From Benjamin Franklin’s famous 1752 kite experiment to electrons powering the digital age, electricity has improved human lives in countless ways through the ages. Nearly every feature of modern civilization depends on affordable, reliable electricity—it powers our homes and appliances, charges smartphones so we can stay in touch with friends and family, enables 24/7 data centers to deliver a reliable Internet, and fuels innovative electric cars like the Tesla. While electricity is without a doubt one of the most important discoveries of all time, it’s associated with preventable dangers. That’s why it’s important to teach young children about electricity safety and follow all the rules as an adult, at home and in the workplace.
Types of electrical accidents
In the U.S., an estimated 1,000 deaths per year are caused by electrical injuries. Of these, about 400 are due to high-voltage electrical injuries, while lightning causes 50 to 300 deaths. Here are the four primary types of electrical injury:
Flash injury: Resulting from an arc flash, this typically causes superficial burns since no electrical current travels past the skin.
Flame injury: Caused by an arc flash igniting an individual’s clothing, electrical current may or may not pass the skin.
Lightning injury: Extremely short but very high voltage electrical energy and current flows through an individual’s entire body.
True electrical injury (electrocution): When an individual becomes part of an electrical circuit, this typically results in an identifiable entrance and exit site. The largest number of electrocution deaths are attributed to direct worker contact with an energized power line.
Injury facts and stats
- 30,000 or more shock incidents per year are non-fatal
- Every year, an estimated 5% of all burn unit hospital admissions in the U.S. are attributed to electrical injuries
- Approximately 20% of all electrical injuries impact children, with the highest incidence in toddlers and adolescents—the majority occur at home
- In adults, most injuries occur in occupational settings and are the fourth-leading cause of workplace-related traumatic death
General safety rules to follow when using electricity
Follow these simple steps to prevent electrical fires, shocks, and bodily injury.
- Never yank an electrical cord from the wall because doing so can damage the appliance, plug, outlet, or entire electrical system
- Don’t use products with worn cords—replace the cord or discard
- Make sure all electric cords are tucked out of the way to prevent babies or pets from chewing on them and people tripping and falling over them
- Never insert a metal object into an appliance, including toasters
- Watch out for power lines when using a ladder, chainsaw, or other outdoor equipment
- Never touch or use electrical appliances, cords, or wires while you’re wet, near water, or standing in water
Power outage and flood-related Tips
Electricity moves quickly through water and the human body is composed of 70% water, making it an ideal conductor for electricity.
- Don’t touch or try to move downed lines because any of these could be energized and extremely dangerous
- If power lines fall on your vehicle while you’re in it, stay in the car until emergency personnel can assist you
- Never go into a flooded basement if electrical outlets, appliances, cords, or any other electrical equipment impacted by water may be energized
- Don’t attempt to turn off power at the breaker box if standing in water
- If an electrical appliance has made contact with water, hire an electrician to check it before use, and repair or replace it if necessary
What are 5 electrical safety tips For children?
Babies, toddlers and young children may stick foreign objects into outlets or plugs, either out of curiosity or by accident. And if they’re teething, they might have the urge to bite on electric cords.
- Use safety outlets that prevent foreign objects from being inserted, or block them with furniture
- Hide temporarily-used extension cords behind furniture or use a hide-a-cord device
- Place electrical tape over unused plug holes on cords
- Place electrical devices (e.g. DVD players) out of reach on high shelves
- Store bathroom and kitchen electrical appliances (e.g. hair dryers and toasters) out of reach
Workplace-related safety tips
Occupational hazards include contact with energized parts, inadequate wiring, overloaded circuits, exposed electrical parts, improper grounding, damaged equipment, and working in wet conditions.
- Use proper cable connectors or couplers to join lengths of cables together and never tape joints
- Never overload socket outlets with adaptors
- Check to make sure all electrically-powered equipment is suitable for use
- Ensure fuses are correctly fitted so they ‘blow’ and cut off electricity when the current exceeds its rated capacity
- Stay at least 10 feet away from a power line when you’re working with ladders, antennas, irrigation pipes, and long-handled tools (e.g. tree pruners)
Nearly all electrical injuries are accidental and most are preventable, so take precautions to stay safe.