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Home Electrical Safety Tips

Tips for Home Electrical Safety

Published by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers


Electricity has caused many technological changes in our homes. We use it to help us do work, run an entertainment system, and wile away our leisure hours. Life is much more comfortable and simple because of electricity. However, it is not an unmixed blessing.


The electrical power used to operate numerous appliances, lights, and tools in our homes, and the wiring used to bring the power to those devices, have brought new hazards to everyday life. Safety measures need to be observed whenever electricity is used.

Electricity in your home can be a servant, but it can also be a fire hazard or even a killer.

It all depends on how electricity is treated and managed. More people are killed annually by 110 volt house circuits than any other voltage: It takes less electricity to kill that it does to light a 10 watt light bulb.


Play It Safe!

    Smoke detectors must be tested twice a year.
    Smoke detectors are needed on each level of the home.
    Smoke detectors are needed outside of the sleeping area.
    Smoke detectors should be audible from all bedrooms.
    All appliances, cords, and plugs should carry the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label.
    Appliances, including the TV should be turned off when no one is home.
    Only a qualified appliance repairman should repair your electrical appliances. If you do not know who to call, then call your local electric utility for their recommendation.
    Call an IBEW electrician whenever you have any electrical problems.  An IBEW electrician has been trained to perform all home electrical repairs.


Don't Blow a Fuse

    A list identifying each circuit should be on the door of the fuse or breaker panel.
    The floor in front of the service panel board should be dry. Install a wooden platform if it is not.
    Most lighting circuits are protected by a 15 ampere breaker or fuse. Fuses should be the correct size for the circuits.
    Circuits should not be overloaded nor should a larger amperage fuse or circuit breaker be used. If the correct size of the fuse or circuit breaker is not known, an IBEW electrician should identify and label the sized to be used.
    Always use a flashlight when changing a fuse in the dark.
    Never use a penny or other piece of metal to replace a blown fuse.
    When a fuse or circuit breaker trips, there is probably an overloaded or short circuit. If the replacement fuse blows or circuit trips after being reset, call and IBEW electrician.


Socket Sense

    Safety covers should be on all unused outlet receptacle openings.
    Improperly operating outlets or switches or an unusually warm outlet or switch may indicate unsafe wiring.
    Loose fitting plugs may cause the outlet to overheat.
    Exposed wiring is a shock hazard. Use face plates to cover outlets.
    Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) in the bathroom, kitchen, outdoors, in the shop - and in the garage.
    Be sure you have an ample supply of wall outlets.
    Outlets should not be overloaded with adapters to plug in large numbers of appliances.
    Waterproof covers must be used on all outdoor receptacles.


Additional Safety

    GFCIs should be used wherever there is a high risk of electrical shock.
    Test GFCIs per manufacturers' instructions to be sure that they will operate to protect against shock or electrocution.
    Use a circuit tester to verify whether a circuit is dead or the circuit breaker is turned off. A circuit tester can be purchased as a hardware or electrical supply store.


Let There Be Light

    Follow the manufacturers' recommended light bulb wattage to prevent fixtures from overheating. If the recommended wattage is unknown use a bulb no larger than 60 watts.
    Use only a wall outlets not a lamp socket‚¬â€to supply current for appliances.
    When replacing a broken bulb, unplug lamp before attempting to remove bulb base.
    When replacing a broken bulb in a ceiling lighting fixture, turn the circuit off that the panel box. Check the circuit with a circuit tester to determine if the circuit is de energized before attempting to replace the bulb base.


Washers, Dryers, Ovens

    Ground all appliances properly.
    If you receive a light shock from a large appliance, the appliance should be checked immediately by an IBEW electrician.
    Be sure there are no combustibles on or above the cooking range.
    Excessive vibration and movement puts undue stress on laundry equipment. Be sure that the washer and dryer are leveled correctly.


The Cord Connection

    Replace all worn or frayed cords.
    Be sure that all the plugs are in good repair.
    Keep cords out of high traffic areas. Stepping on cords can damage them and create a hazard.
    Furniture must not be set on cords.
    Cords that are in use should be wrapped around themselves or any object.
    Always pull on the plug, not the wire, when disconnecting appliances, light cords, or extension cords from outlets.
    Nails and staples shouldn't be used to attach cords to the wall, baseboard, or other objects.
    Use cords labeled For Outdoor Use outside the home.


Stereos and computers

    Equipment can overheat when the air flow around it is blocked. It should be placed so that air can circulate freely around it.
    Place equipment in an area where it will not be exposed to rain or other sources of water.
    The back plate of your television set should never be removed.
    Computers and associated equipment should be on a separate circuit, preferably with an over current protective device, fuse or breaker and a surge protector.


Portable Heating

    Purchase heaters that carry the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label. They must have a safety switch which turns the heater off if it is tipped over.
    Place heaters at least 3 feet away from combustibles like drapes, upholstered furniture, and newspapers. Synthetic fabrics are extremely flammable.
    Heaters should be placed on a firm surface so they will not be tipped over.
    Heaters should never be left on when no one is home or when you go to bed.
    Be sure that the heater is in good working condition.
    Keep children and bets away from portable heaters.
    Use a grounding feature, a three-hole receptacle or an adapter for a two-hole receptacle to prevent shock. The adapter ground wire should be attached to the receptacle.
    A portable heater shouldn't be used in the bathroom.


Toasters, Tools, Irons

    Unplug small appliances when they are not being used.
    Be sure that kitchen appliances do not come in contact with any water or hot surfaces.
    Check hair dryers, curling irons, and razors to determine their condition. Pay particular attention to any erratic operations of these appliances, damaged wiring or other damaged parts. Be sure that these appliances are kept away from the bathtub. These appliances must be used only with a GFCI when used around water such as in the bathroom or kitchen.
    Check electric blankets for cracks or breaks in the wiring, plugs and connectors as well as charred spots on both sides of blanket surfaces. Dangerous overheating occurs when electric blankets are covered by other blankets, comforters, or pets sleeping on top of them. Blankets should be used flat. If they are tucked in, follow the manufacturer's directions so that heating coils are not bent around the corners.
    All power tools should be equipped with a three-pronged plug or marked to indicate that they are double-insulated. They should be checked for cracked or exposed wires. Abnormal or erratic operation should be checked by the manufacturer's authorized repair facility.


The Great Outdoors

    Use only weatherproof appliances outdoors.
    GFCIs must be used outdoors. Check to make sure outdoor outlets are weatherproof.
    Use only outdoor extension cords for seasonal decorations. Extension cords should be labeled “For outdoor Use." Do not string extension cords across the driveway.


About The IBEW : We support safety efforts through active participation in the national electrical safety foundation. The 750,000 women and men of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers are dedicated to safety at home, at work and at play. This brochure is provided as a public service by the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers.