If you notice worn electrical cords with exposed wires can you still use an appliance? How careful do you really need to be?
Electrical safety hazards can pose a critical risk to your home or your business, so it’s worth minimising the hazards in your immediate environment. Exposed wires are a common electrical safety issue that you should act on straight away. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to minimise the risk from exposed wires and hence the safety risk to your family and employees.
What are exposed wires?
Exposed wires occur when the insulation around electrical cords and cables is frayed or damaged, revealing the wires within. Exposed wires can occur when there is damage to the cord for a portable appliance or can also occur in the wiring of a building. Exposed wires in the wiring of a building are particularly dangerous because you may not be aware of the issue.
What are the dangers of exposed wires?
The insulation around electrical cords and cables keeps us protected from the live electrical current flowing within the cord. The insulation also stops the wires and cords from overheating. When an electrical cord or cable is damaged to the extent that the wires are exposed, there is an increased risk of electrical burns, electric shock, and even death through electrocution.
Exposed wires also increase the risk of an electrical fire starting because the live and the ground wires can touch resulting in a spark that could ignite a fire.
Exposed wires affect the efficiency of your appliances
Exposed wires in the power cords of your portable appliances can affect the efficiency of those appliances as appliances may not receive the required power because the wires have been damaged. This can cause a higher draw of power from the power socket which can then result in a tripped circuit breaker, a short circuit, and even a power surge.
Where can you find exposed wires?
Exposed wires can be found in either the cords of electrical appliances, extension cords or the cords attached to power boards and can also be found in the wiring of your home or commercial premises.
All exposed wires pose an electrical safety hazard but exposed wiring within the structure of your home or business is of particular concern because it is a hidden danger. When exposed wiring occurs in the structure of a home, it can easily be in close proximity to flammable materials posing an increased risk of an electrical fire.
Exposed wires can also be found outside. Exposed wires in this environment can pose additional dangers because of the uncontrolled nature of the environment. Exposed wires outdoors can be exposed to water and other elements, and you may come across them unexpectedly.
If you find exposed wires outdoors, don’t touch the wires. Depending on the situation, call either a licenced electrician, or if it is outside your premises (such as a downed power line) call the SES as your first point of contact.
How to prevent exposed wires?
While it’s important to ensure that you’re using an electrical appliance as it’s intended, it’s also crucial to make sure you’re storing and maintaining it correctly. Here are some tips for preventing power cord damage leading to exposed wires.
Treat your appliances well
The most fragile part of an electrical appliance is the power cord – and it’s also the area that poses the most risk if it’s damaged. Be careful not to kink or tangle power cords unnecessarily and when you’re unplugging an appliance from the wall, pull the plug out gently. Pulling an appliance out of the wall by yanking the cable is one of the main causes of exposed wires around the connection between the plug and the cord.
Have your appliances tested regularly
Check your appliances regularly for any signs of damage to the cord or plug. Things to look for include damage to the plug, fraying of the cord, twisting or kinking of the cord, and exposed wires. If you’re in doubt about an appliance, get it tested by a test and tag professional. And if the appliance is used in your business, then all your appliances should be regularly tested and tagged. Jim’s Test & Tag conducts on-site testing and tagging and has franchises across Australia.
Have your building wiring checked
You don’t want to run the risk of exposed wires hiding in the structure of your building. When you move into a new home or building, get the electrical wiring checked for faults so you know that there aren’t any issues. Jim’s Test & Tag can test the wiring in your building and can also conduct an electrical risk assessment for you.
What to do if I find exposed wires?
Don’t be a DIY hero. If you find exposed wires, don’t try to fix them yourself.
Duct tape is not the answer
Regardless of where you find exposed wires, don’t be tempted to think that patching the wires up with some duct tape is the solution to the problem. If you patch an exposed area with duct tape, the damage can easily worsen out of sight. It’s much better to get the issue fixed when you first notice it than try a temporary fix and end up with a much bigger problem.
Exposed wires in the cord of an appliance
If the exposed wires are in the flexible cord attached to an appliance, get the appliance tested, repaired, or dispose of it (if it can’t be repaired).
Exposed wires in the structure of your building
If the exposed wires are in the structure of your building, call a licenced electrician immediately, shut off power to the area if possible, and don’t let anyone on the premises touch the exposed wires.
Exposed wires outdoors
If the exposed wires are outside your premises, isolate power to the area, don’t go near the wires, call a licenced electrician and follow their instructions.
If the exposed wires are outside, but not on your premises, call the SES (State Emergency Service) and follow their instructions.
Electrical safety should be a priority
Electrical safety should be a priority for your home or business as electrical faults and fires can cause injury or even death as well as significant property damage.