Because we use it every day, it’s so easy to forget how dangerous electricity can be. Our message is to always put safety first, and respect electricity.
- Our top 10 electrical safety tips
- Electrical work
- Safety in bathrooms, laundries and wet areas
- Cords and plugs
- Powerlines and trees
- Spikes and surges
- Security lighting
- Safety switches
Our top 10 electrical safety tips
- Install circuit breakers,
- Before using an electrical appliance for the first time, read and follow all the instructions for using the equipment safely,
- Switch-off appliances before removing the plug from the power point,
- Switch-off appliances at the power point when you’re not using them,
- If your appliance stops working, blows a fuse, overheats or sparks heavily, disconnect it and have it checked by a licensed electrical contractor,
- Broken switches and sockets are dangerous. Get an electrician to replace them as soon as possible,
- Remember that light fittings are usually connected to live wires, even when the light switch is turned off. So light fittings, switches and power points shouldn’t be removed for painting,
- If you’re working close to wiring, never use aluminium ladders, metal scaffold or painters' trestles,
- Nailing and fixing metal roofing and tile battens can be dangerous, so be careful not to contact electrical cables,
- Keep electrical equipment, including extension cords, right away from pools and spas at all times.
Never be tempted to do your own electrical work, no matter how handy you might be. It’s not just dangerous, it’s actually illegal for anyone except a licensed electrician to do electrical work.
Safety in bathrooms, laundries and wet areas
- Water and electricity are a very dangerous mix — so always follow a few simple precautions.
- Never use electrical appliances near basins and baths that contain water, no matter how careful you are
- Use permanently fixed electric wall heaters
- Always unplug electrical appliances when you’re not using them
- Make sure children can’t pull electrical appliances into the bath, shower or basin.
Cords and plugs
- When you take a plug out of a power point, always pull it out by the plug, not the cord
- Look out for damaged or incorrectly wired cords and plugs – they’re the most common cause of electrical accidents
- Check all power cords regularly for wear and tear, particularly extension cords
- Never try and ‘repair’ worn or damaged cords with PVC insulation tape — replace the cord instead
- Don’t overload power points by connecting double adaptors in piggy-back fashion, or by connecting one power board to another
- If an extension cord is wound on a reel, make sure it’s fully unwound before using it — otherwise it could overheat if used for heavy electrical loads.
Powerlines and trees
Trees or branches that come in contact with powerlines can start fires or cause serious accidents. As the property owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure trees are trimmed, and kept a safe distance from the powerlines leading into your home or building.
Western Power, your network provider, is responsible for all the electrical wiring outside your property. They have some useful safety information on their website about trees and power lines.
If you need to work on top of a roof to inspect or trim trees, take care — particularly at the point where electrical wires connect to your home.
Spikes and surges
There are many types of electrical appliance that have sensitive components — including microwaves, air conditioners, TVs, home entertainment and computer equipment. These appliances can be damaged by what are called electrical spikes or surges, which can come from any general purpose power supply.
Spikes and surges can be caused by all sorts of events which are difficult to predict or control, including:
- Storm, wind or lightning
- Trees touching overhead powerlines
- Vehicles colliding with power poles
- Operation of electrical equipment
- Failure of power generation, transmission or distribution equipment.
How do I reduce risk of a power surge?
There are a few things you can do to lower your chances of being affected by a power surge, such as:
- Unplugging electrical appliances when you’re not using them
- Following manufacturers' instructions and warranty procedures
- Taking out appropriate home or business insurance
- Fitting protective devices.
Surge protection devices
There’s a range of electrical protection devices that can help guard your appliances against spikes and surges. Some of these devices have a plug that connects directly to your power point.
You can usually buy surge protection devices from electrical stores, hardware shops, supermarkets, or directly from an electrician.
Your electrician can also fit devices to your switchboard or replace power points with surge-arrester types.
Burglars love the cover of darkness. You can help protect your property from thieves and vandals simply by leaving your lights on — whether you're home or not. Lights not only deter would-be thieves, it also allows neighbours and passers-by to see trespassers.
As well as having a light on inside your home, it’s a good idea to leave one on near your front door, back door and along pathways. To save energy, you could connect these outside lights to a motion sensor.
Don’t just take our word for it — Neighbourhood Watch and the WA Police also recommend leaving a light on to improve your security.
To help create a safer neighbourhood, why not get involved in your local Neighbourhood Watch. For more information on Neighbourhood Watch or information on home security, call 9356 0555.
A safety switch is designed to stop you from receiving an electric shock. It works by switching off your power supply within milliseconds, if it detects even a very small irregularity in your power supply.
It’s important to know that a safety switch won’t protect against electric shocks in all cases. Some types of electricity flow, directly from faulty plugs or appliances for instance, can’t be detected.
Safety switches are required by law in all new homes. We recommend installing a safety switch to protect all your power points. Some people choose not to protect power points for fridges and freezers (as accidental tripping of the safety switch could cause food spoilage) but it's best to discuss your options with a licensed electrician.
There are three types of safety switches available:
- Switchboard units - installed on the main switchboard, these provide complete installation protection or selected circuit protection.
- Power point units - inbuilt in a standard power point, these provide single point or single circuit protection.
- Portable units – these are suitable for use with extension cords and portable power tools.
Apart from portable units, all safety switches need to be installed by a licensed electrical contractor. Always keep your appliances in good order and test your safety switch at least once a month, by pressing the test button.
And please remember, a safety switch is no substitute for common sense, proper care and maintenance.
New regulations under the Electricity Act 1945 that took effect on 9th August 2009 require homes to have two residual current devices (RCDs) installed at the time the ownership is transferred or, when a new rental lease is made.