Operational safety is part of electrical safety. Electrical products must be operated and maintained as per operating instructions for safety in normal use.
Electrical products must not be used in damp or wet situations, unless it is specifically designed and tested to be able to do so safely. (Scroll down to see a photo of an extreme example that has most definitely not been designed and tested for damp or wet situations.)
An electrical product should only be used for the purpose for which it was designed and tested.
More about electrical safety
Click here to learn about safe living with electricity on Energy Safety’s website.
Electricity regulations recognise that equipment that is in use or available for use is deemed safe if tested and tagged in accordance with AS/NZS 3760 “In-service safety inspection and testing of electrical equipment” standard cited in regulations.
Faults and electrical safety
Where a residual current device (RCD), fuse or circuit breaker has tripped, and it is connected to an electrical product, the product should be examined carefully.
An electrical safety examination will highlight any damage that indicates a fault. This is important before attempting to reset or replace the circuit protection. If there is any indication of overheating (including any burning smell), the product should not be re-energised until properly investigated.
If an attempt is made to reset a protection device and this fails, it is most likely there is a fault with the connected equipment. Further, attempts to reset the protection device should not be made until the cause of the tripping has been found and corrected by a licensed electrical worker.
Never increase the rating of a protective device to prevent tripping until it has been confirmed that the circuit protected was genuinely underrated for the rating of appliances connected.
Repairs and maintenance for electrical safety
Repair and maintenance of domestic electrical appliances by the appliance owner can only be performed in accordance with Electrical Code of Practice (ECP) 50. This is unless the owner performing such work is a currently licensed electrical worker.
Electrical Code of Practice (ECP) is an important part of electrical safety
Power leads and electrical safety
Where possible, avoid running electrical leads across floors. Get a registered electrician to install additional power points where necessary. If you must, purchase a “Cable Protector” to avoid creating a trip hazard and damaging the cable and please, do not run leads under carpets, duct taped to the floor, or loose on the floor. Hidden cables running across floors very quickly become damaged and extremely dangerous, especially as the damage is hidden by the carpet or duct tape.
A frayed cable as pictured below is not only an electrical shock hazard but also a major cause of fires in New Zealand.
Badly frayed and damaged extension cord that was hidden beneath a mat. An extreme case of what can result from poor electrical safety practices.
Power board dos and don’ts for electrical safety
If you care about electrical safety, please don’t daisy-chain your power boards.
So what exactly is daisy-chaining? It’s where power boards or surge protectors have been plugged into other power boards and/or extension cords. The supply of available electrical outlets or receptacles in some buildings may be insufficient and this encourages workers to interconnect surge-protected power boards and/or extension cords. Such an arrangement violates Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSH) regulations because the strip or wall receptacle may become overloaded, resulting in failure or fire.
It is dangerous to…
- Permanently secure a power board to building structures, tables, work benches or similar structures.
- Route power board cords through walls, ceilings, floors or similar openings.
- Overload a power board, which may result in fire or electrocution.
Poor electrical safety – this power board is totally fried!
Overloading a power board may be caused by the following unsafe conditions…
- One wall socket serves multiple high-use power boards.
- The power board serves an excessive number of appliances.
- The power board serves high-voltage items that are not intended to be plugged into ancillary power sources, such as refrigerators, microwaves or heaters.
- Wound or knotted cords. Power board cords should be straight while in use;
- The plug is hanging out of the socket. Plugs should be inserted fully into sockets so that no part of the metal prongs are exposed.
- Melted, burned, frayed, discoloured or otherwise damaged wires. Discard any cord with exposed wires, cracks or splices.
- The device is hot to the touch. If the power board feels hot, unplug it immediately.
- It is located in an area where air circulation is limited, which may lead to overheating, such as beneath carpeting or behind furniture.
- It is located in a moist environment (see photo below).
- It is used as permanent wiring, which is defined as wiring used for a period greater than 90 days (see photo below).
- Its grounding wire has been cut off to fit into an ungrounded electrical receptacle.
This power board has been wedged behind plumbing and used on a permanent basis – very poor electrical safety!
We saved the most shocking photo for last. Poor electrical safety seems too mild to describe this scene of absolute stupidity. Brings new meaning to the recommendation not to use a power board in a moist environment!
More power board dos and don’ts for electrical safety
- Don’t extend the cord length excessively, as this may present a trip hazard. The length of the power-supply cord should not exceed 7.62 metres.
- Don’t use on a construction site, such as a building site for a new home, to power high-voltage equipment.
- Don’t use in a healthcare facility to power medical equipment. Power boards have not been investigated and are not intended for use with general patient-care areas or critical patient-care areas of healthcare facilities.
Note that while power boards are designed to distribute electricity, they do not regulate power flow or block electrical spikes or surges. Surge protection is incorporated into some power boards, but it should never be assumed that a power board offers surge protection without inspecting the unit. The misconception that power boards are also surge protectors can lead to costly damage to electrical equipment during a power surge.
In summary, power boards are lengths of electrical sockets that allow multiple appliances to be powered. However, as with all types of extension cords, they should be used sparingly and temporarily with small appliances and electronics rather than as a substitute for a permanent wall receptacle. Inspectors who observe their improper use may wish to warn their clients of a potential shock or fire hazard.
Observing all these points will give you peace of mind regarding your electrical safety.