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Electrical safety tips for home and work

Electricity enhances our lives in many ways, but it can also present risks. Knowing how to use lighting, appliances and plug-in electronics safely can prevent accidents and save lives.

On this page:

    Cords and outlets

    These safety recommendations can help keep you safe at home and at work:

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    • Don’t overload outlets or surge protectors by plugging in too many cords.
    • Use certified extension cords like those approved by Underwriters Laboratories. (Look for “UL listed” on certified cords).
    • Don’t drape electrical cords or wires over radiators, pipes or metal objects.
    • Never cut off the third prong of a three-pronged plug. This prong grounds appliances for safe use.
    • Replace old cords and outlet covers.
    • Only use two-prong extension cords indoors. Three-pronged (grounded) cords are safe for indoor and outdoor use.
    • Never run an extension cord under rugs or carpeting or in high-traffic areas.
    • Replace cords that show signs of fraying or wear, especially at the plug or connection point.
    • Don’t twist, bind or crush cords.
    • Before plugging in an appliance, tool or electronic device, make sure the switch is off.
    • When unplugging something, be sure to pull the plug – not the cord.
    • Keep children safe by installing socket guards on outlets that aren’t being used.
    • Follow all wattage ratings for cords. The rating on the cord should be sufficient for the wattage of the item being plugged in. If an item has no wattage rating, multiply the number of amps by 125.
    • Keep water away from cords and electrical outlets at all times.
    • Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets should be installed near sources of water such as bathrooms, kitchens and garages.

    Fuses and circuit breakers 

    Fuses and circuit breakers are important safety devices that protect appliances and electrical circuits from damage if there’s a power surge or outage. Here are some tips for managing fuses and circuit breakers safely:

    • Make sure you know where the main breaker (electric switch) is located and how to turn it on and off.
    • Make sure that circuit breakers are properly labeled.
    • If a circuit breaker or fuse blows, find out the cause to prevent it from happening again.
    • Get familiar with the proper fuse ratings for your electrical circuits.
    • Don’t overload circuits with too many plugs.

    Appliances

    Follow these best practices for appliances, large and small:

    • Don’t leave appliances plugged in near sinks or tubs.
    • Always unplug hair dryers, electric shavers and personal care devices when children are in the bathroom.
    • If an appliance falls into a sink or bathtub, unplug it immediately. Never try to pull an electronic out of water while it is plugged in. Even if a device is turned off, if it’s plugged in, electricity is flowing through it.
    • Check that the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approval applies to the entire appliance, not just the plug or cord.
    • Never use an extension cord with a high-wattage appliance, such as an air conditioner, portable electric heater or iron.
    • Unplug small electronics and appliances when you aren’t using them. This will keep devices from turning on or short circuiting if there’s a voltage surge.

    Holiday lighting 

    Shine safely this holiday season by following these guidelines:

    • Check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets, loose connections and frayed or bare wire. Throw any damaged cords away.
    • Make sure that lights are unplugged while you adjust them on a house or a tree.
    • Don’t let bulbs rest on tree limbs or branches. Instead, clip or tie them in place.
    • Unplug all holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed.
    • Only buy artificial trees that are labeled “flame resistant.”
    • Use LED holiday lights. They’re energy efficient and don’t get hot to the touch.
    • Watch children around holiday lights and decorations. Small pieces can be swallowed.
    • Teach kids about electrical safety with our electrical safety coloring book.