Under ideal conditions, electricity is a powerful tool. However, incorrectly installed wiring, older circuits, or damage done to an electrical system can all create opportunities for this powerful tool to cause injury. With that in mind, understanding the most common causes of residential electrical accidents can be useful in the prevention of future accidents.
Unfortunately, one of the most preventable situations is also one of the situations that commonly causes injury. Using older or damaged extension cords creates an opportunity for electricity to escape the circuit it is designed to flow through, and arc through anything else in the surrounding area, such as you. This can be avoided by making sure that you replace your extension cords when they get worn out, and you never use a cord which is giving signs of failure, such as being partially cut, or giving off a burning smell. Similarly, if the plug on one of your appliances is showing signs of wear, an electrician ought to be able to repair it.
Water is another common cause of electrical problems. Even if a circuit is in good condition, a spill could allow current to flow out of the system. if an area is flooded, beware any nearby outlets. While pure H20 does not conduct electricity, nearly all water will have ions in it which strongly conduct electricity. Sometimes when an area floods, homeowners can be distracted by the water and forget that the real danger is often invisible.
Damaged or Improperly Maintained Fixtures
Another common cause of electrical injury or accident is the use of damaged appliances, or improperly fitted appliances. As is normal with working with electricity, do not use anything that is giving off a burnt smell or otherwise indicating that it is malfunctioning. Similarly, do not plug anything into a socket it is not designed for. Light bulbs should only be used in fixtures that match their wattage. Improper matching of bulb to socket can at best decrease the lifespan of the fixture, and possibly cause electrical fires.
The take home message here should be that while electricity is an amazing tool which allows us many conveniences, it should also be understood and treated with respect. Knowing what the risks are and being aware of how to avoid them will go a long way in making your interactions with electricity safer. If you are ever dealing with an electrical problem, call a licensed and experienced electrician for assessment and repair.