Doing electrical work around the home is usually something that is best left to a professional. Sometimes, of course, you will have to do the job yourself. The professional electrician may cost too much, be too busy or just be that jerk that cut you off in front of your town’s single traffic light last week and to whom you don’t want to fork over big bucks. A hundred or so reasons may exist as to why the professional electrician is not going to receive a call from you when the electricity goes out inside your home or business. In order to avoid, well, death…you should follow some simple rules when it comes to working with electricity.
The first thing you want to do when setting down to do electrical repairs yourself is to make sure that the circuit is not running live. The main circuit breaker controls the flow of electricity throughout your house and if you or the previous owner were major league control freaks, then you already have the circuits mapped out in plain English. (Or Spanish or Chinese or Russian or Farsi…America is still a magically delicious melting pot no matter what Arizona politicians and all Republicans may feverishly desire.) If you know exactly which breaker controls the outlet you will be working on, flip it off. If you aren’t a control freak and you want to make absolutely certain you won’t be trying out a homemade form of electro-convulsive therapy (or playing bondage games!) then you should locate the master switch and throw it. If you don’t know how to throw the master switch, then you really do need to call in a professional electrician because you are doing nothing less than playing with your life.
When working on repairs involving electricity, make sure you are using tools specifically designed to help with safety issues. You want tools like lineman’s pliers and wire strippers and screwdrivers to be insulated with rubber padding on the handle. Put on some safety glasses and take off jewelry and watches. Try not to do electrical repairs when the floor is wet and if you simply cannot do otherwise, then wear some thick rubber boots and stand on planks to create a safer buffer between you and the wet stuff.
In keeping with that advice, remember to avoid grounding yourself when doing electrical repairs. This means avoiding any situations in which you are standing on bare ground or a concrete slab when working with electrical outlets. You don’t want such an efficient contact with the ground when doing repairs yourself. Whether there is moisture around or not, you should always wear shoes with rubber soles when working with electricity. It should go without saying, but it will be said anyway: Never, ever, never—EVER-do any work with electricity while you are in your bare feet. Doing so kind of makes you a living, breathing lightning rod. And you don’t need that.
When working with lamps or small appliances, you should pull the plug free from the outlet even if you know for sure you’ve turned off the right circuit breaker. Don’t pull the plug out by the cord, but take the extra effort to grasp the plug securely and remove. Sometimes when working with a plugged appliance you will plug it back in to test whether it is working or not. When the answer is not, you may forget to unplug it again. This could be a very painful if not necessarily fatal mistake.
So don’t do it!