Electrical Safety Tips for the DIYer

One of the things our bodies do well, for better or worse, is conduct electricity. So keep these tips in mind.

It’s not made of metal, but the human body is still a pretty good conductor of electricity thanks to the wet, somewhat salty tissues inside. That’s a good thing to keep in mind when tackling DIY projects.

Direct contact with an electrical current can stop the heart, not to mention cause thermal burns, damage muscles and nerves and lead to falls off ladders. So when it comes to home DIY projects and especially those that involve electrical wiring, the golden rule is “never attempt a project that is beyond your skill level.” Know when to call an electrician.

If you are going to work around electricity, here are few tips that can help keep you safe.

Shut off the power at the breaker panel to all circuits near where you are working. It’s a good idea to put tape over the “off” breakers so they don’t accidently get turned back on by you or someone else.

Test wires to make darn sure the power is off. Use a noncontact voltage tester to check every wire in your work area. Test the voltage tester itself on a “live” wire to make sure it's working properly before you rely on it.

Use a ladder made of fiberglass or other non-conductive material.

Never work on an electrical project in the rain or a wet location.

Don’t touch any plumbing or gas pipes while working with electrical wiring.

Wear rubber-soled shoes if your project involves working around wiring.

Use tools such as pliers, strippers and screwdrivers with non-conductive grips that are in good condition. If all your tools have these grips, you don’t have to worry about grabbing the wrong one when working around electricity.

Once you’ve completed the project and turned the power back on, pay attention to a tripping breaker, especially if it trips immediately after you’ve reset it. This is a good indication there’s an electrical problem somewhere.

Also, it’s a good idea to test the outlets and switches after you turn the power back on to make sure they have power and that they work. You can use a noncontact voltage tester on the switches and a receptacle tester on the outlets.

If you play it safe around electricity, the only shocking thing about your project will be the dazzling results.