Personal and Home Safety Tips

Are Electrical Hazards Hiding in Plain Sight?

It can be all too easy to overlook unsafe conditions that are right under your nose. Use the info on this page to give your house a safety once-over.

Switches, Outlets, and Cords

  • If you have small children or pets, make sure unused wall outlets have safety coverings.
  • Check that outlets and wall switches are cool to the touch. Unusual warmth may indicate an unsafe wiring connection and should be checked by an electrician.
  • Make sure all outlets and switches are working properly. Faulty equipment may indicate unsafe wiring.
  • All outlets and switches should have faceplates. Exposed wiring is a shock hazard.
  • Check that extension cords are correctly rated for the amount of electricity they are to carry and are Underwriter Laboratory (UL) approved.
  • Check all electric cords for visible damage. Cracked or frayed cords can be dangerous.
  • Make sure extension and lamp cords are not strung through areas where people will be walking. Cords can create tripping hazards and may be damaged if you walk on them. Ensure that cords don’t run under rugs or have furniture resting on them.
  • Make sure electric cords are not nailed or stapled in place. Cord damage can result in a fire and shock hazard.
  • Make sure you’re using the correct wattage and proper kind of light bulb in an overhead or ceiling fixture. The wrong type of bulb can lead to overheating and fire. If you don’t know the correct wattage, use a bulb no larger than 60 watts.

 
Kitchens and Bathrooms

  • Teach all family members to avoid touching electrical devices when they are wet, in water, or standing on a wet surface.
  • Unplug small appliances (hair dryers, mixers, toasters, etc.) when not in use. Unattended, connected appliances create an unnecessary electrical risk.
  • Keep all appliance cords away from hot surfaces (toasters, range tops, ovens, etc.). Cords can be damaged by excessive heat.
  • Check that all appliances and electric equipment are located away from the sink and bath.
  • Replace outlets in kitchens, bathrooms, and near swimming pools with Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs). GFCIs will provide shock protection by quickly cutting off the circuit in case of an imbalance of energy flow. GFCI’s should be UL approved and installed by a licensed electrician.
  • Never insert any metal object, such as a knife or fork, into an appliance.
  • Never leave electric heaters and hot plates unattended when in use.

 
Outdoor and Pool Safety

  • Never use power equipment on wet hedges, grass, shrubs, or in any areas that are damp.
  • Work and garden power tools should be protected with three-pronged grounding plugs, unless they are double insulated.
  • Contact your town or village hall to confirm that your pool plans meet all local zoning and safety requirements.
  • Check that no electric devices are so close to the swimming pool that they could accidentally fall into the water.
  • All outdoor outlets should have waterproof covers. Outlets that have moisture in them may create a shock hazard.
  • Keep all ladders far away from electric lines.

 
In Case of Fire

  • Keep emergency numbers for police and fire departments near your house phone, and program them into your cell phone.
  • Ensure that children know how to make a call, and under what circumstances they should do so.
  • Make sure that at least one smoke detector is placed on every floor of your home. Locate detectors on the ceiling away from air vents and near bedrooms. Test your detectors every few months to ensure they're working. Change the batteries when you change the clocks in spring and fall.
  • Develop an emergency exit plan for your home in case of a fire. Practice the plan to make sure everyone can escape quickly and safely.
  • Keep your chimney and vent piping clean. Have them inspected regularly and cleaned by a professional when necessary.
  • Don’t smoke in bed and keep ashtrays and other smoking materials away from beds and blankets.
  • Store flammable liquids such as paints, solvents and gasoline away from heating sources.

 
Prevent Poisoning

  • Use safety latches or combination locks to prevent children from getting into cabinets that store harmful materials.
  • Check containers of volatile liquids for tightly sealed caps. If the cap isn’t tightly closed, toxic vapors may escape and be inhaled.
  • Dust, dirt, and paint chips can contain lead or other harmful substances. Wet mop floors, and clean furniture and windowsills to remove particles that children might eat.
  • Check with your doctor about having children under the age of six tested annually for lead poisoning.
  • Never use containers that once held food to store poisonous products. Even adults can make mistakes.
  • Keep the Nationwide Poison Control telephone number, 1-800-222-1222, posted in your home so you can quickly call in an emergency.
  • Store medicines in the containers they came in, and make sure they clearly show the contents, doctor’s instructions and expiration date.

 
Avoid Common Accidents

  • Stairways should be well-lit. Steps, coverings, and handrails should be sturdy and secure.
  • Keep ladders in good shape. Check for loose rungs or frayed ropes on extension ladders. Make sure the ladder is on level ground before climbing and never stand on the top step.
  • Make sure clotheslines are above head level. Keep your yard clear of garden tools and litter. Inspect outdoor play equipment and furniture to ensure that it is secure and safe.
  • Don’t stand on chairs, boxes, or other makeshift items to get to hard-to-reach places. Use a sturdy stepstool that has a handrail for support.
  • Equip all bathtubs and showers with nonskid mats or strips to help prevent falls. Install grab bars to assist you getting in and out of tubs or showers. Do not use towel bars as grab bars.
  • Keep the garage door open if running the car engine inside. Be sure to clear snow away from tail pipes and parking lights and, always look before backing up.
  • Wear eye protection such as safety goggles or shields when operating power tools. Always disconnect and leave these tools in a locked position. Store sharp knives in a special compartment, tray or utensil block, out of the reach of children.
  • If there are swimming pools in your neighborhood, don’t rely on fencing to keep young children safe from drowning accidents. The only real protection is direct adult supervision.