We depend on electricity to make our homes comfortable and livable. Part of our mandate at Brantford Power is to educate our customers and the public about how to use electricity safely.
There are many electrical dangers in everyday homes that put ourselves, and our loved ones at risk. Undertaking electrical work on your own, or hiring the wrong person for the job can result in major property damage, or even loss of life.
The most recent edition of the Ontario Electrical Safety Report is now available. The report serves as a tool that the Electrical Safety Authority and others interested in electrical safety can use to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of electrical incidents, where they occur, and to whom. Continued efforts in researching the underlying causes and risk factors are essential for improving public electrical safety.
Most electrical accidents can be prevented by following the safety tips below.
- Have a qualified electrician replace damaged receptacles: receptacles which feel hot, emit smoke or sparks, receptacles with loose fitting plugs or those where plugged-in lamps flicker or fail to light.
- Upgrade your electrical system to present safety standards.
- Make sure all electrical outlets are three-hole, grounded outlets to prevent electrical shock. If there is water in the area, there should be a GFI or Ground Fault Interrupter outlet.
- All outdoor outlets should be GFIs.
- Turn appliances off before unplugging to prevent damage to receptacles.
- Insert plastic safety caps into unused outlets within reach of young children.
- Turn the power off before working on any electrical outlets or equipment.
Cords and Plugs
- Use extension cords only when necessary and only on a temporary basis.
- Keep all cords away from heat and water. Never use a plug when your hands are wet or when you’re touching a metal object.
- Use only three-wire extension cords for appliances with three-prong plugs. When pulling a plug out of an outlet, pull on the plug, not the cord.
- When using a grounded (three-prong) plug, never break off or bypass the third prong.
- Use polarized extension cords with polarized appliances.
- Use special, heavy-duty extension cords for high wattage appliances such as air conditioners, portable electric heaters, and freezers.
- When using outdoor tools and appliances, use only extension cords labeled for outdoor use.
- Never place extension cords under rugs or through doorways.
- Make sure cords do not dangle from tabletops where they can be pulled down or tripped over.
- Never cover any part of an extension cord with newspapers, clothing, rugs, or any objects while the cord is in use. Never place an extension cord where it is likely to be damaged by heavy furniture or foot traffic.
- Don’t use staples or nails to attach extension cords to a baseboard or to another surface.
- Don’t overload extension cords by plugging in appliances that draw a total of more watts than the rating of the cord.
- Replace cracked or worn extension cords with new #16 gauge cords that have the listing, of a nationally-recognized testing laboratory, safety closures, and other safety features.
- Do not try to patch or tape any broken electrical cord.
- Install the correct fuses for the electrical panel.
- Never use a greater numbered fuse. If fuses are used and there is a stoppage in power, look for the broken metal strip in the top of a blown fuse. Replace the fuse with a new one marked with the correct amperage. Reset circuit breakers from off to on.
- Be sure to check why the fuse or circuit blew. Possible causes are frayed wires, overloaded outlets or defective appliances. Never overload a circuit with high wattage appliances. Check the wattage on appliance labels. If there is frayed insulation or a broken wire, a dangerous short circuit may result and cause a fire. If power stoppages continue or if a frayed or broken wire is found, contact an electrician.
Electrical Heating Equipment
- Keep space heaters away from combustibles and make sure they cannot be tipped over.
- Do not use them in bathrooms because of the risk of contact with water and electrocution.
- Look for cracks or breaks in the wiring, plugs and connectors of electric blankets. Look for charred spots on both sides.
- Use a heavy-duty, grounded, three-wire cord for power tools.
- Do not use devices with damaged cords or plugs.
- Do not use electrical devices in wet locations.
- Keep electrical devices clean (i.e., free of dust or grease accumulation).
- Turn off electrical devices when they are not in use.
- Do not modify electrical equipment except in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Never use an electric mower when the grass is wet.
- Make sure outdoor electrical outlets are grounded and have weather proof covers.
- Use the proper wattage light bulbs in light fixtures and lamps.
- Keep flammables away from light bulbs.
- If light switches or outlets feel warm to the touch, turn them off, unplug them and have a qualified electrician check the wiring right away.
- Check each holiday light string for frayed cords or damaged plugs or light sockets, discard the string.
- Don’t use outdoor lights indoors, because they usually burn hotter than indoor lights. Also, do not use indoor lights outdoors, because they may not be waterproof.
- Avoid overloading electrical circuits.
- Connect lights to power strips that have several outlets and a built-in circuit breaker.
- Remind children never to touch lights or plugs with wet hands.
- Remember to unplug indoor lights when leaving the house or going to bed.
- Sleeping with a heating pad turned on can cause serious burns even at relatively low settings.
- Do not tuck in the sides, fold or place any object on top of an electric blanket, be it a blanket, person or pet.
- Always treat a downed power line or telephone line as if it were live.
- Never touch downed power lines or use any object to move them, including brooms, boards, limbs or plastic materials. Although wood is non-conductive, if even slightly wet it will conduct electricity, causing electric shock or electrocution. Power lines can also slide down such objects when lifted.
- Never touch a person who is in contact with power lines or other objects that are touching power lines.
- If you are in a vehicle that comes in contact with a downed power line, stay put and if you can, honk your horn and lower your window to alert passers-by. Caution them to stay away from the vehicle and ask them to call the power company and emergency officials to report the problem. If you must leave the vehicle, remove all loose items — handbags, loose clothing, etc. Jump clear and avoid touching the car and the ground at the same time. Land with both feet together and shuffle away from the car.
- Don’t build a tool shed underneath a power line.
- Don’t install a swimming pool underneath a power line.
- Don’t put swings and playground equipment underneath power lines.
- Never climb utility poles, towers or substation fences.
- Never put up a ladder beneath a power line or lean a ladder against a power line pole.
- Do not attempt to cut or remove a tree that is, or could become, entangled with power lines.
- Do not allow children to play in trees close to power lines, or to swing on guy wires.
- Do not plant vegetation to grow up or near utility poles or guy wires.
- When power lines are nearby, use wooden or fiberglass ladders – not metal.
- Report all downed power lines to your local police or fire department.
- Call before you dig. It’s important to know the location of any underground lines before excavation begins.
- Don’t plant tall-growing trees under power lines.
- Keep bushy shrubs away from your electric meter.
- When planting near a transformer, maintain a distance of at least 3 meters of clearance in front of the transformer and 1.5 meters on the sides.
- Do not touch an energized meter. Meter tampering also constitutes a theft offense. If you suspect a problem with your meter, call the number listed on your electric service bill for assistance.
For more information on electrical safety please visit Electrical Safety Authority.