Electrical incidents injure or kill over sixteen Australians per week, thirteen per cent of these occur in children under 14 years of age, and unfortunately 77 per cent of childhood electrical injuries happen in the home. There are some fantastic resources available that help kids learn about electricity safety, however it is also about you as an adult knowing how to be careful and vigilant around electricity.
Here are 5 useful electrical safety tips for your home.
#1 – Electrical appliances
A big part of being safe with electricity is keeping electrical appliances in good working order and using them safely. Never use a faulty or ageing appliance, including those with frayed or damaged cords or cracked or broken plugs. All appliances should also have insulated pins, a regulatory compliance mark (RCM), and they should be serviced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Be wary of buying electrical equipment online as many of them don’t meet Australian safety standards. Anything that you do purchase should also be ‘tagged and tested’ by a licensed electrician. Non-compliant travel adaptors and USB chargers can also pose serious safety risks, so make sure they display an RCM and are approved by a recognised certification body.
In terms of using specific appliances safely, rangehood filters should be cleaned regularly, the lint filter in your clothes dryer cleaned after each use, and electric blankets checked before use in terms of damaged leads, wires or plugs.
#2 – Power boards and extension leads
In terms of being safe with electricity, be careful how you use power points and power boards. Don’t overload power points by ‘pigging backing’ plugs in the one socket by using double adaptors, and bear in mind that power boards also have a maximum current rating. Plugging high-wattage appliances like heaters into power boards can overheat circuit wiring and cause overload which could lead to a fire.
Keep your power points and power boards free of dirt, grease and moisture, however don’t wipe them with a wet cloth or spray with cleaners, detergents or insecticides.
Extension leads should really only be used as a temporary measure and they should have plugs with three metal pins. Plugs with two cores are not earthed so therefore dangerous, and they should only be used with double-insulated electrical equipment.
Extension leads should be carefully placed around furniture and surely taped along wall edges or to the floor. Don’t place extension leads under rugs or carpets as they may overheat, and never place them near cooking appliances or heaters. Also, don’t attempt to create a longer extension lead from a series of shorter ones or connect a ‘piggyback’ plug to the end of a lead to make it longer – the pins will be live and therefore extremely dangerous.
#3 – Safety switches, circuit breakers and surge diverters
Safety switches can often be confused with circuit breakers and surge diverters, however they are actually quite different. Safety switches are designed to prevent injury by automatically switching off electricity in the home when an electrical fault is detected. They work by monitoring the flow of electricity and if they detect a problem, will turn the power off within 0.03 of a second.
Most safety switches will have will have a test button, 30ma printed on them, and are normally labelled as a ‘safety switch’. Safety switches are an additional form of protection to be used with circuit breakers and fuses, however they won’t protect all wiring and electrical appliances nor prevent all electric shocks.
By comparison, circuit breakers protect against short circuits and current overloads such as when a power point is overloaded, and surge diverters will protect your property from voltage surges, such as those that result from a lightening strike. Both circuit breakers and surge diverters do not act as safety switches for protection against a person experiencing an electric shock.
#4 – Water and electricity
There is nothing more lethal than a mix of water and electricity, so electrical appliances should never be used near water, including near baths, sinks and most importantly, around swimming pools. Electric shocks received near swimming pools are more likely to be fatal because minimal clothing, bare feet and wet skin reduce your body’s insulation and therefore resistance.
Portable heaters are also dangerous electrical hazards in bathroom areas, and all other portable electrical appliances like shavers, hair straighteners and hairdryers should be switched off after use.
Extension leads should also never be used in wet areas (unless specifically designed for that purpose), and when operating electrical appliances in laundries, outdoors or on concrete floors, always wear rubber or plastic-soled shoes.
#5 – Electrical maintenance
Yes, home maintenance is vital in order to keep things in tip-top shape, however dangerous electrical hazards are everywhere throughout the home. Always keep clear of electrical wires attached to your house, ensure all metal ladders have ‘rubber feet’, and when using electric trimmers or lawn mowers, ensure the flexible cord is kept well away from the blade.
You should also never attempt to repair loose or broken power points or cords or extension leads yourself if they are frayed or damaged. And never be tempted to do your own electrical work, no matter how small the job. It is not only illegal but also deadly. It takes years to become a licensed, qualified electrician – and for good reason.
Need some advice on how to keep your home safe when it comes to electricity? Contact the experts at Peak Voltage today on (07) 3272 7325.