Cleaning gutters, trimming bushes, planting trees, and laying stone paths are just some of the projects homeowners undertake to maintain and improve their homes. Before tackling the next project, Safe Electricity encourages home-owners to take the time and the necessary preparations to do so safely.
“Before tackling any project, take a few minutes to prepare for the job,” advises Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council’s Safe Electricity program. “Begin by making sure you’ve got the right tools for the job. Also check cords for any cracks or frayed insulation and proper connections. Then take note of potential hazards in the work area such as overhead power lines.”
Even professional contracted workers are not immune to electrical accidents, and it is important to keep safety in mind. Preparing for the job is important part of tackling an outdoor project safely.
A U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission report found that ladders are involved in more electrocutions than any other product. So before taking a ladder out, be sure to look up and look out for overhead power Lines.
If you have overhead service, also be careful when working near power lines attached to your house. Keep equipment and yourself at least 10 feet away from lines. Never trim trees near power lines — leave that to the professionals.
Pay attention to your electric tools and extension cords. Check the condition of cords before each use. Look for fraying or cracking along the entire length of the cord and for damage to the plug or sockets. Replace any damaged extension cords or tools.
Be sure to only use extension cords rated for outdoor use, and remember to unplug them when not in use. Extension cords are designed for temporary use only.
When purchasing an extension cord or power tool, only buy products that have been certified by a recognized safety laboratory, such as Under-writers Laboratory (UL), ETL, or CSA.
Remember that electricity and water are a dangerous mix. If it is raining or the ground is wet, do not use electric power or yard tools. Never touch circuit breakers or fuses when you are wet or standing in water.
To help prevent electric shock, make sure outdoor out-lets are equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). If your outdoor out-lets do not have them, use a portable GFCI or have a professional install GFCI outlets.
Keep electric equipment at least 10 feet from wet areas, and always store power tools and extension cords in dry areas. Replace any that get damaged by water.
If planting a tree in the yard, consider placement. Select a planting location that will not interfere with utility lines both in the air and underground. Tree branches can interfere with overhead power lines, and roots can do the same with underground utilities.
When taking on a project that requires any sort of digging, such as planting trees or building fence, be sure to call 811 first. It is important to have underground utilities marked in order to know where it is safe to dig. Hitting an underground line can cause serious injury, disrupt service, and can be expensive to repair.
For more information on electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.