Safety at Home

With all the appliances, tools, cords and plugs we use in everyday life, it's important to know how to use them safely.

Appliances

  • Keep appliances, especially hair dryers, away from bathtubs, puddles, sinks, pools and wet hands.
  • Unplug an appliance before cleaning - even if it's off, it can shock, and wet skin decreases your resistance to electricity significantly.
  • Never put metal objects in live parts of appliances or in outlets. If an appliance overheats, unplug it and have it checked.
  • Use only electrical equipment that is approved by a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories.

Cord insulations

  • Cord insulations won't withstand direct heat, repeated yanking, bending or wetness.
  • To be safe, pull on the plug head, never on the cord.
  • Never carry and appliance by its cord.
  • Don't run a cord under a rug or furniture. It may be damaged or overheat.

Ground faults and your safety

What is a Ground Fault?
A ground fault occurs when electricity travels outside an intended path, because of a frayed wire or faulty device, and tries to get to the ground by the shortest route. Unless you have an outlet with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), you may be seriously shocked or burned because you may be the shortest route to the ground.

Three Prong Plug
When you use a plug with three prongs, the third prong connects inside the outlet with a "ground wire" which usually connects to a water pipe or a ground road at the service panel. As a result, in a short circuit, electricity should flow to the ground instead of through you. Never remove a third prong.

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
GFCIs are found in outlets and service panels. They monitor the flow of current to and from appliances. If there's an imbalance in the flow, current may be traveling through you, and the GFCI will quickly cut power to prevent serious injury.

GFCIs are required in newer homes in bathrooms and garages, near kitchen sinks, and outdoors. They can be added as temporary plug-in GFCI adapters, or they can also be added by an electrician as replacement outlets. If your outlets don't have GFCI test and reset buttons, check your main services panel - you may have some ground fault protected circuit breakers.

If you've ever touched a hot light bulb, you know how hot it can get - up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit for a 100-watt bulb. So keep anything that will burn away from light bulbs, portable heaters, or toasters.

  • Turn off heating and cooking appliances before leaving home.
  • Don't overload outlets.
  • If you must use an extension cord temporarily, match the amperage or wattage limits marked on the cord and appliance to avoid a fire hazard.

Outside Your Home

Carry and use ladders and tools so they stay away from all power lines. Be aware of nearby power lines the next time you use a ladder, prune trees or clean a pool. Also, be careful when you install or remove an antenna, work on a roof, carry long tools or pipes, or dig in the yard. Be aware of your surroundings.

Before doing any digging 12 inches or deeper, remember to Call Before You Dig, the Underground Utilities Location Center, 48-hours before you start your project to have utilities located free of charge. 811 is the new nationwide phone number to call to before you dig to locate utility lines.

However, 811 may not yet be fully functional in all areas. If so, call 1-800-227-2600. Learn more at the 811 website.

Even a simple electric drill can cause shock, burns, or fire if damaged or used improperly. To be safe, check cords for wear. Choose double-insulated or properly grounded tools for use outdoors or in wet areas.

Outdoor electrical outlets should have weatherproof covers. When using portable saws, trimmers, or drills, keep the cord behind you where it can't be cut. Always use outlets with GFCIs to protect against serious shock.

Outdoor Recreation

Keep kites, model airplanes, fishing poles, boats on trailers, sailboat masts, hang gliders, and parachutes away from power lines, as they can lead to dangerous or even tragic situations.