Electrical Safety - How do I work safely with electricity?

big_jimJanuary 1, 2013

Often when planning a DIY project, careful consideration is given to the tools, equipment, and supplies required, as well as the best route to take to achieve a certain goal. However, just as much thought should be put into safe working practices. This is particularly true when working with and around the home's electrical system. Regardless of the type of project, safe working practices are essential for everyone to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labors.

Keep in mind that no list of safe practices is all-inclusive as every project can present its own, unique, hazards. While using the following list as a starting point, take the time to evaluate the project and identify any other potential hazards that may affect you or others in the area. Also, if unexpected conditions arise or if you are unsure how to proceed, take a moment to step back and re-evaluate the situation. Either take the time to find the right answers or call someone qualified to help you.

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Treat all circuits like they are hot until you can prove otherwise.

Always turn off the electricity when you work on a circuit or device.

Buy a reliable device to test for voltage. Use it on a known hot circuit to make sure it is functioning properly before you begin work. Test after you turn the circuit off, test again before touching any wires or device parts, and test again if you leave the area for a few minutes.

After your voltage test tells you wires - all wires, not just 'hots' - are dead, try shorting them to ground with a big screwdriver. Now you can touch.

If you must have the electricity on to check something after you remove it from a box or enclosure, turn the electricity off while you remove it.

If you aren't in sight of the disconnect for the circuit you are working on, you should notify everyone in the area of your intentions before beginning work. Also, a lock should be applied to the breaker or panel cover after you have de-energized the circuit. If this is not possible, you should at least "tag it" so that others will not re-energize the circuit you are working on. Some suggestions include a large explanatory sign on the panel cover and breaker, as well as putting a piece of red tape across the breaker in the OFF position.

Wear rubber soled shoes when working around electricity. Additional protection can be had with ceramic-toed (not steel) boots and standing on a rubber "welcome mat".

If you aren't using one of your hands for something while testing or working on a circuit, the best place for it is in your pocket.

As much as you can, when working around electricity, stay away from things that can ground you, such as metal pipes, sinks, and water.

GFCI's (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) should not be bypassed or removed any time they are installed on power tools, portable appliances, and other equipment. Removing these devices places the user and possibly others at the risk of injury or death. ...

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