Invisible Electrical Dangers: Keep Yourself, Loved Ones Safe


SPRINGFIELD, Ill.—Approximately 1,000 people die, and 30,000 people are injured every year due to electrical accidents. While electricity typically transmits without incident, there are times when the electrical path becomes disrupted. When this happens, the current can flow through anything or anyone in its path, causing electrical shock, internal and externals burns, and other serious injuries, including electrocution.

“Electricity is referred to as the silent killer since it is often undetectable, that is, it typically cannot be seen, heard or smelled,” says Erin Hollinshead, executive director of Safe Electricity. “While you might notice some electrical hazards — electrical outlets that are discolored and warm to the touch or symptoms of other electrical wiring issues, for example — many others are invisible and imperceptible,” she warns. “Always respect electricity and the potential danger that comes with its distribution and use; in fact, always err on the side of caution concerning electrical sources.”

Hollinshead says while there are precautions you can take both inside and outside your home when it comes to potential electrical dangers, many people are less familiar with (or pay less attention to) potential electrical hazards in the great outdoors.

“When outside, always be aware of overhead power line locations and never come within 10 feet of a line — for example, while trimming trees or carrying a long object such as an extension ladder, pool skimming pole or any other far-reaching or extendable tool,” she advises. “In addition, respect underground utility lines by calling 8-1-1 or your state’s underground location service at least a few days prior to starting a digging project,” she says, adding that the service is free.

A power line does not have to be sparking or arcing (giving off a flame) or buzzing or hissing to be live. In other words, it can look harmless and lifeless and still be energized. “If you see an overhead power line that is sagging or down, always assume it is live (energized), and NEVER go near one,” warns Hollinshead.