Electrocutions unplugged: Don't become toast fixing your toaster

Consumer Reports News: July 09, 2010 01:08 PM

The next time you try to fix your toaster, unplug it. Seems commonsensical enough but one of the most common scenarios for electrocutions involves folks getting electrocuted while attempting to repair an appliance. Big and small appliances, and power tools account for the most non-work-related electrocutions. And, perhaps because they are more likely to be fixing things or using power tools, men are victims of electrocution seven times more often than women, according to a new study from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The report looked at the number of electrocutions associated with the use of consumer products in 2005 and 2006 and considered related statistics dating back to 2002. The incidents covered in the study were associated with a consumer product, but not necessarily caused by the product. For example, the most common cause of electrocutions involving power tools was the equipment coming in contact with electrical wires.

Household wiring also accounted for a number of deaths as did holiday lighting, extension cords, pools and hot tubs, and lawn and garden equipment. One death was attributed to an amusement park ride. To be safe, the Electrical Safety Foundation International offers these tips:
  • Make certain all small appliances and tools are approved by an independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), ETL-SEMKO (ETL) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
  • Unplug all small electrical appliances, including hair dryers, shavers, curling irons, clothes irons, and toasters, when not in use.
  • Be sure you have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection anywhere electricity and water are within six feet of each other, such as your kitchen, bathroom and outdoors, to protect against electric shock.
  • Take any damaged electrical appliance or tool to an authorized repair center, or cut the cord, safely dispose of the item, and purchase a new one.
  • Never reach into water to get an appliance that has fallen in without checking that the appliance is unplugged or the circuit is shut off.
That last one sounds like a scene from a B movie -- as in B safe.

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