Safety

Introduction

Safety is a priority at Laurens Electric Cooperative, for both our employees and our members. Click the tabs to the left to read safety tips for a variety of situations.

For more information on storm and power outage safety precautions and procedures, visit our Outage Center.

 

Back-Up Generator Safety

Caution Urged When Using Back-Up Generators

  • Make sure you know how to operate the generator safely. Unsafe operation can threaten you, your family, neighbors and even the linemen working to restore power. Unsafe installation or operation may also result in a lawsuit and your insurance may not cover your liability.
  • Temporary-use generators should not be connected to the circuit breaker or fuse box and should not be plugged into a household outlet. Portable generators should only be used with extension cords to power lights and small appliances.
  • Permanently installed generators should be wired into your home by a qualified electrician, using a transfer switch that prevents potentially deadly back-feed.
  • Generators should only be operated outside a home to prevent toxic and potentially deadly exhaust from entering a home. Keep them away from children and pets.
  • When starting a generator, disconnect all appliances that might be connected to it. That will not only protect them but prevent a fuse from being blown on the generator.
  • Connect appliances to your portable generator after it has been started. Use only three-prong plugs that allow connections to be grounded.
  • When refueling generators, allow the engine to cool in order to prevent a fire should the gas tank overflow.
  • Be sure to use a heavy-duty extension cord rated for the wattage of the load being connected.
  • When the generator is no longer needed, allow it to cool down before storing it.

 

Downed Power Lines

Accidents, severe storms, and other disasters can cause power lines to come down. With one wrong move before, during, or after a disaster, a life can be lost. Know the right steps to take to keep you and your family safe:

  • If you see downed power lines, or other damaged electrical equipment, notify the local electric utility as soon as possible because the lines could still be live.
  • Just because power lines are damaged does not mean they are dead. Stay away, and instruct others to do the same.
  • Power lines do not have to be arcing or sparking to be live and dangerous.
  • Downed power lines, stray wires, and debris in contact with them all have the potential to deliver a fatal shock. Stay clear of fallen power lines and damaged areas that could hide a hazard. Be alert during clean-up efforts.
  • Treat all power lines as if they are energized until there is certainty that power has been disconnected.
  • If a power line has landed on the ground, there is the potential for the area nearby to be energized. Stay far away, and warn others to do the same.
  • Do not attempt to drive over a downed power line.
  • If you are driving and come along a downed power line, stay away and warn others to stay away. Contact emergency personal or your utility company to address the downed power line.
  • If power lines should fall on your vehicle while you are driving, do not attempt to drive away or get out. Call for help, and stay inside until utility crews say it is safe to get out. The only exception would be if fire or other danger, like the smell of gasoline, is present. In that case, the proper action is to jump—not step—with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Jump clear. Do not allow any part of your body to touch the vehicle and ground at the same time. Hop to safety, keeping both feet together as you leave the area.
  • Any power line that is dead could become energized at any moment due to power restoration or backup generators.

 

Vehicle Safety Involving Power Lines

What to Do in Vehicle Accidents That Involve Power Lines

Instincts can help us to avoid danger but in some situations, our natural inclinations can lead to tragic results. If your car hits a utility pole or otherwise brings a power line down, getting out of a vehicle, with few exceptions, is the wrong thing to do until the line has been de-energized. Know the right steps to take to save your life:

  • You are almost always better off to stay in the car, especially if the line is in contact with the vehicle.
  • Call or signal for help. It is safe to use a cell phone.
  • Warn others who may be nearby to stay away, and wait until the electric utility arrives to make sure power to the line is cut off.
  • If the power line is still energized and you step outside, your body becomes the path to ground for that electricity, and electrocution is the tragic result. Wait until the electric utility arrives and shuts off the power.
  • The only exception would be if fire or other danger, like the smell of gasoline, is present. In that case, the proper action is to jump—not step—with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Jump clear. Do not allow any part of your body to touch the vehicle and ground at the same time. Hop to safety, keeping both feet together as you leave the area. Like ripples in a pond or lake, the voltage diminishes the farther out it is from the source. Stepping from one voltage level to another allows the body to become a path for that electricity.
  • Even if a power line has landed on the ground, there is still the potential for the area near your car to be energized. Stay inside the vehicle unless there is fire or imminent risk of fire.
  • The same rules apply with situations involving farm equipment and construction equipment that comes in contact with overhead lines. Those working with large equipment should stay inside the vehicle if equipment extensions come in contact with power lines.

