Electrical Safety in the Home
40% of house fires can be attributed to faulty electrical wiring in the home. Worse, people get injured and die from electrocution. Around 15 people are killed and 300 hospitalised in Australia every year. Make no mistake, electricity is dangerous. Electrical safety in the home really is something you should know about.
The first thing you should do to protect your family is ensure that your switchboard has safety switches. There are 3 sorts of cutout devices found in switchboards – safety switches, circuit breakers and fuses. If you have fuses, your switchboard is out of date and, from a safety perspective, urgently needs to be updated. At the very least you should have the switches called circuit breakers. A circuit breaker cuts the power when a problem such as an overload is detected. They are designed to prevent fire.
On the other hand, safety switches are designed to prevent electrocution. They cut the power in a fraction of a second as soon as the electricity starts to flow outside of the circuit, which means it stops instantly when it begins to flow through you. Installing safety switches is the first and best thing you can do to improve electrical safety at home.
One of the main causes of electrical accidents in the home is DIY work. Government sites explicitly say that you should “not carry out any electrical maintenance other than changing a light globe”. Wiring switches, installing ceiling fans and putting in powerpoints is strictly work for a licensed electrician.
Not only does doing electrical work yourself put people at risk of injury or death, it can spark electrical fires and burn your home down. And it can void your insurance policy. So, there are compelling reasons to get a licensed electrician to complete any domestic electrical work.
One of the things to be careful about is extension cords. You should use an outdoor rated extension cord if you are working outside. The extension cord needs to be fully unwound with no kinks. It’s also not a good idea to run extension cords under rugs or across areas where there is foot traffic. That’s not simply because it’s a trip hazard, but because the extension cord gets damaged by being trodden on.
Extension cords get knocked around, so before you use one, have a look to see what sort of state it’s in. Any exposed wiring near the plug is a potential hazard and you should discard a cord in that state.
Home Electrical Safety Tips
Because it’s such a part of everyday life, it’s easy to be blasé about electricity around the house. But the following tips are worth sticking to:
- Always pull the plug, not the cord
- Switch off and unplug electrical appliances before you clean them
- Turn off any switches that aren’t being used
- Use child safety plugs in unused sockets when toddlers are about
- When replacing light bulbs, turn off the switch
- Don’t “piggyback” adaptors
- Don’t overload powerboards with electrical appliances
- Never leave heaters and dryers running when you’re not there
- Don’t turn things on when you’ve got wet hands
Check Your Plugs
With electrical appliances, you should check for frayed cords where the cord meets the plug. But have you ever wondered why the pins of your electrical appliance’s plug have plastic sheaths at the top of the pins? It’s a safety feature. People have been electrocuted when thin metallic items such as the slat from a venetian blind slides behind a plug that isn’t tight in the socket. So it’s a good idea to have what are called insulated plugs.
Because the consequences can be so dire, anything that adds to your electrical safety has to be a good thing.