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Electrical Safety in the Home


Each year in Queensland, around 70 kids under 15 years of age end up in the emergency room because of an electrical injury. More than a third are under the age of 5 years (9 ways to make your home a safe zone for you and your child).


Last year, Australians across the nation were shocked by the story of Western Australian 11-year old Denishar Woods, who suffered a near-fatal electric shock from a garden tap when she tried to turn off a hose at her family's home, causing severe brain injuries. Her mother was also injured as she tried to drag her daughter out of a pool of electrified water.


Exposure to electricity can result in a range of injuries. For example, exposure to electricity can lead to injuries of the cardiovascular system (e.g. rhythm disturbances), cutaneous injuries and burns, nervous system disruption, respiratory arrest, as well as head injuries, fractures and dislocations (caused by being ‘thrown’ or ‘knocked down’ due to the severe muscle contractions induced by the current).





At Auscan Services, we are a family business, so we understand the importance of safety at home. As a result, we've prepared a quick checklist for any family to use to reduce electrical risks and hazards in their home.


BASIC ELECTRICAL SAFETY IN THE HOME -

It pays to play it safe.

Look After Appliance Cords & Plugs

On any given day, it's likely that most people use several electrical appliances. With electric appliances being so common in modern homes, it's easy to forget that there are very real risks and hazards associated with their use. Take the time to brush up on the principles of safe operation.


Auscan's Safety Tips for Appliance Cords & Use:

✓ Unwind appliance cords fully during use to prevent overheating, don’t tie them together

✓ Don’t pull appliance cords to remove the plug from the socket, you may loosen the internal wires. Instead ensure the power socket is turned off first, then pull from the plug instead

✓ Inspect appliances, plugs, switches and cords regularly for damage and repair or replace them (eg. frayed, damaged or cracked cords should indicate that the appliance poses immediate electrical risks)

✓ Immediately turn off and disconnect an appliance that sparks or stalls

✓ Do not staple or nail cords in position at any time; if the cord does not remain where desired, use tape or twist ties to secure it

✓ Cords should not be placed beneath rugs where they can become a trip hazard or where frays will not be noticeable

✓ Do not make modifications to a cord's plug at any time - do not clip off the third prong or attempt to file down a wider prong to fit in a different outlet

✓ Minimise the use of extension cords, plug the appliance directly into the wall where possible

✓ Do not use extension cords with high-wattage appliances, like air conditioners, portable electric heaters and irons (this is because a voltage surge could turn them on or cause a short circuit)



Avoid piggy-backing or double adaptor connection

If you don’t have enough electricity sockets for your appliances, it is easy to grab a cheap double adaptor to give yourself another socket. What you don't realise is that although double adapters look harmless, they are one of the most dangerous electrical gadgets you could have in your home.


Double adaptors don’t have any type of overload protection built in. That means they can easily get overloaded if you use a high power drawing appliance or have too many appliances on that outlet. This means they can get hot very quickly and are a common cause of house fires.


The temptation with double adapters is to just add more if you need more outlets, so people piggy-back double adaptors onto each other or add them onto their power boards. Every time you piggy-back a double adaptor you are increasing the risk of fire and creating overloaded circuits.


If you have double adapters in your house, throw them away today and replace them with a quality power board.  If your power board is too small for all your electrical appliances, pick up one with more outlets rather than adding a double adapter.


Remember, power boards are only temporary fixes and are not designed for permanent use. If you find your power board is becoming a fixture, it is advised that you organise your family electrician to install additional power points.



Childproof Your Outlets

For families with small children, it can be difficult to identify all electrical hazards in the home, especially if you do not know the full electrical history of the home (and whether a licensed electrician has carried out all installation and repair work previously). If the essential safety precautions have not been carried out by a licensed electrician, your children can be exposed to all sorts of electrical hazards.


For families with small children, electrical outlets are one of the greatest safety hazards of any home. Installing dummy plugs on power points and power boards is a secure way of covering open outlets, making it difficult for children to remove. These are specifically designed plastic pugs you can insert into unused power point sockets that help prevent objects from going into the power point.


Another option for families is installing power point covers on outlets. The clear rounded design allows the user to see the status of the power point without removing the cover, but stops children being able to pull plugs out or even turn the switches on or off. The appliance cords are directed out through slots in the cover. The top cover clips on to the base with 2 child resistant catches. Easy!


The following pictures include some of the best ways to childproof your power outlets, though you should be sure to talk to your electrician or local electrical services for more ideas on keeping your outlets childproof.


