Electrical safety tips at home and at play
At Alectra Utilities (formerly PowerStream) we encourage everyone to always think "safety first." We strive to bring our customers the information they need to be electrically safe at work, home and play.
To further promote electrical safety locally, Alectra Utilities is proud to be a corporate sponsor of the Community Safey Village of York Region.
For more electrical safety tips around the home, visit the Electrical Safety Authority website.
The seal that makes sense
Before buying an electrical appliance, make sure it has a CSA (Canadian Safety Association) certification mark. The CSA seal ensures electrical safety when the appliance is used properly.
Follow owner's manual instructions
Read the accompanying literature before using a new appliance. Keep the instructions handy to follow for correct operation and care.
Disconnect appliances before cleaning them
Never touch plugged-in appliances when your hands are wet, and ensure that appliances are unplugged before cleaning them.
Have your defective appliances checked
If appliances spark, overheat or stall, unplug them and have them checked by a dealer or qualified appliance service person.
Don't pry toast from a plugged-in toaster
To avoid getting a shock, always unplug the toaster before removing jammed toast with a fork or knife.
Electricity and water don't mix
Radios, hairdryers or any electrical appliance are hazards near water. Even if your hands are wet or you're standing on a wet floor, you can still experience an electrical shock.
ZAP the Electrical Safety Bird says:
Play safely ... away from any power lines.
If kites, model airplanes or balloons touch or get stuck in overhead wires, even holding the string or control wire can cause serious injury.
Stay away from areas marked Keep Out or Danger.
Climbing hydro poles, towers or fences surrounding electrical equipment or trees near power lines is extremely dangerous. Coming in contact with power lines can lead to sever injuries or death.
Never to poke or push things into electrical equipment or outlets.
Do not touch power lines
Have help to install a satellite dish or any antenna. Touching power lines with a ladder, satellite dish or antenna could cause serious injury. Satellite dishes and antennas should be installed well away from power lines - at least the distance of the height of the antenna, plus 3 meters.
Take extra care when working near power lines
Don't come too close to power lines with equipment. Anyone touching any equipment that has come into contact with a power line could be seriously injured. Call before you dig to locate Alectra Utilities' underground electrical cables and ensure your safety. Cutting through an underground cable is dangerous and could cause a widespread power outage.
Use proper cords
Power tools should have either a three-prong plug or double insulation. If you need an extension cord, use a proper three wire grounded cord. Keep all tools and cords in good condition and never use power tools on wet grass or other wet surfaces.
- Never use water on electrical equipment or wires.
- Use a recommended dry chemical fire extinguisher.
- Unplug appliance or equipment if possible.
If someone receives a shock from a faulty appliance and is still in contact with it, do not touch the person or appliance before unplugging it from the electrical outlet.
If a person or a vehicle is in contact with power lines, do not touch either the person or the vehicle. Call 911 for help. Local emergency services will contact the electric utility to have the power shut off.
Once a victim is free from the power line or appliance, call 911 and begin first aid.
If unconscious, and either not breathing or breathing erratically, call 911 immediately - every second counts. Give assistance as required.
If in shock, reassure and keep the victim warm, but do not apply heat. Loosen clothing about the neck, chest and waist. If the victim is thirsty, provide them with sips of water.
If burned, avoid handling the affected area. Do not apply lotions, break blisters or remove burned clothing. If possible, cover the burns, including clothing, with a prepared sterile dressing. Where the skin is blistering, bandage loosely, otherwise apply bandages firmly. Don't use gauze, cotton or wool or any other material that is likely to stick.
Pull the plug
Pulling by the cord will wear it out quickly and create a shock hazard.
Keep cords away from heat and water
Heat or water can damage the insulation that protects you and create a shock hazard.
Cords under carpets are a fire hazard
Do not run electrical cords under rugs, through doorways or anywhere they will get excessive wear.
Never break off the third prong on a plug
Replace any two-prong outlets with a three-prong outlet and ensure it is properly grounded. It provides a ground path and helps to minimize shocks.
Inspect cord and plugs
If worn out or damaged, cords and plugs can cause fire, short circuits or shocks. Check electrical cords and plugs and discard them if they are worn out or damaged.
Eliminate octopus connections
Plugging a number of cords into one outlet is a fire hazard. It usually indicates that your home wiring is outdated for your needs and that you should have more outlets wired in by a qualified electrical contractor.
