it might appear obvious it is worthwhile reminding you to unplug the cord from the electrical supply before doing this. If you do detect faults get them repaired by a qualified electrician.
- Have electrical equipment regularly inspected and tested by a qualified person to make sure it remains safe to use. This is particularly the case with portable equipment that is moved about a lot (eg power tools).
- Again, it may seem obvious, but don’t use electrical appliances in wet locations or allow them to get wet unless they’re designed for this (eg washing machines and kettles) and if they do, have them checked before using them again.
- Use removable connection covers over joints between appliances and extension cords – these prevent the plug and socket from separating and if they do separate, prevent them from being exposed.
- Don’t overload power outlets or power boards by plugging in too many appliances.
- Be aware of the location of overhead and buried electrical supply cables and avoid them.
- Don’t run electrical extension cords across floors, roadways or on the ground. Suspend them above ground using properly designed stands and props.
- If you are an electrician, only work on live electrical equipment when fault finding. Electrical equipment should be totally isolated from power sources before starting any repairs.
You don’t get too many second chances with electricity and following these easy steps will allow you to continue using this valuable resource safely.