Other ways to keep your children safe is to ensure appliance cords are out of the reach, especially those connected to hot items such as kettles, irons, hair straighteners or hairdryers. Appliances that may fall can cause serious injury to young children, while appliances using heat pose risks of burns.


It's also important to never leave an unconnected appliance cord plugged in and switched on (for example, a mobile phone charger). Young children may be tempted to put the end of the cord in their mouths.


Install & Test Safety Switches

Safety switches monitor the flow of electricity through a circuit and turn off the power in a fraction of a second if a leakage of current is detected. Safety switches provide personal protection against electric shock.


Even if your home has a safety switch installed, one may not be enough to protect you and your family from an electric shock. A safety switch only protects you if it's on that circuit. You should consider having safety switches installed on all circuits in your home, including power points, lights, air conditioning, oven, hot water and pool equipment circuits, even if they are on a separate tariff.


Like most electrical safety equipment, you should be testing your safety switches at least once or twice a year to make sure they are functioning perfectly. Testing them on a memorable date every year (like an anniversary or at the start of the school holidays) is a great way to remind yourself.


Installing safety switches is easy and inexpensive, considering the protection they provide. Since 1992 and according to Australian law, all homes must have safety switches installed on all power circuits.


If you're unsure about your home and what safety switches you may have, contact us to organise a free home safety inspection.


Generators

Generators can be extremely useful during black outs, where they provide fast and automatic delivery of power, allowing homeowners to maintain comfort and safety during emergency events.


Generators can often save the day in times of a blackout, but they do possess a number of safety risks.


For example, it is important to never run generators indoors, as they can produce high levels of carbon monoxide (CO). Like electricity, CO cannot be seen or smelt. Generators used indoors pose serious risk to CO poisoning - which can kill! If you start to feel sick, dizzy or weak while using the generator move away immediately and get some fresh air.


At Auscan, we understand generators can be very beneficial in emergency situations, keeping your home effectively up and running, so we have prepared our top tips for using generators safely at home.


Auscan Generator Top Tips:

✓ Never try to power the house wiring by plugging the generator into a wall outlet (called backfeeding). This is extremely dangerous and is an electrocution risk to utility workers and neighbours served by the same utility transformer. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices

✓ If you must connect the generator to the house wiring to power appliances, get a licensed electrician contractor to do it (in accordance with AS/NZS 3000 Electrical installation)

✓ Avoid creating a fire hazard; store fuel for your generator in a properly labelled non-glass safety container. Store out of the home and away from fuel-burning appliances (such as natural gas water heater in the garage)

✓ Before refuelling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down - fuel spilt on hot engine parts could ignite


Electricity & Water

Water and electricity can be a lethal mixture. Did you know that tap water and pool water are good conductors of electricity? The minerals dissolved in natural water and pool water are responsible its conductivity, and so they turn pure water, which is an electrical insulator, into an electrolyte.


Electric shocks received in wet areas are more likely to be fatal.  The combination of electricity, water, minimum clothing and bare feet can result in death.


At Auscan we have developed an electricity and water checklist, so you can reduce the risk of water and electricity coming into contact in your home.


Auscan's Water & Electricity Checklist:

In the bathroom

✓ Ensure hands are dry when touching appliances or switches.

✓ Never use or leave electrical appliances where they can fall into the bath or basin.

✓ Never leave electrical appliances unattended with children.


In the kitchen

✓ Ensure hands are dry when touching appliances or switches.

✓ If liquid spills into an appliance, unplug the appliance and have it checked and tested before using it again.

✓ Immerse appliances into water to clean them only if instructions clearly allow it.


In the laundry

✓ Ensure hands are dry when touching appliances or switches.

✓ Wear footwear with rubber or plastic soles when using the washing machine.

✓ Clean up water spills on the floor.


Outdoors

✓ Don't use portable appliances, power tools or extension leads in water or when it is raining.

✓ Ensure that party and Christmas tree lights are suitable for outdoor use.

✓ If your house is not fitted with RCDs, use a portable power board fitted with RCDs when using appliances and power tools outdoors.


Around the swimming pool

✓ Ensure hands are dry when touching appliances or switches.

✓ Do not use electrical appliances or power tools near the edge of the pool.

✓ String your party lights away from the pool.


Staying safe is easier when you understand the risks and how you can avoid them. These tips will help you take care of yourself, your family and your home when you’re using electricity. Fore more information, get in touch with us at Auscan Services!


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