 

 

Staying Safe During Flooding

Be alert to electrical equipment that could be energized and in contact with water, along with other potential hazards that create a serious risk of electrocution. Safety measures to keep in mind include:

  • Never step into a flooded basement or other room if water may be in contact with electrical outlets, appliances, or cords.
  • Never attempt to turn off power at the breaker box if you must stand in water to do so. If you cannot reach your breaker box safely, call your electric utility to shut off power at the meter.
  • Never use electric appliances or touch electric wires, switches, or fuses when you are wet or standing in water.
  • Keep electric tools and equipment at least 10 feet away from wet surfaces. Do not use electric yard tools if it is raining or the ground is wet.
  • Electric motors in can be damaged when wet and should not be used after a storm until they have been inspected and approved by a professional. It may be necessary to have some of them repaired or replaced.
  • A good safety measure is to have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) professionally installed on outlets. GFCIs are recommended for outdoor outlets and outlets near wet areas of the home such as kitchens, baths, and laundry rooms.

 

Boat and Dock Safety

  • Water is a powerful conductor of electricity. It is especially important to be aware of electrical hazards around water.
  • Watch the forecast and make sure you are inside when a thunderstorm approaches. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles from the area in which it is raining. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder or lightning before returning outdoors.
  • When boating or fishing, be aware of your surroundings and potential electrical hazards. Always check the location of nearby power lines before boating or fishing.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 10 feet between your boat and nearby power lines.
    If fishing, make sure you are casting the line away from power lines to avoid potential contact.
  • Always lower masts of sail boats before using boat ramps to exit the water.
    If your boat does come in contact with a power line, never jump out of the boat into the water — the water could be energized. Instead, stay in the boat until help arrives and warn others to stay away.
  • Ensure proper installation and maintenance of electrical equipment on docks and boats. All electrical installations should be done by a professional electrical contractor familiar with marine codes and standards and should be inspected at least once a year.
  • Have a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breaker installed on the circuit(s) feeding electricity to the dock. A GFCI will trip the circuit and cut off power quickly if there is a problem.
  • The metal frame of docks should be bonded to connect all metal to the AC safety ground at the power source.
  • Neighboring docks can also present a shock hazard. Make your neighbor aware of the need for safety inspections and maintenance. Marinas and docks should comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA standards.
  • Check cords that are plugged into docks to make sure there is no broken casing or exposed wires.
  • Regardless of the size of boat, maintenance of the electrical system should be done by a professional familiar with marine electrical codes.
  • Boats with alternating current (AC) electrical systems should have isolation transformers or equipment leakage circuit interrupter (ELCI) protection, comply with ABYC standards, and should be serviced by an ABYC Certified Tech.
  • Fuses are rated to protect the wire, not the appliance. If a fuse blows continuously, it should NOT be replaced with a larger one just to keep it from blowing again — something else is wrong. It needs checked out.
  • Have your boat’s electrical system checked at least once a year. Boats should also be checked when something is added to or removed from their systems.
  • If you are swimming and feel a tingle, get out of the water as soon as possible. It may be electricity leaking into the water. Swim away from potential sources of electricity.
  • If someone is suffering from an electric shock, do not enter the water to rescue him or her. The water may be energized, and you could be shocked or electrocuted yourself. Shut off power at the source, and then use a fiberglass shepherd’s hook to pull the victim out of the water.
  • If you are still wet when you are back on shore, do not touch electronics, including radios and lights. Wait until you are dry.

