Electrocution: The Dangers of Electric Outlets
Knowing the dangers caused by electric outlets can help you minimize the risks that could lead to electric shocks, burns or worse, electrocution.
It is almost impossible for an adult finger to fit in the electric outlet hole. Even for children, it is quite unlikely due to the small size of the hole. But this does not mean that there are no risks. Although the chances of inserting a finger in the standard outlet are slim, inserting metallic objects is possible and quite dangerous, as it could cause electrocution.
If by any chance, a child or even an adult inserts a conductive object such as a paper clip, a fork, a screwdriver or nail into the live electric outlet opening, it can be fatal. By touching the live part, the human body provides a path through which the current flows to the ground. Depending on the amount of current, the person may suffer from an electric shock or burns, that could lead to electrocution.
Another problem would occur if one hand is touching the live object in the electric outlet and the other one is holding a grounded surface such as a pipe.
Electrocution: Electric Current through the Human Body
A human’s body is highly conductive due to its large water content. This causes the body to provide a low electrical resistance path to the ground, hence the current flow. The amount of current and consequently the impact of the electric shock will, however, depend on the length of the contact, the voltage, insulation to the ground, and other factors.
If the person touching the part is standing barefoot on a concrete floor, the shock may be more severe and lead to electrocution or serious problems. However, if standing on an insulator, wearing shoes with a rubber sole, or standing on a wooden floor, the shock may not be very big, but could still be fatal depending on the person’s health.
A good insulating material between the human and the actual ground will limit the amount of current through the body, but you should still be careful by avoiding any contact with live electrical parts.
Faulty Electrical Outlets
The modern sockets are designed with some protection to prevent the users from accidentally inserting objects into the live hole. In addition, this makes it harder for curious children who would attempt to put objects into the outlet.
The majority electrical outlets have a spring-loaded mechanism which only releases to open when the ground prong is pushed. Adults can further child proof the outlets by using special insulator plugs that completely block any access by the young ones.
However, the poor quality outlets or even the good ones can get damaged due to tear and wear, and also from misuse. For example, overloading an electric outlet due to larger loads such as cookers with higher ratings may cause overheating of the prongs and the surrounding plastic. This would, in turn, widen the outlet holes, hence making them more dangerous. Other activities include regularly inserting of big objects or not using plugs and instead, putting the bare conductors inside the electric outlet.
This would generally make the outlets holes wider, such that a small finger can easily get in. Consumers should be on the lookout and ensure that they replace any broken or worn out outlet and extension codes.
Minimizing Risks of Electric Outlets
There are many ways an electric outlet can present safety risks to users. This happens due to misuse, faults, wrong wiring or wear and tear. It is, therefore, necessary to carry out regular inspections and replace any faulty part as soon as possible. Some effective ways of improving safety include;
- Ensure the correct wiring of the receptacle to avoid a situation where the live wire is connected to the ground or neutral terminal.
- Using the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles: These have an extra ground protection that disconnects the power upon detecting an unusual ground path such as when the current passes through the human body.
- Regular inspections and replacing the physically broken and faulty electrical outlets.
- Child proofing the electric outlets. You can use the plastic outlet caps or covers to block the holes and prevent the children from inserting objects.
- Use furniture to keep the wall electric outlets and extension cords out of reach from the children.
Minimizing the Risks of Electrocution
Electrical safety is very important and especially in the households with young children. The wide electric holes resulting from overheating, breakages and other malfunctions, expose users to various risks. Children or even adults may insert one of their fingers or an object in a live electrical outlet, hence exposing themselves to several risks.
For this reason, it is necessary childproof all the electric outlets and also be on the lookout for any damaged receptacles – which should be replaced immediately.