Warning! Are These Common Electrical Hazards Present in Your Home?
It’s easy to approach home life with a relaxed, carefree attitude. But despite our best efforts, electrical hazards remain present, requiring a keen eye and some common sense to keep loved ones safe from the threat of fire and electrocution.
So, where do you start? There’s quite a lot to consider, from the age of your home to how you access power and the appliances in use. It’s reported that electrical hazards and faulty appliances cause almost 40 per cent of all house fires in NSW, making safety around these potential hazards crucial and even time sensitive.
We’re taking a closer look at 8 of the most common yet dangerous electrical hazards found around the home. This way, you can implement the necessary precautions to keep the family and yourself safe to retain that free and easy approach to home life.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Wet Hair and Hands
Are you or a loved one guilty of climbing straight out of the shower and immediately reaching for the hairdryer? That’s a hazard right there.
Wet hands, wet hair and a wet body act as suitable conductors for electricity. There’s potential for an electric shock if handling electrical appliances, switches, power boards and extension cables while wet or damp. So, don’t do it! Dry off thoroughly before touching anything connected to electricity.
The same risks carry over to appliances and switches exposed to water, whether from rain, splashes or spills. Water also speeds up the oxidation process in metals, which causes appliance components to heat and risk catching fire.
Perform regular checks on appliances and if they appear damaged, are hot to touch or trip the power, switch off the electricity and remove them from use permanently or until an electrician can investigate.
2. Old Electrical Wiring
Older homes are notorious for damage without frequent repair work, and nothing is more hazardous than faults caused by ageing electrical wires. Older houses may feature wiring with poor or worn insulation and improper grounding systems. Damaged insulation on wiring and outdated grounding can result in electrical shock if touched or can start a fire if exposed to flammable materials.
Electrical wiring has come a long way with modern systems designed around health and safety. Still, wiring doesn’t last forever. There’s no easy way for the average homeowner to identify concealed damaged wiring. Energy Safety Victoria states houses built more than 30 years ago should have the wiring checked, and anything before 1980 should have a licensed electrical inspector take a close look before you drop dollars on a deposit.
3. Curious Kids
Any parent will tell you that there’s no one more inquisitive than toddlers. And the placement of power points puts young children at risk of electric shock and burns. Whether it’s flipping the switch repeatedly or attempting to insert items into the sockets, electrical outlets are one biggest electrical hazards within the home.
Finding protective covering for exposed power points is essential until the children are old enough to be taught otherwise. There are simple plastic covers available for purchase from most hardware stores capable of stopping any curious child from accidentally hurting themselves.
4. Overloading Power Boards
Power boards are a great way to expand the electrical network but are also an easy way to start a fire. Every power point is rated to a maximum amperage, but it can draw additional electrical current through the outlet. As a result, power boards are the easiest way to cause overloaded circuits.
Plugging in too many appliances or using just a few that draw high amps can overload a circuit, which is more common in older homes. So, just because a power board has eight outlets doesn’t mean it can run 8 appliances at the same time.
Your switchboard should be fitted with a circuit breaker to shut off power to an overloaded circuit. But the board still has the potential to heat up and catch fire, especially if it’s a cheaper power board from a less reliable brand.
If you require additional access to power, have a qualified electrician install power points and upgrade your switchboard accordingly.
5. ‘Daisy Chaining’ Extension Cords
“Daisy chaining” refers to a scenario where one may increase their reach by connecting multiple extension cords. Despite the practical benefits of doing so, daisy chaining is not recommended.
Once you connect multiple extension cords in series, the electrical resistance increases. This can result in a cord or cords heating up, potentially damaging the insulation and resulting in fire.
The more extension cords connected, the less voltage reaches the appliances at the end, and this can cause a fault, tripping the breaker switch at your switchboard.
Most construction sites won’t allow daisy chaining for health and safety reasons. So why would you tolerate anything less in the home?
6. Lamps and Light Bulbs
All forms of lighting generate heat. While modern LED bulbs are cool to the touch, the lighting fixtures will always get heat.
Have children and pets playing in a home, and it’s easy for lamps to be knocked over and come in contact with curtains, bedsheets or carpet and cause a fire. Lamps may also have exposed electrical parts that can cause electrocution if damaged.
To avoid electrical accidents, always place lamps out of reach and on solid surfaces where they won’t be knocked over.
7. Electric Blankets
There are always stories of electric blankets being responsible for fire. But these are almost always old, damaged blankets with exposed wiring or ones improperly used. It’s recommended that all electric blankets are inspected and tested each year before heavy use throughout the winter. They should also be thrown out after a maximum of ten years.
Sure, old, frayed electric blankets can pose a fire risk. But the more prominent hazard here is the body overheating. This can result in dehydration, headaches, nausea, dizziness, low blood pressure, and many other issues.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that pregnant women avoid electric blankets altogether, as they can affect the baby’s development.
8. Water on Electrical Fires
An appliance bursts into flames. Your first thought will be to throw water on it. However, you should never put water on an electrical fire.
Adding water to the fire can result in a nasty shock or serious injury. Plus, any water spreading and conducting electricity can also set other flammable items ablaze.
The best way to stop an electrical fire is with a suitable extinguisher. Shut off power at the mains and use a CO2 fire extinguisher to put out the fire. That’s the model with the black label. The different classes of extinguishers are divided by their coloured labels. Only black is suited to electrical fires.
Keep a small extinguisher under the sink, in the shed or at the back of a cupboard for emergencies. They can be picked up from most hardware stores for under $50. Call the fire brigade immediately if the fire cannot be controlled quickly.
Implementing electrical safety is crucial. Even around the home. Having the right equipment and mindset can go a long way to ensuring health and well-being. A few simple safeguards can significantly reduce the risks of electrical hazards, which should take a weight off of your mind and help return you to that carefree, relaxed lifestyle.
For power point installation, new wiring and general inspections, contact Metropolitan Electrical Contractors. We’re available 24/7 and can even be at your door within the hour when dealing with emergencies*.