 

Child Safety

Outdoor Safety for Children

  • Teach children to never play around pad-mounted transformers, solar panels, wind turbines, or electrical substations. If a ball or other toy goes over a substation fence, call your utility for help.
  • Never climb trees near power lines. A tree may be inviting climbers, but trees near power lines could be conductors of electricity if branches are touching the wires. Even if branches are not touching power lines, they could if weight from a child is added.
  • Open areas are great places to fly kites and model airplanes, but do not fly them near overhead power lines or electrical substations. A kite string can conduct electricity from an overhead power line to the person on the ground.
  • Storm fronts can move rapidly, and lightning is a potential danger 10 miles in advance of a storm. Make sure that your children know “If thunder roars, go indoors” and not to seek shelter under a tree or open picnic shelter.
  • Ensure your children are protected from the electrical service connection to your home. Keep ladders or long poles stowed and away from youngsters who might be tempted to use them to reach the wires connected to your house. If you have added a room addition or deck, make sure the service connection remains well out of reach. Contact your local utility if you are unsure the distance is safe.
  • If electric wires in your neighborhood have sagged for some reason or a tree limb has pushed the line out of place, keep your neighborhood safe by alerting your electric utility.

kids-zone-thumbVisit Touchstone Energy’s Kids Energy Zone for safety, education, games and more

 

Contractor and Occupational Safety

Contractor and Large Equipment Operator Safety

  • Always use proper safety equipment. Get it inspected regularly to ensure it is still in good working order.
  • Equipment operators should always beware of their proximity to power lines. If maneuvering near them, use spotters with a wider view to help guide equipment operating in tight areas.
  • Equipment should be kept at least 10 feet (that distance increases for each kV above 50 kV) from power lines in all directions, and regulations for cranes increase that distance to a 20-foot minimum.
  • If a machine or ladder comes close or touches a power line, do not touch it and warn others to stay back. Anyone touching or even standing nearby is at risk of electrocution.
  • If you are on equipment that makes contact with a power line—stay put. Do not attempt to climb off the equipment because you do not want to become the path to ground for the electricity. Call for help, and warn others in the area to stay back until help has been called and the line has been de-energized, regardless of its voltage.
  • Workers at job sites should have quick access to the emergency phone number of the local electric utility, which should be alerted to de-energize a line if contact is made my equipment.
  • Follow lock out/tag out procedures.
  • Call 8-1-1 before you dig and get underground utilities identified. Electricity, gas, and other underground utilities can be deadly if you make contact with them

 

Electric Shock Drowning

About Electric Shock Drowning (ESD):

  • ESD is the result of electricity leaking into fresh water and passing through the body, causing death.
  • Lower levels of electrical current can cause skeletal muscular paralysis, making the victim unable to swim. This results in drowning.
  • Higher levels of electricity will result in electrocution.
  • Although ESD can occur in any location where electricity is provided near fresh water, the majority of ESD deaths have occurred in public and private marinas and docks.
  • Typically, the electricity entering the water and causing ESD originates from faulty wiring of the dock, marina, or boats connected to a shore power supply.
  • If an electric fault occurs on a boat while connected to shore power and the boat or marina is not properly wired to meet current American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, the water surrounding the boat will become energized.
  • When looking at an area of water surrounding a boat, marina, or dock—there is no visible warning or way to tell if that water is energized or will become energized with electricity.
  • Water that is safe to swim in one minute could be deadly the next.
  • It is difficult to track ESD. In many cases, a death is recorded as drowning, and there aren’t signs of electrocution on a victim’s body.

For first responders:

  • By sight alone there is no visible warning or way to tell if water surrounding a boat, marina, or dock is energized. So if someone is in trouble, do not jump into the water if there is a power supply near the water. You could become a victim yourself.
  • If there is any chance electricity is involved, turn off the shore power connection at the meter base, and/or unplug shore power cords. Make sure the electricity is off before jumping in the water to help the victim.
  • There is no immediate, visible way of determining if ESD was the cause of a victim’s death. Unlike electrocution on dry land, if a victim is electrocuted in the water, there will not be any burn marks on the body.

