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Every year, thousands of people in the United States are critically injured or electrocuted as a result of electrical fires or accidents in their own homes. Faced with declining home values and aging properties, more homeowners are tackling do-it-yourself projects than ever before.
However, many do not have the training or experience needed to safely perform home electrical work. This increases the risk of immediate injuries and electrocutions, and potentially introduces new dangers into the home.
If you decide to undertake a home- improvement project yourself, your electric cooperative strongly recommends that you do not attempt work beyond your skill level. Knowing when to call a professional can help prevent electrical fires, injuries and fatalities.
If you do engage in a DIY project, make sure you plan the project first and understand the electrical system, equipment and materials required. Make sure you use adequate personal protective equipment and follow manufacturer’s instructions for all tools used.
Many do-it-yourself projects involve the use of power tools. Working with power tools requires skilled instruction and training. They can be deadly if not properly used or maintained.
A common scenario for power tool-related electrocutions is when the equipment comes in contact with live electrical wires while it is being used.
Facts and Statistics
Nearly 400 electrocutions occur in the United States every year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Electrical accidents with power drills, saws, sanders, hedge trimmers and other electric power tools account for 8 percent of consumer product-related electrocutions annually. An additional 9 percent are caused by accidents involving the use of lawn equipment, garden tools and ladders, which can come into contact with overhead power lines.
Personal Protective Equipment
Safeguards on outdoor electric tools are there for a reason. Make sure that they are always in place before operating.
Invest in safety goggles, hearing protection, dust masks, gloves and other safety gear recommended for each tool. A few dollars now are well worth the lifetime of functional use that they are protecting.
Wear the appropriate clothes for the job—boots, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Wearing sandals while mowing the lawn is just asking for trouble. Tie back long hair as well as hoodie strings, scarves and other items that could get caught.
Tips for Tool Safety
Use ground-fault circuit interrupters with every power tool to protect against electric shocks.
Do not use power tools with an extension cord that exceeds 100 feet in length.
Never use power tools near live electrical wires or water pipes.
Use extreme caution when cutting or drilling into walls where electrical wires or water pipes could be accidentally touched or penetrated.
If a power tool trips an electrical safety device while in use, stop using it. Take the tool to a manufacturer-authorized repair center for service.
When working with electricity, use tools with insulated grips.
Do not use power tools without the proper guards.
When using a wet-dry vacuum cleaner or a pressure washer, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid electric shock.