The 12 Fatal Electrical Hazards in the Home
Wherever there is electricity, there are safety hazards. An electrical safety hazard can lead to potentially fatal accidents. It could lead to the loss or injury of a loved one, legal consequences for your business, and even an investigation into the safety of your business (and the risk of closure).
Electricity is a fundamental aspect of our daily lives. It powers our world and allows us to perform our everyday tasks like cooking, watching TV, baking bread and more. That’s why it’s important for every household, commercial establishment and industrial facility to be careful with electrical wiring, appliances and equipment.
Electrical hazards at home are especially problematic; your family can be unknowingly put in danger if you are not aware of potential problems and what to look out for.
Here are some electrical safety hazards you should be aware of:
1. Exposed electrical components
Exposed electrical components such as open power distribution panels, temporary lighting, and damaged equipment can cause electrocution and burns.
Be sure to place an appropriate protection system and warning signs around exposed electrical parts to prevent harm to people. This way, occupants are safe until a professional arrives to fix the problem.
2. Poor or defective wiring
High-quality wiring that meets safety standards is essential for safety. Poor wiring can increase the risk of fires, surges, arcing faults and other serious consequences. Due to this reason, it is best to avoid any do-it-yourself electrical work and hire professional electricians to do the wiring in your home.
Damaged, worn, cracked, or corroded electrical wiring can increase the risk of electrical accidents. Have a qualified electrician check the wiring regularly to make sure it is safe. When necessary, upgrade and replace old and faulty wiring.
Some electrical hazards include:
- Loose or improper connections, such as to electrical outlets or switches
- Frayed household appliances or extension cords
- Pinched or punctured cord insulation
- Cracked cord insulation due to heat, age, corrosion or bending
- Overheated wires or cables
- Damaged electrical equipment
- Electrical wires that rodents have chewed on
3. Wet conditions near electricity
No doubt water is one of the best conductors of electricity. Touching electrical appliances with wet hands can result in electrocution. Also, electrical outlets in the kitchen or bathroom must be located a sufficient distance from water sources or pathways. This can be especially dangerous if water from burst pipes or damaged roofs enters the home.
Never use a radio, hairdryer, telephone, or other appliance in the bathtub, near the pool, or in a location with a wet floor. For fires caused by electricity, be sure not to use water. Use an appropriate fire extinguisher instead.
4. Outdated wiring
Cables that have not been replaced in more than 30 years are not only more likely to have poor or outdated insulation, cracks and heat damage. They also do not meet current standards. To avoid electric shocks and fires, have a professional electrician replace them with new wiring that meets the electrical requirements of modern appliances and equipment.
5. Handling electrical appliances with wet hands
Wet hands should never be used to operate electrical appliances, increasing the risk of electric shock. In the kitchen, this can happen if you have just washed your hands and you touch the power plug for an appliance. In the bathroom, before using a hairdryer, make sure your hands are completely dry.
6. Curious toddlers
Young children who are very curious and want to explore their world, especially toddlers, are most likely to get electrocuted if they bite into electrical cords or insert metal objects such as forks or knives into unprotected electrical outlets or appliances. Keep cords out of the hands of curious youngsters, unplug them when not in use, and install safety plugs in outlets.
7. Exposed sockets
Exposed electrical outlets are especially dangerous if you have small children or animals in the building.
Outlets at knee height or below can be covered with plastic latches that cannot be easily removed. Children that are curious have been known to stick all sorts of items into outlets. In older homes where safety switches or RCD’s have not been installed, resulting in deadly accidents, this can cause electrocution .
8. Overloading of extension cords
Extension cords should be carefully secured whenever possible to reduce the risk of tripping or accidents. Use plastic covers for unused outlets. Extension cables or cords should not be used as a permanent solution for additional outlets. Also, avoid using them for too many appliances at once.
9. Overloading power outlets
Plugging in multiple power boards seems like a good idea to get all the electrical devices working, but outlets are rated for a certain amount of current. In addition, some electrical fires are caused by plugging multiple high-voltage devices into a single power strip.
Instead, try spreading your electrical appliances across multiple outlets. If you do not have sufficient power points, get an electrician in to install outlets where you need them.
10. Overheating of objects near flammables
We don’t often think of light bulbs as an electrical hazard, but there is a risk of electrical fire when light bulbs are placed near flammable materials.
For example, it is dangerous to keep upholstery, curtains, and other combustible materials near lamps and light bulbs for extended periods. This can lead to overheating and, in some cases, a fire.
Therefore, always make sure to turn off the light switch before replacing a light bulb, and never replace a light bulb or handle a light switch with wet hands. Be sure always to use a light bulb with the correct wattage to avoid overheating.
Have you thought about swapping your old light globes that heat up, to LED’s?
LED’s do not get hot and they use a lot less electricity. Read our LED lighting article
11. Covered wires
Heavy covering of wires can cause the wires to overheat, leading to an electrical fire. Keep cables and wires away from other objects and leave them exposed.
Also, make sure appliances like computers and televisions have enough room for ventilation, so they don’t overheat.
- Never attempt to repair electrical appliances yourself; always contact a licensed electrician.
- Check your appliances regularly for broken switches, plugs, and frayed cords.
- Avoid overloading electrical panels with too many appliances at once. For example, if a heater is plugged into the mains, unplug it before using the hair straightener.
- Never plug anything into an appliance while it is plugged in or operating.
- Outside the home, always use an extension cord suitable for outdoor use.
- Make sure your hands are dry before handling switches or electrical appliances.
- Before cleaning places like the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room, make sure all appliances are turned off.
12. Doing electrical repairs yourself
Not only is any DIY electrical work illegal, it is also dangerous!
In all states of Australia – a qualified electrician must do all electrical work. See here for more information about Queensland
Professional electricians are skilled, certified and equipped to fix common electrical problems safely. However, all home electrical hazards can be deadly if your body encounters high voltages while fixing them yourself.
If you believe there are hazards in your home, contact a licensed electrician like Multivolt Services to help you stay safe from electrical faults.