The electrical risks you might not see

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While electricity is an essential part of our everyday lives, it’s also a danger that can be difficult to protect against. Visible signs of electrical risk are easy to spot – like a glass of water near a power point or a frayed cord – but hidden electrical dangers are harder to manage.

Unfortunately, most action only comes after an accident that could have been avoided. Here are just a few of the hidden electrical risks you might not be prepared for, and how to protect yourself and others.

Assuming all new products are safe

There’s an expectation that newer appliances will be safer, considering the high safety standards and rigorous testing that new products are subjected to. Unfortunately, newer doesn’t necessarily mean safer, and each year the ACCC recalls hundreds of faulty products. In fact, the number of reported failures has increased steadily over the last 10 years, with 2018 alone seeing 307 products recalled.

It’s essential that all electrical appliances in the home and workplace are checked thoroughly by a licensed electrician for any defects. This includes products bought overseas.

Overseas electrical products may not be subject to the same rigorous testing required under Australian law. This means that their standard of safety may be significantly lower and increases the chance that they’ll cause an accident.

Incompatible overseas plugs can have exposed pins that carry live voltages of up to 240 volts. That’s enough to seriously injure or even kill someone. To avoid this risk, have an electrician check over any products that you’re unsure of, or replace them with a licensed Australian product.

Stacking extension cords

Our lives are increasingly filled with powered devices that require multiple plug outlets to charge. From Amazon’s Alexa to home PCs and laptops, e-readers, mobile phones and more, the regular ol’ two-plug wall socket no longer cuts it. You might be tempted to stack multiple plugs into the one socket – but stacking can overload the power point and cause fires.

A better alternative is using a multi-plug power board or spreading plugs over multiple wall sockets to avoid the risk of a meltdown.

Spraying insecticide or household cleaners near a power point

Insecticides are handy, but they’re also likely to eat away at your power points and plug sockets. Continued exposure to insecticides and household cleaners can cause power points to crack and warp. Leaving these damaged power points uncovered means exposing yourself to the risk of fire or electrical burns, so keep your sprays away from your sockets.

Home making extension cords

A trend among DIY-savvy individuals is to build your own extension cords for custom cabling – but cables that have been wrongly wired or crafted without an earth wire are extremely dangerous and can spark fires. Earth wires perform vital safety functions when equipment fails and provide protection from severe burns. Without them, users can suffer serious injuries.

To stay safe, buy ready-made, approved cords from licensed dealers. Not only are they cheaper, they just might save your life.

Washing electrical equipment without checking safety warnings

A quick hose down can help clean out dirt and imperfections in equipment, but not all machines are designed to be water-friendly. It’s essential that you check any warnings or tags present before attempting to immerse appliances in water for any reason.

No electrical equipment should be cleaned without first ensuring the power is switched off. Even touching equipment after being in contact with water can cause a spark, so it’s important to double check any unique requirements of your tools.

These are just a few of the most dangerous (and little-known) electrical risks. These tips and tricks will help to guard against the dangers that aren’t so obvious, keeping you, and your family, safe.

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