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Electrical Safety Tips

Downed power lines

  1. No one can tell if a wire is energized just by looking at it! Even after years of training, utility workers are required by law to wear protective equipment and use special testing devices to determine if a line is energized.
  2. Never approach a downed line. Downed lines may be energized and, if touched, can cause death or serious injury. Never touch or go near wires.
  3. If you see sparks, call 911. If you see a wire on the ground and it is sparking or there is a fire – stay away and call 911.
  4. Call the power company. If you see a wire on the ground – stay away and call the power company.
  5. Be cautious following severe weather. After a storm, you might see wires on the ground or lying amongst tree branches or in a tree. You might also see one or more broken poles. If you see these or other unusual things about the poles or wires, stay away and call the power company to report what you see. The power company will send trained people to fix the problem and make it safe.
  6. Never touch someone who is touching a wire. If someone else is in contact with a wire, call 911 immediately. Do not touch the person who is touching the wire. Do not try to move them or rescue them. Touching someone who is touching an energized wire will endanger you, and could result in serious injury or death.

Outdoor home projects

  1. Call Miss Dig at 811. Power lines, gas lines, phone lines, cable TV, fiber optic lines, water, sewer, storm water lines – these are just some of the things that may be buried right where you plan to put a fence post, deck, driveway, sidewalk, or garden. No matter how big or small, if your project involves any kind of excavation, call 811. Miss Dig will notify all the utility companies to locate their facilities. It’s a free service and helps ensure your safety.
  2. 10-Foot Rule. Before you start, take a good look around and make sure you and everything you’re working with remain at least ten feet from any overhead wires. Never violate the ten foot rule. Never touch a wire. If your project requires you to get within ten feet of an overhead line of any kind, call the power company and make arrangements to have the wire moved or disconnected.
  3. Ladder and Scaffold Safety. Make sure that ladders and scaffolds stay ten feet or more away from overhead lines.
  4. Trees and brush. Before cutting any trees or brush, take a good look from several different angles to make sure there are no overhead lines running through the area. If there are, call the power company and postpone your work until you get the lines moved or disconnected. Also, plan your work so trees, limbs, and debris don’t drop on your head, your home, or your vehicle.
  5. Inspect your tools and equipment. When your tools and equipment function properly, your job is easy and fun. Take a look to make sure that your tools are in good repair and operating properly. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper use and care. If you’ve forgotten them, or have any doubt about proper use, review the user’s manual before starting your work. Pay particular attention to the manufacturer’s safety rules for using tools and equipment.
  6. Slips, Trips, and Falls. The most common ways for people to get hurt are slipping, tripping, and falling. Take precautions to make sure you’re on safe and stable ground. Wear proper footwear. Keep clutter and debris to a minimum. Clean up your work area frequently. Manage your power cords, ropes, or anything else that might be a tripping hazard. If you’re working on a ladder, secure the ladder by tying it off. Don’t attempt to climb the ladder while holding items in your hands. Either use a tool belt or have a helper hand items up and down to you when you’re on the ladder. Don’t throw items up to someone on a ladder or scaffold and don’t drop items down from an elevated work position.

Portable generators

  1. Never connect your generator directly to your home's wiring. Connecting a generator directly to the wiring in your house can damage your home’s wiring, can result in damage to your generator, and may create dangerous “back feed” on the power lines connected to your home. Get a qualified electrician to install a transfer switch. The transfer switch provides a way to safely switch your house wiring between the generator and the power company’s lines.
  2. Don't overload the generator. Most store-bought units are not capable of powering your entire house. Only connect those items that you really need. This might include the refrigerator or freezer if the power is out for eight hours or more and your water pump, if the generator is appropriately rated. Do not connect sensitive electronic equipment – such as computers – to your generator.
  3. Never run a generator indoors. Portable generators are powered by gasoline, propane, or natural gas. The exhaust from these fuels contains carbon monoxide, which is a poisonous gas. If you run a generator indoors, such as in a basement or a garage, carbon monoxide may exceed safe levels and endanger your family and pets. Portable generators should only be operated outdoors in well-ventilated areas.
  4. Use the right cords and connectors. Only use the cords and connections approved by the manufacturer. Never modify the cords or connectors that come with the generator, (if any). Using the wrong cords or connectors could compromise the way your generator performs, or your home’s electrical system, and could expose you to the risk of electrocution. If you’re unsure how to properly connect the generator, call a qualified electrician.
  5. Make sure the generator is properly grounded. Using the appropriate cords and connectors, (including those supplied by the manufacturer, if any), will help ensure that the generator is properly grounded. Additional grounding may be required. Always have a qualified electrician make all the grounding connections to ensure adherence to codes and safety requirements.
  6. Always read the manual. Before starting the generator or connecting anything to it, read the manual and ensure that you abide by the manufacturer’s recommendations. Failure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended operating procedures may expose you to electrocution, may damage the generator or your home’s wiring, and may void the warranty.
  7. Keep fuel away from the generator. Fuel for your generator should be kept 15 feet or more away from the generator.
  8. Get a fire extinguisher. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and make sure it is easily accessible in case of fire. Make sure everyone who may be operating the generator knows how to use the fire extinguisher.
  9. Disconnect everything from the generator before starting or stopping. Read the manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for connecting and disconnecting items to the generator.
  10. Use surge protectors. Some manufacturers recommend the use of surge protectors; some may have this protection built in. Read the manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  11. Avoid getting burned. Engine parts can become very hot and may burn you if touched. Wear gloves or allow parts to adequately cool down before touching or moving the generator.
  12. Wear hearing protection, if necessary. Some generators are very loud and you may need hearing protection – such as ear plugs or muffs – in order to be near the generator. Prolonged exposure to loud noises can result in hearing damage.
  13. Keep children away from generators.