Electrical Safety

Safety First

Working with electricity is inherently dangerous, and even if you are careful, a momentary lapse by yourself or even another person can cause injury, death or damage to property. If you are the kind of person who has a hard time concentrating on the task at hand then you might consider NOT doing electrical wiring. Also, you need to honestly ask yourself if you can really be trusted to ALWAYS do a conscientious good job. If not, then consider a career as a plumber – they make good money, and people rarely die when they screw up.

Three bad things can happen when an electrician messes up:

  • The electrician dies
  • Someone else dies
  • A building burns down resulting in massive financial loss

To avoid damage to the electrician:

  1. Know what you are doing, otherwise don’t do it.
  2. Make SURE that the electricity is turned off.
  3. Make SURE that the electricity will stay off.
  4. Work as though the electricity is on.
  5. Pay attention to what you are doing – don’t do wiring work if you are distracted, sick or impaired.

To Avoid Damage to other people and property:

  1. Know what you are doing, otherwise don’t do it.
  2. Pay attention to what you are doing
  3. Check your work as you do it and immediately after completing each task
  4. Follow the codes, and get your work inspected.
  5. Know what you are doing, otherwise don’t do it.

Wiring isn’t brain surgery, but it isn’t instinctive behavior either. Before you start you need to have a good understanding of the basic concepts and techniques.
Make Sure the Electricity is Off

1) Obviously turn off the breaker to the circuit you are working on. Don’t EVER trust the labels in the breaker box. The preferred thing to do is first turn on something (light, radio, etc) that is at the actual location that you are going to work on, and then observe that it goes off. If you do much work on old stuff eventually you will find things that have been cobbled up and don’t go off when you think they should.
2) Confirm that the electricity is actually off by testing at the fixture you are working on with a voltage tester.
3) After doing 1 and 2 use an insulated tool to short the hot to the ground in the equipment you are working on. If sparks don’t fly then all is well.
Make Sure that the Electricity STAYS Off

1) Notify everyone in the area that you are working on the electricity, and warn everyone not to meddle with it. Teenagers are particularly likely to arbitrarily turn on the electricity so they can watch TV or get on myspace – without check into why it is off.
2) Unless you can clearly see the breaker panel from where you will be working, put a breaker lock on your breaker. If you don’t have a breaker lock, then at least seal the breaker box with tape and a bold note warning not to turn the electricity on. A breaker lock with the key in your pocket is best.
Work as Though the Electricity is On

If you think this is a joke then do this: Go to a construction site where electricians are working, and ask to take a look at their screwdrivers and wire cutters. Smart money bets you will find a tool or two that has electrical burns on it. What does that tell you?
1) Wear good shoes or boots that have nice thick insulated soles.
2) Avoid working on wet ground or floors. Never work on a panel or other live work while standing in water, or while you are wet.
3) Use tools with insulated handles.
4) Make a habit of not touching a ground with one hand while you work with the other hand. That way if you get shocked it won’t be as severe. Some guys put one hand in their pocket if they are working on something hot.
5) Wear eye protection. Arc melted copper in the eye really sucks.
6) If you will be using a ladder it should be made of fiberglass or another non-conductive material.
Pay Attention to What You are Doing

The leading causes of electrical fires are loose connections. The leading causes of loose connections are distracted electricians. Cultivate good work habits, and eliminate distractions from your work place – including the customers. Most people don’t perform at their peak while being grilled by the customer. Tell them that in the interest of safety you will take a break – on the clock – while they conduct their business with you. If that doesn’t keep it brief you aren’t charging enough.
Check Your Work

After you make each connection give it a tug. After you complete a task turn on the juice and test it. Use a voltage tester to make sure that metal housings aren’t electrified.

Follow the Codes, and Get Your Work Inspected!

6 thoughts on “Electrical Safety”

  1. I am remodeling my kitchen. I have all my circuits laid out. 20 Small appliances, GFICs etc. Someone mentioned my new electric stove might be to close to the sink. Is there a distance requirement in the NEC 2008 code? The kitchen is a straight line 120″ from left (0″ to right 120″) my 33″ sink falls in the middle with right edge at inch 77″ then 13″ countertop and then the 30″ stove/oven from 90″ to 120″ inches. Are you aware on any issue here per the 2008 NEC?

  2. As far as I know there is no code in the 2008 NEC that really says anything about how close a range can be to the sink. I’ve checked and if there is I’m not seeing it. Furthermore I’ve never heard of any issue.

    Nonetheless, the best thing to do is to ask your local codes inspector, because the code is subject to local variation.

  3. Hi David,
    I just bought an electric dryer with a three pronged plug so it can share the wall outlet with the stove.
    The stove plug is very difficult to get into the socket. I can tap it with a rubber mallet to get it in. My problem is getting it back out the safest way so I can plug in the dryer.
    Can I safely use pliers with insulated handles? Are handles with that black rubber stuff ‘insulated’?
    Thanks Ann

  4. yes and no.you should buasece it is for safety and to safe you from fire and your Appliance from damage.no buasece some of the ratings are for hot tubs and it wouldn’t matter for person use, but if I did the job then I would have to up grade it the proper amps and wire gage.

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