If you’ve ever gotten a shock from static electricity, it’s not the most comfortable feeling in the world. Static electricity emits 20,000 to 25,000 volts – quite a lot considering a typical wall outlet is only about 100 volts.
Electrical shock, in comparison, is more than uncomfortable – it’s dangerous. Low voltage (less than 500 volts) can result, on the less severe end, in superficial burns. High voltage electricity (greater than 500 volts) can do a lot more, potentially fatal, damage, ranging from cardiac arrest, severe burns, deformities due to broken bones, and muscular issues…just to name a few.
The reason static electricity is unlikely to seriously harm you is that the electric charge amount is very small, even if the voltage is high, and it doesn’t last very long. Electrical shock, on the other hand, is much more unpredictable. Damage to your electrical system or appliances can have unstable electrical currents.
Therefore, it’s so important to keep your electrical system, and all the devices that go with it, in good – SAFE – working order. When you have electrical work that is bad or unfinished, or if your system is old and needs updating, this exposes you and your family to potential harm or even death.
Electrical shocks and burns are among the most common electrical injuries. …And we’re not talking about a little static!
What are Electrical Shocks and Electrical Burns?
Electrical shocks happen by making contact with energized electrical parts.
When electricity comes in contact with your body, it can travel through your body. When this happens, the electricity can damage tissues and organs. Electrical burns can occur when electricity comes in contact with your skin.
Both are unpleasant!
So, How Do Electrical Shocks and Electrical Burns Occur?
Commonly, shocks and burns can happen from the following circumstances:
- A person is not wearing protective equipment (insulated gloves etc.) when working with live wires and electricity.
- Working on electrical systems that are still turned on.
- Cover plates not being installed on light switches/outlets and allowing fingers to touch those exposed, energized parts.
- Using frayed/damaged extension cords that have exposed wires.
- Changing a lightbulb without turning the light switch off.
- Any situation involving water near electricity.
Electrical Injury Can Be Prevented by Following These Top Ten Safety Tips:
- Don’t mix water and electricity! This means keeping your appliances and anything electrical away from water or wet surfaces. Don’t plug or unplug anything electrical when there is water present.
- Replace electric cords that are fraying, especially if you see cracks in the insulation.
- Do not plug too many things into the same outlet. This can overload electrical circuits.
- Replace all older two-pronged outlets. All outlets in the home should be of the three-pronged type.
Read our article on three-prong outlets here.
- Insert Tamper Resistant Receptacles (TRRs) or plastic safety caps in all unused electrical outlets if small children are in the home.
- Keep extension cords out of the reach of children and pets. Little Bobby or Fido may put the end of an extension cord in his or her mouth and suffer a severe electrical burn.
- Make sure all power tools are grounded or double insulated. This means there is an extra barrier between you and the electricity.
Learn more tips for power tool safety.
- Be sure children do not play or climb near electric lines on a power pole or where the lines enter a house.
- Stay clear of electric power lines when you are trimming trees or using gardening tools.
- Do not handle fallen wires. Call your local electric or utility company right away.
Although these tips seem like they’re common sense, it’s easy to get distracted in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Forgetting to trim back the old elm or putting off updating outlets can end up costing you dearly.
When we talk about electrical injury, it’s important to mention one of its biggest causes –electrical fire. Luckily, there are ways to spot a fire or potential fire before it becomes threatening to your family or home.
What Are the Warning Signs of Electrical Fire?
- Smell. An electrical fire emits a burnt smell with no discernible source. It can manifest as an acrid, like burning plastic, coppery or metallic odor. It might also have a chemical, rubbery, or ozone-like (think: chlorine or the air after a thunderstorm) smell.
- Heat. Outlets and switches can feel overly warm; they should be cool to the touch.
- Loose Connection. Plugs fall easily out of the wall socket.
- Tripping Breakers and Surges. Breakers can be triggered when they get overloaded with too much electricity use, especially with multiple appliances. Old or malfunctioning breakers don’t have the bandwidth to carry the load, causing a surge that can lead to an electrical fire. If the circuit breaker keeps tripping, this means that it’s not doing its job!
- Flickering Lights. It’s important to pay attention to the wattage being used for lamps and light fixtures. If the bulb wattage is too high, this can cause the unit to short, which can lead to fire. Old wiring can also cause circuits to overload, and your lights to flicker, which may lead to sparking or fire.
Read more about the causes of flickering lights in our blog article.
- Sparking Outlets. Save the sparklers for the 4th of July. If your outlet is sparking (orange or yellow) or buzzing, this could indicate bad or aged wiring. Little sparks will often lead to bigger sparks or outright flames if the problem is not addressed right away.
- Burnt Outlets. Outlets or power sources can appear discolored or charred, depending on the amount of damage that has occurred.
When there is no outward source for the issue, the problem could be located in the outlet on the wiring inside the walls. Regardless, it’s important that you turn off the source of power immediately. If this can’t be safely accomplished, call a professional electrician or notify the fire department immediately.
NEVER throw water on an electrical fire to put it out! You could be electrocuted! Use a fire extinguisher or baking soda to quelch the fire. In the case of fire, always call emergency services or 911.
While it might seem like there is a disaster around every corner– it’s not! There are easy ways to make sure you and your family are safe. Mister Sparky can provide you with the security and peace of mind that you and your family deserve – contact your local Mister Sparky today before minor issues become major problems.