For water recreation enthusiasts:

  • Do not swim around docks with electrical equipment or boats plugged into shore power.
  • If you are in the water and feel electric current, shout to let others know, try to stay upright, and swim away from anything that could be energized.
  • If you are on the dock or shore when a swimmer feels electrical current, do not jump in. Throw them a float, turn off the shore power connection at the meter base, and/or unplug shore power cords. Try to eliminate the source of electricity as quickly as possible. Then call for help.

For boat/marina owners:

  • Regardless of the size of boat, maintenance of the electrical system should be done by a professional familiar with marine electrical codes.
  • Boats with alternating current (AC) electrical systems should have isolation transformers or equipment leakage circuit interrupter (ELCI) protection, comply with ABYC standards, and should be serviced by an ABYC Certified Tech.
  • Fuses are rated to protect the wire, not the appliance. If a fuse blows continuously, it should NOT be replaced with a larger one just to keep it from blowing again—something else is wrong. It needs checked out.
  • Have your boat’s electrical system checked at least once a year. Boats should also be checked when something is added to or removed from their systems.

For dock owners:

  • All electrical installations should be done by a professional electrical contractor familiar with marine codes and standards and should be inspected at least once a year.
  • Have a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breaker installed on the circuit(s) feeding electricity to the dock. A GFCI will trip the circuit and cut off power quickly if there is a problem.
  • The metal frame of docks should be bonded to connect all metal to the AC safety ground at the power source.
  • Neighboring docks can also present a shock hazard. Make your neighbor aware of the need for safety inspections and maintenance. Marinas and docks should comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA standards.

 

General Electric Tool Safety

  • Check the cords of your power tools before you use them. If they are damaged, do not use them or try to repair them yourself. Tag all damaged tools as damaged so that everyone else knows not to use them as well.
  • Always unplug your tools before servicing or cleaning them. Ensure that they are turned off before you disconnect them to prevent accidental starting.
  • Tools that have ground prongs should be plugged only into three-pronged outlets. Never remove the ground prong. Never use a plug that has its ground prong removed.
  • Test circuits and conductors before working on them.
  • Keep your work area dry when working with anything electric. Remember, water + electricity = danger.
  • Always use ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection. Use a portable GFCI if your work site outlets do not have them.

 

Pool and Hot Tub Safety

  • Water is a powerful conductor of electricity. It is especially important to be aware of electrical hazards around water.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment when wet.
  • Do not place electrical appliances near pools or hot tubs. Use battery operated appliances, rather than electrical, near swimming pools.
  • Any electrical outlets within 20 feet of a pool or hot tub should be equipped with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GCFI). A GFCI monitors the flow of electricity in a circuit. If there is an irregularity of electrical flow, the power is cut off, preventing an electric shock. GFCIs are recommended anywhere water and electricity may meet.
  • Know where electrical switches and circuit breakers are for pool and hot tub equipment, and know how to operate them. Do not operate switches and circuit breakers when wet or if you are standing in water.
  • Pools and decks should be built at least 5 feet away from all underground electrical lines and at least 25 feet away from overhead electrical lines.
  • When cleaning the pool, know where any overhead power lines are to avoid making contact with them while using long-handled tools like a pool skimmer.
  • Make sure all electrical equipment for pools and hot tubs is grounded.
  • Have a qualified electrician inspect, repair, and upgrade your swimming pool or hot tub so it is in accordance with the National Electric Code.
  • Watch the forecast and make sure you are inside when a thunderstorm approaches. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles from the area in which it is raining. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last thunder or lightning before returning outdoors.
  • If a swimmer is getting shocked, don’t dive in yourself or you could be in trouble as well. Turn off the power at the source, and then use a fiberglass shepherd’s hook to pull the victim out of the water.
  • Pool owners should have an emergency plan posted in plain view in the pool area with instructions on how to assist someone who is suffering an electrical shock.