Do not use extension cords as permanent wiring
An extension cord is a handy device to temporarily bring power to an area in your home that does not have an outlet. It was never designed to take the place of permanent wiring. Using extension cords as permanent wiring is an indication that your home wiring is not adequate and should be updated by a qualified electrical contractor.
What is a ground fault?
A ground fault in a circuit, extension cord, tool or appliance permits electrical current to flow from the live wire to ground. A person can be seriously injured or killed if they are in the path of the electrical current flowing to ground. Faults usually occur from worn insulation, moisture or deterioration in tools due to age or neglect. For example, cutting a damp lawn with an electric mower using a frayed extension cord can cause a fault to occur.
The ground fault circuit interrupter or GFCI provides you and your family with almost instant protection from a potentially fatal electrical shock caused by a ground fault.
How does a GFCI work?
The GFCI almost instanlty senses an electrical ground fault. In a fraction of a second, it interrupts or opens the protected circuit, stopping the electrical current before someone is hurt.
GFCI's Required by Law
All outlets in proximity to water sources in new homes, by law, must be supplied from circuits equipped with GFCIs. This includes circuits serving swimming pools and hot tubs. Other locations in the home where GFCIs should be installed are damp locations such as the laundry room, kitchen and basement.
Specially designed portable GFCIs can be taken from place to place to protect you anywhere.
Electricity is carried from the street by power lines to the "service entrance" of your home. In most new subdivisions power is distributed through underground lines. From the service entrance, electricity enters the "main switch." The main switch is clearly marked with an ON and OFF position and controls all of the power in the house.
All lighting and general circuits are protected by either circuit breakers or fuses. Fuses are generally found in older homes. Newer or upgraded services use circuit breakers.
If you are doing electrical work around your house, always disconnect the power by moving the main switch to the OFF position. Never open the door of the main switch. If you suspect trouble inside it, call an electrical contractor. Even with a burned-out main fuse or circuit breaker and the switch in the OFF position, the contacts are still live and very dangerous.
From the main switch, the circuit breaker panel splits the power into circuits to go to all rooms in the house. Circuit breakers or fuses protect each circuit. If trouble occurs, such as a short circuit or an overload, the circuit breaker trips or the fuse blows, which stops the flow of electricity to the circuit.
Circuit breaker panels or fuseboxes are usually located in the basement and will generally provide trouble-free service with little maintenance. Fuse boxes require proper care, which is usually as simple as using the right type and size of fuse. Overloading circuits could cause power loss and/or lead to fire.
Beware of warning signals that could lead to fusebox or circuit breaker problems. Contact your electrician if circuit breakers open or fuses repeatedly blow for no apparent reason, or if you detect rust in the fusebox. Overheating and discolouration in the circuit breaker panel or fusebox, or flickering lights are also danger signals not to be ignored.
Checking Circuit Breakers
When a circuit breaker opens or "trips," the affected circuit will be out of power. If you are aware of the reason for the breaker tripping, disconnect the problem. To reset the breaker, you must move the breaker fully to the off position to reset it and then back to the on position. This should restore power to the circuit. Avoid overloading circuits.
Changing a Fuse
Remember to take a flashlight when you're going to change a fuse. Never change a fuse in a dark room.
Never change a fuse while standing on a wet floor.
Before changing the fuse, unplug appliances on the overloaded circuit and turn OFF at the main switch.
Install the proper size fuse. All lighting and general use circuits are fused at 15 amps.
Never replace a fuse with a penny, dime or other metal object. This eliminates the protection a fuse is designed to give and could cause a fire.
There are two types of fuses, identified with the letters "D" and "P." The P fuse is recommended on all general use circuits, especially appliances that heat but are not motorized, such as water heaters and baseboard heaters. Time delay, or dual element fuses, marked with a D and a metal band, should only be used for large motorized appliances, such as refrigerators, clothes dryers, furnaces, freezers and window air conditioners. D fuses can handle power surges when the appliance motor activates, drawing substantially more current. D fuses should not be used on general lighting circuits.
Screw in plug-type fuses as tightly as possible by hand and check them periodically. Loose fuses may overheat.
If the power is out in your house, but not at the residences around you, it is probably your main switch. Contact your electrical contractor - do not attempt to do the job yourself.
The cover of your fusebox or breaker panel should be kept closed to protect your family from injury and to prevent dirt from accumulating.