Used with care, electricity is safe and improves our quality of life. But it can cause death or injury if used improperly. Remember that electricity always seeks a path to the ground. If you become part of that path to ground, you are in danger of electrocution or serious injury.
In Your Home
Using common sense can keep you safe from accidental shock or electrocution:
- Never mix water and electricity. That means do not allow a hair dryer, radio or other electronic device to be used around water – expecially the bathtub.
- Make sure bathroom outlets have a ground fault interrupter, or GFI, device installed. The GFI will trip the electric circuit if a fault is detected.
- Replace cut, punctured or worn electric cords. Never run a cord under a rug or through a wet area.
- Use three-pronged plugs. The third prong grounds the circuit and prevents shocks.
- Don’t mess with breaker panels or fuse boxes. If a circuit trips and you are not sure why, call a licensed electrician.
- If an appliance is sparking or buzzing, turn it off and get it fixed or replaced.
- Never overload a circuit. Big multiple-plug devices lead to overloading and the possibility of a fire.
- Make sure portable space heaters have automatic shutoff devices should it tip over.
- Never stick a fork or knife in a plugged-in toaster to retrieve a stuck piece of bread.
- Always unplug electric devices before doing repairs.
Trees and Safety
The leading cause of accidental contact with power lines in Oregon is tree trimming or tree removal. Follow these common sense safety tips:
- Look up! If you see a wire in the area where you want to work, call HREC at (541) 354-1233 first.
- Don’t build a tree house in trees with power lines in them or near them.
- Don’t prune a limb that is near or touching a wire. Tree limbs contain water and can conduct electricity.
- If possible, let a professional do your tree trimming.
- Although the “service” wire (from the transformer to the connection at your house) usually is insulated, never consider it safe to work around. The insulation can be worn, creating a hazard.
- Remember that metal ladders and other tree-trimming equipment are excellent conductors of electricity. Stay clear of wires.
Working Outside Your Home
Most outdoor electrical accidents result from contact with overhead electric conductors. Here are some tips:
- One more time: Look up. You don’t actually have to touch a wire to get shocked by an overhead line. Electricity can jump to a good conductor, such as a metal ladder, if it gets too close to an energized wire.
- Always keep yourself and metal objects at least 10 feet away from power lines.
- Always use grounded, three-prong extension cords outside.
- Ground Fault Interrupters, or GFIs, are a good investment for all outdoor circuits.
- If you plan to dig more than 12 inches underground, call the Oregon Utility Notification Center by dialling 811. This free service, funded by HREC and other utilities, locates underground utilities prior to your digging.
If You Are Away From Home
It isn’t uncommon to find yourself away from home when a storm hits, causing power lines to fall. Never go near a downed power line. Treat all lines as dangerous until a utility crew arrives and deals with it. Other tips:
- If a wire falls on your car, stay inside it. If you attempt to get out and one foot touches the ground, an electrified line on your car will complete a circuit to the ground. You can be electrocuted.
- You don’t have to touch a wire to be electrocuted. Electrical current can flow through water, metal or wet ground. If you are too close, you can be hurt or killed.
- Never shoot at power line insulators.
- Never fly a kite near power lines, and never go into a tree near wires to retrieve a stuck kite.
- If you have a sailboat, always be aware of overhead power lines near marinas or areas where you will have the mast in the upright position.