Electricity can severely injure or kill. Electrical safety in the home is paramount.
When it comes to household electrics, your safety is paramount. Flickering lights, high bills and damaged appliances can all be a sign of electrical problems on your home circuit.
While it is always tempting to ‘do it yourself’ when it comes to electrical work, nearly all electrical problems require a qualified and licensed electrician to solve them. Electricians are trained and qualified to assess the risk of a situation.
Electrical Safety Switches
Every home should have a safety switch; a device that saves many lives every year.
A safety switch is a device that quickly switches off the electricity supply if an electrical fault is detected, to minimise the risk of electricity-related fires, electric shock, injury and death.
By law, safety switches protecting power points and lighting circuits must be installed in all new homes and in buildings where electrical circuits are altered or added. This law was introduced in 1991, so if your home was built before this time, it may not be protected by safety switches.
If your home does not have one, contact a licensed Electrician to have one installed as soon as possible.
Electrical Appliances Safety
- Most electrical appliances are designed for indoor use. Ensure any appliances you use outdoors are labelled as safe for outdoor use.
- Before using an appliance, check the cords, plug and overall condition of the appliance to make sure there is no sign of damage. If there is damage, don’t use the appliance.
- Electricity and water don’t mix. Wet electrical equipment can cause an electric shock, which may result in a serious injury or death. Never leave appliances, extension cords, powerboards, sockets and plugs where they may get wet and avoid using them in wet areas, such as near swimming pools.
- Check all power and extension cords have no signs of damage before using them.
- If using an electric blanket, check it for hot spots as it heats up. Don’t lie on it or put sheets on it until you are sure it’s operating safely, as it could burn you or start a fire. To store it, roll it up rather than folding it so you don’t damage the element wires.
- Don’t use electrical appliances outdoors in bare feet or just thongs – it increases your risk of electric shock.
- If an appliance trips your safety switch, disconnect it and avoid using it until it can be checked by a licensed electrician, or replace it.
Childproof your outlets
Always use childproof plugs in electrical outlets to deter children from poking small items into them.
Home Wiring Safety
- Never cut, drill or nail into walls, ceilings or floors unless you know the exact location of the electrical wiring. It is safer to get a licensed electrician to help to locate the wiring.
- Electrical installations in any home can deteriorate with age. If you’ve not had the wiring checked since you bought the property or you are not sure when it was last checked, get a licensed electrician to inspect it.
Decorative and Christmas Lights Safety
- Decorative lights in Australia must comply with relevant safety standards – know what to look for when buying electrical appliances to check if lights have safety approval.
- If you are going to use decorative lights outdoors, make sure they’re labelled as suitable for outdoor use. Indoor lights do not have suitable insulation against wet and windy weather and could cause electric shocks, injury or death. Using outdoor lights indoors is safe.
- Check lights are free of defects, such as damaged wires or loose connections before using them.
- Always lay lights out straight before plugging them in.
- Plug the lights in temporarily to check if all bulbs are working. Unplug the lights before replacing any broken globes and always use globes of the same type and wattage to prevent the lighting set overheating.
- When mounting lights, keep them away from flammable materials and metal foils (such as tinsel).
- Only use plastic clips to mount lights, never metal pins, staples or nails.
- Don’t connect sets of lights to each other unless they’re specifically designed for that purpose.
- Rope lighting (tiny bulbs inside a flexible plastic tube) and fairy lights (strands of tiny globe holders) should be handled with care, as the wires and fittings are very fragile and can damage easily.
- Never prune or trim plants that are decorated with lights, as the cables are hard to see and can easily be cut accidentally.
- Festoon lighting, which uses standard sized globes connected to double insulated wiring, can be used as a permanent outdoor fixture if installed by a licensed electrician.