Many of us have been shocked before by static electricity when walking across a carpet or touching a door handle. But a real electric shock is a lot more painful than that, and a lot more dangerous. Here’s what can happen: Muscles tighten up, making it almost impossible to pull away from the circuit; lungs constrict, making it hard to breathe: the heartbeat is interrupted and blood vessels tighten and burns occur where the electricity enters and leaves the body.
Humans are good conductors of electricity because electricity moves quickly through water, and the human body is 70 percent water! Another fact you need to remember is that electricity always tries to find the easiest path to the ground and as electricity travels at the speed of light, a person has almost no chance of pulling away. If the electricity is strong enough, it can cause the victim’s muscles to tighten up so much that he/she can’t let go.
Anyone who touches someone who is being electrocuted can become part of the circuit as well. That is why you should never grab on to anyone who is being shocked.
How to Deal With Electrical Shocks from Appliances
- Switch off the electricity at the main switch. Cover your hands with dry rubber gloves or several layers of dry newspaper when doing so
- Try and switch off the electricity at the wall plug where the appliance causing the shock is plugged in, and unplug it
- Remove the victim from the appliance causing the shock (if that is the case)
- Pull the victim away from the affected area, holding onto his/her clothing that is dry and loose. You can also push the victim away by using a broomstick or a chair
- Make sure that the broomstick is dry and that you are not touching any metal parts
- Call the emergency services immediately
In the meantime give first aid (If you know how):
- If the victim’s breathing has stopped or is not normal, apply mouth-to-mouth breathing and massage the heart immediately
- Treat any injuries that may have been caused by the victim falling. Do not smear ointment on any burns. Protect the burns from the air with sterilised bandages
- Get any electrical accident victim to a hospital or doctor as soon as possible even if they say they are OK
Conducting important Routine Safety Inspections:
In any home, breakages and excessive wear and tear on electrical equipment can occur. Appliances needing repairs or replacement should be attended to immediately. Not doing so could result in an accident. Some general points to look out for when making an inspection include breakages; wear/deterioration; signs of overheating; missing parts (screws, covers, switches); faulty appliance controls; doors and covers not closing smoothly or adequately; loose fixtures or fittings and the like.
It is also important to always use SABS approved electricity equipment from plugs, to cords and adaptors as this ensures high quality and minimises risk.
Plugs and Electric Sockets
We depend on electricity for almost everything we do and plugs are part of the supply of electricity, therefore, it is important for people of all ages to know how to use plugs safely. The following tips are for you to use when buying and using plugs:
- Do not overload plugs; rather use an adaptor, as overloading a plug can cause a fire; a multi-plug adaptor will allow you to use as many appliances as needed without the risk of overheating
- Do not pull a plug by the cord
- Switch the switch off at the wall socket, before pulling the plug out
- Do not connect electrical appliances to light sockets
- Ensure that all wall sockets have their switches in the “off” mode, when not in use
- Never put bare wires into sockets
- Do not stick your finger/s into socket/s
- Cords, like plugs, are an essential part of our environment and can also be a potential safety hazard
- Do not use frayed cord, rather replace worn and frayed cords on appliances immediately
- Keep cords well away from hot stoves and other hot surfaces
- Do not run electric cords under carpets or rugs
- Do not join cords with tape
- Do not run cords through hinges
- Do not run cords where people can easily trip over them
Wiring a Plug
- Cut away the plastic insulation to expose the ends of the three wires inside the electrical cord for about half a centimetre
- Twist the strands of copper wire until each strand is tight
- Fold over the twisted strands
- Remove the plug cover and unscrew the little screws on each of the plugs pins
- Insert the twisted copper wires into the holes in the pins
- The green and yellow wire must always be inserted into the top pin
- The blue wire is inserted into the left pin (the pin is marked with a blue spot or the letter N)
- The brown wire is inserted into the right pin (the pin is marked with a brown spot or the letter L)
Water is an excellent electricity conductor and can cause electric shocks or short circuits very easily. Therefore any electrical appliances should be kept away from water and should not be used in a bathroom. One should also never touch electrical appliances with wet hands and never fill a kettle when it is plugged in. Furthermore, never mow wet grass with an electric lawnmower and do not hold an electric appliance in one hand whilst touching metal objects such as taps, fridges or stoves with the other hand.
When babies start to crawl or walk, extra care has to be taken so that they do not harm themselves. Children are naturally interested in cords and plugs and their curiosity could lead to serious accidents.
Outside the Home
Not only should one be careful inside the house, but outside as well, where there are some potentially dangerous situations:
- When working with any electrical appliance like power drills, make sure that they are connected properly
- Never use them in damp or wet areas
- Do not enter electrical sub-stations
- Do not touch any electrical power lines or go near them as they are extremely dangerous.
- Never change a light bulb without first making sure that the current is switched off
- Do not use a fork or a knife or anything that is made of metal to remove toast from a toaster when it is plugged in
- If you see sparks or smoke from an electrical appliance, it is telling you that something is wrong. Unplug it and call an electrician
- Do not work on electrical appliance unless you know exactly what you are doing and make sure it is not plugged in.
- Electricity is extremely helpful in our everyday lives, but sometimes it can go wrong and you are left with a power failure
- Know where to locate the “mains” box in your home.
In the event of a power failure, first check to see if you are the only house affected. If you are, check the “mains” box to see if the main power switch has tripped. If it has, then flip the switch back on – the circuit with the fault should now remain off. Have it fixed as soon as possible. If you are unsure of what to do, do not touch anything. Call an electrician as soon as possible to fix the problem for you. The problem can be caused by: a lightning storm; a problem with the power lines in your area; vandalism or an accident in the substation servicing your area. When a power failure affects all the houses in your area it is usually due to a problem with the main power supply and the proper authorities should be contacted immediately.