Electrical Safety at Home

Safety inside your home

Many people take electricity for granted. Since we cannot see it, we often forget that it is all around us - and it can be dangerous. Remember the following tips to help you stay safe around electricity. 

Electrical outlets

  • Never overload an electrical outlet. 
  • Never stick anything in an electrical outlet. 
  • Replace any two-prong outlets with three-prong outlets and ensure they are properly grounded to minimize shocks. 
  • Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) on all bathroom and outdoor outlets. 
  • Keep outdoor outlets covered when not in use. 
Extension cords

  • Keep electrical cords away from water and heat. 
  • Never use a plug when your hands are wet. 
  • Always remove a cord from the outlet by grasping the plug, not the cord. 
  • Do not run electrical cords under rugs or furniture, through doorways, or anywhere they will get excessive wear. 
  • Check cords and plugs before use, and discard them if they are worn, frayed, or damaged. 
  • Always use a three-pronged extension cord for outdoor connections. Two-pronged cords are for indoor use only. 
  • When using a grounded, three-prong plug, never break off or bypass the third prong. 
  • An extension cord is a handy device to temporarily bring power to an area in your home that does not have an outlet. It was never designed to take the place of permanent wiring. Using extension cords as permanent wiring is an indication that your home wiring is not adequate and should be updated by a licensed electrical contractor. 
Small and large appliances

  • Never use electrical appliances or any other electrical device near water. 
  • Keep vents on electrical appliances clear of lint or debris to prevent overheating. 
  • Unplug electrical devices when changing an attachment (such as a light bulb in a lamp) or when you're not using the device. 
  • If something gets stuck in an electrical device, always unplug it before removing the object. Never use a metal tool to remove it. 
  • To avoid getting a shock, always unplug the toaster before removing stuck toast. 
  • Never touch plugged-in appliances when your hands are wet and ensure that appliances are unplugged before cleaning them. 
  • Radios, hairdryers, or any electrical appliance, are hazards near water. Even if your hands are wet or you're standing on a wet floor, you can still experience an electrical shock. 
  • If appliances spark, overheat or stall, unplug them and have them checked by a dealer or qualified appliance service technician. 
  • Before buying any electrical appliance, make sure that it has a Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and/or Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) certification marks, to ensure it has been properly tested, inspected, and meets the electrical safety requirements for Ontario. The CSA seal ensures electrical safety when the appliance is used properly. 
  • Read the accompanying literature thoroughly before using a new appliance for correct operation and care. 
  • Some major appliances can draw a lot of electricity. It is important that they are wired by a licensed electrician whose work is inspected by the Electrical Safety Authority. Visit the Electrical Safety Authority website to locate a licensed electrician. 
Fuses and circuit breakers

  • Keep the cover of your fuse box or circuit breaker panel closed to protect your family from injury and to prevent dirt and dust from accumulating inside. 
  • If the power is out in your house, but not at the residences around you, it is probably your main switch. Contact a licensed electrical contractor and do not attempt to fix it yourself. Visit the Electrical Safety Authority website to locate a licensed electrician. 
  • When a circuit breaker opens or "trips,” the affected circuit will be out of power. If you are aware of the reason for the breaker tripping, disconnect the problem. To reset the breaker, you must move it to the OFF position and then back to the ON position. This should restore power to the circuit. Avoid overloading circuits. 
  • If a fuse blows, turn off all lighting and appliances on the circuit. Before changing the fuse, unplug appliances on the overloaded circuit and turn the main switch to the OFF position. 
  • Never change a fuse in a dark room. Use a flashlight in place of a candle as your source of light. 
  • Never change a fuse while standing on a wet floor. 
  • Double check fuse ratings to be sure the new fuse is the same as the one you're replacing. 
  • Never replace a fuse with a coin or other metal object. 
  • Check fuses regularly and tighten them twice a year to prevent them from overheating. 
  • Always keep the fuse panel and meter clear of debris and obstruction so it can be accessed quickly by qualified personnel. 
  • Do not store any flammable products or liquids within 36" of any meter or fuse panel inside or outside your home. 

Outdoor safety

Cleaning out eavestroughs, pruning trees, erecting flag poles, decorating for the holidays, and painting are all seasonal activities can all be hazardous activities and require planning and taking precautions. Regardless of the activity, safety is a practice for all seasons. 

Call or click before you dig

Located underground is a complex network of pipes and wires for critical services such as electricity, natural gas, cable television, telephone, Internet, water, sewage and other utilities. Damaging underground services can have serious consequences. A severed electrical cable could be fatal, a ruptured gas line could explode, a cut water line could cause floods, and severed communication lines (telephone, cable, Internet) could mean the loss of essential services. You could be liable for expensive restoration costs and potential legal action. 

If you are planning on digging, drilling, blasting, augering or driving stakes or fence post spikes into the ground, Ontario law requires that you call 1-800-400-2255 or click Ontario One Call before you dig to arrange for a FREE underground cable locate. Service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Call at least five working days prior to digging to schedule this service. Additional notice may be required during the busy spring season.

