Of all the hazards that exist in and around your home, getting shocked by electricity is one that should definitely not be taken lightly.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, depending on the level of electrical current, contact with electricity can result in something as innocuous (but still painful) as a mild shock to more severe injuries like nerve damage and burns. In some circumstances, it can even cause cardiac arrest and death.
And for the record, if you live to tell the tale, you’ve been shocked but not electrocuted. Someone who is electrocuted doesn’t survive the contact.
Here’s a list of some of the most common shock risks inside a home.
1. Appliances. Most shocks from household appliances occur when people are trying to repair them. It’s not enough to just turn off an appliance before attempting to work on it—you also need to unplug it to reduce risk.
Large appliances are responsible for 18% of consumer product-related electrical accidents; small appliances account for 12%, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
There’s also danger if your appliance comes into contact with water. Many of these hazards can be avoided by using a ground-fault circuit interrupter. A GFCI is a protective device installed on electrical outlets, primarily used where water is present. When the device detects an imbalance in the electric current, it turns off the power to minimize the potential for an electric shock.
The National Electrical Code requires GFCI protection for areas of the home where water is present. These areas include the kitchen, bathrooms, and exterior and garage outlets. GFCI outlets are also a good idea for laundry, sump pumps, disposals and dishwashers.
2. Ladders. Typically, ladders present a falling hazard, but according to the CPSC, 8% of consumer product-related electrical shocks were also related to ladders.
Electrocution typically happens when the ladder makes contact with electrical wires. Before you use a ladder, make sure that you can clearly see all power lines in the area—including those that may be hidden by tree branches. Ensure that the ladder is at least 10 feet away from them and won’t contact a power line if the ladder happens to fall over in any direction.
3. Power tools. Power tools account for 9% of consumer product-related shocks, reports the CPSC. According to OSHA, when you use power tools that are not double-insulated, are damaged or have damaged cords, you increase your chances of being injured.
The chance of danger also increases when you use incompatible cords with power tools, use power tools incorrectly or use them in wet conditions. This is another situation in which GFCIs can help.
4. Electrical outlets and extension cords. Inserting anything that doesn’t belong—screwdrivers, knives, fingers or toy cars, to name a few—into an electrical outlet can result in a dangerous electrical contact.
Use cover plates that fit properly and safety covers on all outlets. By installing tamper-resistant receptacles, outlets will have permanent security against foreign objects being inserted into the slots.
Any broken, loose or worn-out plugs, switches and light fixtures should be replaced immediately.
5. Extension cords. Faulty extension cords are another big safety concern.
Extension cords are intended for temporary use and should never be used in lieu of permanent wiring. If an extension cord—or any cord, for that matter—is cracked, split or damaged in any way, discard it and get a new one.