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Safety Saves

February 9, 2012

I described some basic terms of electricity last week so this week I am going to follow up with some safety tips. I can’t have crispy critter DIYer’s hanging around. I don’t like work place accidents and it can happen so quickly with electricity that I am compelled to make you read about safety before I go any further with telling you about basic repairs you can make around your home.

As I explain things to you I want you to remember that an electrical outlet is any place where electricity leaves the wires in order to perform a service, a receptacle is an outlet where electricity exits the system through a plug, a fixture is an electrical outlet that is permanently fixed in place and, a device is something that carries, but does not use, electricity (such as the switch or receptacle). Got that, good – there will be a test in ten minutes!

Now – I will repeat this every time I write about a DIY electrical project. The most important safety tip is always: TURN THE POWER OFF and test to be SURE IT IS TURNED OFF!!

Not only do you need to flip the circuit breaker or completely unscrew the fuse but you need to test the wire with a voltage meter to be sure you flipped the right switch. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard my electrician squeal like a baby because we (not me) did not turn off the right switch – it was mismarked on the panel. You need to test it with a voltage tester. Do not trust what someone else wrote on the panel door or a sticky note.

Always use rubber-gripped tools. And when you do – please grip them by the rubber part – not the metal part. Duh. The reason they make them with the rubber handles is so you don’t get shocked. And don’t touch the metal sides of anything with the metal part of the tool.

When you are in the breaker box – DO NOT touch the bus bar; it remains hot even when the breaker has been shut off.

Always – and I mean ALWAYS – wear rubber-soled shoes. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I have heard about non-rubber shoes and electricity. It’s frightening.

Wires entering from outside the breaker box are ALWAYS hot. Treat them with extreme caution.

When doing a DIY electrical job, don’t wear jewelry, even a watch – anything that could get snagged on a wire.

I have done a spoof on ladder safety but this is very important ladder information. When working with electricity only use a fiberglass or wooden ladder. Why? Well, an aluminum ladder conducts electricity.

Let me remind you: Electricity deserves respect. Most homes today have numerous safety features such as grounding, and ground fault circuit interruption but nothing is full proof. YOU need to be in charge. Be alert, be mindful, stay focused, and be smart.

Thanks for the emails on projects you want to learn about. I am still open for suggestions and I want to hear about projects you may have already done. Give me a shout out at joellen@toolboxtomgirl.com.

To women holding hammers (and getting smart about electricity),

Jo Ellen Soesbee, The ToolBox TomGirl

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