Statistical Importance: Low
Residential appliance fires cause an estimated $211 million in property loss each year. (1)
Necessary Appliances; Essential Safety
Ensure that the appliances which you purchase have been approved by a reputable consumer laboratory, such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories). UL approved products tend to have their own set of electrical safety tips and warnings so be sure to read up on those as well.
Always unplugged unused appliances.
Stow unused cords safely out of the reach of children, pets, and risky territory.
Never cover warm appliances with clothes, toys, or other household items.
Allow for air circulation around the appliances, especially for those which generate heat (clocks, computer monitors, etc.).
If overheated, give appliances space and turned-off time to cool off.
Always follow instructions; enlist the help of professionals and leave the amateur repairs for less dangerous materials.
Never poke things into toasters, outlets, or any other electrical appliances with tempting openings.
Touch appliances with dry hands only.
Ensure that exhaust fans are clean, and remove the lint regularly.
Always turn off power before you plug or unplug the appliances.
In the kitchen,
- Keep range hood filters as clean as possible.
- Prevent the hazardous build-up of burnt food and spilled fats by habitually cleaning hot plates and ovens.
- Clean the oven and toaster regularly to avoid a dangerous build-up of crumbs, germs, and rubbish.
- Remove fumes by using a ventilation system or exhaust fan.
- Never leave a turned-on electrical appliance unattended, especially when cooking!
In the bathroom,
- Don’t use extension or power leads in wet areas.
- Refrain from touching anything electrical when you’ve got wet hands or bare feet.
- Switch off and unplug appliances that aren’t in use (hairdryers, styling irons, electric razors, etc.).
- In the event that an electrical appliance is immersed in water, discard it at once.
- Never reach to pull it out of the water—even if it’s off.
- Turn off the power source at the circuit breaker box, then unplug the appliance.
- For your own sake, always replace the appliance.
Statistical Importance: moderate
Cord and Plugs causes 11% of US electrical fires.(2)
Keep Caution with the Cords
Regularly check cords for cranks, kinks, splints, or frays before each use. In a commercial area, employees who are exposed to electricity must have a proper electrical safety training to minimize or to avoid potential electrical accidents.
Ensure cords are firmly plugged; if the cord’s too loose (or the holes are too snug), choose another outlet with a better fit.
Use cords only for their particular purpose. Electrical appliance cords aren’t clothes lines, leashes, or jump ropes.
Never staple or nail a cord in place. If you need to secure a cord more securely, tape it in place or apply twist-ties as needed.
Never modify the cord. Leave the prongs alone and never attempt to file down a wide prong in order to fit it somewhere else.
Use extension cords sparingly. These are supposed to be temporary solutions.
Make sure you’re using the right cord; use the correct length, proper weight, and type (indoor or outdoor).
Pull on the cord at the outlet when unplugging—never on the cord itself.
Don’t let electric wires or cables meander under carpets (at best, it’s a tripping hazard) or above other appliances (something might blow up).
Statistical Importance: Low
Power Transfer causes 7% of US electrical fires. (2)
The Hazards of Outlets
Block unused outlets with a solid cover plate or childproof caps. Few electrical safety tips are more important when you have young children in the house.
Encase all outlets properly with solid, secure plates so that all the wiring is enclosed.
Relocate cords instead of overloading outlets. Not only is it a mess, but it could be very dangerous.
Never place anything into the outlet except for the appropriately-sized plug. That includes metal objects and liquids!
Use ground fault circuit interrupter outlets in case of potentially dangerous situations (pools, bathrooms, kitchens, unfinished rooms).
Statistical Importance: high
Lamp and Lighting causes 24% of US electrical fires.(2)
The Everyday Light Bulb: Tips and Tweaks
Use bulbs with the correct wattage. Higher wattage bulbs may cause overheating.
Always screw bulbs tightly; beware loose bulbs, which could cause shorts and sparks.
Always unplug or switch off the fixture before replacing a bulb.
Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL); these provide the same level of light at a lower wattage level, which is safer and better for the environment and your pocket.
- If a CFL bulb breaks, open the windows and evacuate the room for 15 minutes.
Statistical Importance: HIGH
64% of outdoor fires occur on open land, fields, streets, and parking areas and 54% of these fires are ignited by open flame. (4)
Electrical Safety Outside the House
Maintain a distance from power lines.
- You don’t want your house to be close to them, and keep trees pruned and far away from the power lines as well.
- Never fly kites, balloons, or model airplanes near power lines; also, climb trees somewhere else.
- Never situate or climb on a ladder that could fall on or very close to a power line.
- Be on the lookout for power lines when using a chainsaw or other outdoor equipment.
- Never swim (and try not to use water) during an electrical storm if you spot lightening.
- Always assume that contact with a power line is lethal.
- If a power line is down, do not touch it to see if it’s live. Contact your local authorities immediately.
- Check the weather channel: powerful winds can make power lines sway, storms can bring them down, and even extreme heat can cause them to sag.
Never climb the fence that surrounds an electrical substation.
- If your pet or baseball finds its way inside, call the electric company to retrieve it for you.
Keep electrical appliances and tools dry— out of the rain, off of wet surfaces, and away from pools, ponds, fountains, etc.
Only allow outdoor outlets on a circuit guarded by a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter).
Statistical Importance: HIGH
In 2009, electrical fires resulted in 472 civilian deaths, 1,500 civilian injuries, and $1.6 billion in direct property damage.(3)
The Danger of Electrical Fires
Avoid overloading plugs, sockets, and extension cords.
Replace tools that give off any mild electric shocks.
Replace light switches that are flickering.
Replace light switches with hot faceplates. Warm is okay—hot is bad.
Replace all damaged cords.
Never attempt to push a three-prong plug into a two-holed socket.
Never attempt electrical repairs if you don’t have the expertise and certification.
Never fight an electrical fire with water— instead, reach for the fire extinguisher or baking soda. Water conducts electricity, so the fire could actually ignite further.
If you have any doubt about fighting the fire, it’s time to flee. If you decide that you have a reasonable chance, fight the fire but make sure that you’re near the exit and no obstacles can stop you.
- Learn how to use a fire extinguisher effectively: pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep.
Watch for tripping breakers: it’s a very important warning if you’re circuit breaker is immediately tripping after you’ve reset it. It’s forewarning you that there’s an electrical hazard in the house.
Turn off electrical appliances when they’re not in use; always attend to them when they’re on.
Keep all flammable objects a few feet away from heaters and any appliances that tend to heat up quickly (computers, televisions, etc.).
---- Electrical Safety Tips: Sources ----
- (1) Focus on Fire Safety: Appliance Fires
- (2) Consumer fire safety: European statistics and potential fire safety measures, page 18 by Netherlands Institute for Safety Nibra
- (3) Home Electrical Fires, page 1 by NFPA Fire Analysis & Research
- (4) Outdoor Fires, page 1 by U.S. Fire Administration
- (5) Injury and Fatality statistics by ESFI