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Stay Safe During National Electrical Safety Month

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In honor of National Electrical Safety Month, follow these safety tips.

Because May is National Electrical Safety Month, this is a good time to review electrical safety.

Electricity can be dangerous, whether the hazard is a crane contacting an overhead line or a toddler sticking a fork into an electrical socket. The numbers are, well, shocking.

Grim electrical fire and injury statistics

In the workplace alone, there were 166 fatal electrical injuries and 1,900 non-fatal electrical injuries in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics. In non-residential buildings, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported that over 8,000 fires were caused by electricity, with total losses of $373,400,000.

For homeowners, the numbers are even more grim: an estimated 51,000 fires each year, nearly 500 deaths, more than 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage. In cold weather, almost 40% of all home fires can be traced to electricity in some way.

Mitigating electrical hazards

Homeowners, landlords, and building owners/managers can take many steps to help avoid fatalities and injuries related to electricity.

Homeowners

  • Conduct a basic assessment of your home electrical system, electrical cords, extension cords, power plugs, and outlets.
  • Inspect extension cords to ensure they are in good condition and NOT running under carpets or in doorways.
  • Call a qualified electrician if you notice problems with circuits tripping, warm outlets, flickering or dimming lights, sparks from an outlet, or a burning or rubber smell from an appliance.
  • Establish an emergency evacuation plan and practice with your family.
  • Use light bulbs that match the recommended wattage on the light fixture.
  • Install tamper resistant receptacles in homes with young children to prevent electrical shocks and burns.
  • Use extension cords only temporarily, and never with space heaters or air conditioners.
  • Avoid overloading outlets.

For extra peace of mind, have your home electrical system inspected by a qualified electrician, and ask if you should add Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs). This is particularly important in older homes.

Building owners

  • Ensure your lockout/tagout and arc flash safety procedures are followed when maintaining and servicing electrical equipment.
  • Train your employees on electrical safety.
  • Install and regularly test Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) if required. (AFCIs are required in most New York buildings.)

Homeowners and Landlords

  • Install additional outlets to reduce the need for extension cords.
  • Use a qualified electrician to do all electrical work.
  • Install smoke detectors on every level of the home, inside each bedroom, and outside each sleeping area, or as required by code, and test them monthly.
  • Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) as required to reduce shock.
  • Use power tools listed by a qualified testing laboratory. Inspect them before use, and store indoors.
  • Trim tree branches away from power lines, or contact your power company to request this service.
  • Call 811 before you dig to identify the location of underground utilities.

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