Watch out for overhead powerlines

  • Before you start any yard work or home maintenance outside, locate overhead powerlines. Be especially aware of powerlines that may be hidden by trees.  
  • Carry ladders horizontally. Never carry ladders vertically as they may come in contact or close to powerlines. Check for overhead powerlines before standing a ladder up. 
  • You don’t have to touch a powerline to receive a deadly shock. Electricity can jump or “arc” to you or your tools if you get too close. Have someone watch to make sure you stay at least three metres (10 feet) away from powerlines. 
  • Never climb trees near hydro wires. 
Using extension cords, plugs and lawnmowers

  • Keep outdoor electrical connections above the ground, and away from rain, puddles and snow. 
  • Use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) on all outdoor outlets. 
  • Always use a three-pronged extension cord for outdoor connections. Two-pronged cords are for indoor use only. 
  • Use electric lawnmowers on dry grass only and never mow the lawn with an electric mower when it's raining. 
  • Keep outdoor outlets covered when not in use. 
  • Keep leaves and other debris away from outdoor lighting and other electrical items. 
Trees and overhead powerlines

Did you know that tree limbs and branches that come into contact with power lines are a primary cause of power outages during severe weather? Here's what you need to know about trees and powerlines.  

  • Our forestry crews routinely patrol our lines to ensure that branches do not interfere with electrical services. However Alectra Utilities is not responsible for tree trimming on private property. If you are concerned that a tree is growing too close to power lines or other electrical equipment, please contact us. Our trained experts can assess your situation and will provide advice on how to proceed safely. 
  • Never attempt to trim any trees or other vegetation growing near or on any overhead power lines. These lines are generally not insulated and can be deadly if touched by a tree limb or ladder. 
  • When hiring landscapers or yard workers to trim your trees, remember to ask if they are licensed, insured and qualified to trim vegetation around power lines. They will generally contact us to temporarily disconnect power in order to work safely. 
  • For the health and beauty of your tree, and for your family's safety, we strongly recommend contacting a qualified line-clearance arborist to trim and maintain your trees -- especially trees near power lines. 
  • For more information consult the Trimming Trees Around Electrical Powerlines booklet produced by the Electrical Safety Authority. 
  • When planting a tree, research the full size that it will grow to at maturity. Avoid locations near overhead and underground power lines. Always call ON1Call at 1-800-400-2255 before you dig! 
Landscaping around transformer boxes

Thinking about planting shrubs around that green box on your property? Remember, this box - called a padmount transformer - contains electrical equipment that runs underground. Never dig near one, and keep all shrubs, fences and other permanent structures at least 3 metres from the front and 1.5 metres from the back and sides of the transformer. 

If you have trees, shrubs, greenery or fencing around a transformer box on your property, they will be removed to allow Alectra Utilities' crews to access and service the units. 

Access to Equipment

Safety at the cottage

Opening the cottage

Here are some electrical safety tips to help you open your cottage safely in the spring: 

  • Inspect your power line(s) and look for damage that may have occurred during the winter. If a wire is down on the ground, stay at least 3 metres or one bus length away and call your local electric utility immediately. 
  • Check your electricity meter for damage. Call your local electric utility if the meter has been tampered with or shows signs of being damaged. 
  • Look at interior and exterior wiring for visible signs of gnawing from animals. If your wiring is damaged, turn off the circuit breaker or remove the fuse to that circuit and contact an electrician to arrange for repairs. 
  • Check electrical cords and plugs for damage. Never use cords that are worn or frayed. 
  • Check that the chimney for your furnace is clear of debris, such as bird's nests, leaves, etc. 
  • Check the water level of your water tank before switching the power on to avoid damage to your water heater element. 
  • Keep all branch circuits in the OFF position until you have opened the main switch. Then energize individual circuits one at a time to avoid power surges that can damage your appliances. 
Closing the cottage

The following is a handy checklist of tips to help you close your cottage or seasonal home safely for the winter months: 

  • Before shutting off the main circuit breaker to your cottage or seasonal home for the winter, be sure to turn off heaters, pumps, hot water tank, and all major appliances, and then shut off each circuit breaker. This will help protect your home when you put the power back on in the spring. 
  • If you leave your electricity on to operate security systems or lighting, you should make sure the power supply to your major appliances is off at the main electrical panel. 
  • Turn off the power supply to any space heaters - otherwise they could come on automatically during the cold weather. Store all extension cords in rodent-proof containers or consider storing them at home where they won't be subject to freezing temperatures which can cause them to crack. 
  • Make sure tree branches are trimmed well away from any power lines coming into your cottage to avoid unnecessary power outages and safety hazards. Always hire a qualified contractor to prune trees near your power line(s) 

Renovating your home

When you complete any home renovation project that involves electricity, you must have the electrical work done by a licensed electrical contractor. Visit the Electrical Safety Authority website to locate a licensed electrician.  

  • If you are having someone do electrical work in your home, they must be a licensed electrical contractor. Ask the contractor to see their Electrical Safety Authority (ESA)/ECRA licence number. For more information and to locate a licensed electrical contractor, visit the Electrical Safety Authority website. 
  • Be sure you and your contractor follow all local building codes, the Ontario Electrical Safety Code, and all bylaws and permit requirements. 
  • A permit for electrical work must be obtained within 48 hours of when any electrical work begins. 
  • All electrical work must be inspected and approved by the Electrical Safety Authority. This inspection must be done prior to covering any wiring with drywall or any other wall/ceiling materials. 
  • Once the inspection is complete and approved, the permit holder will receive a certificate of inspection from the Electrical Safety Authority. 
  • Check the wiring requirements of your major appliances such as electric ovens and clothes dryers, and ensure they are wired by a qualified electrician whose work is inspected by the Electrical Safety Authority. 
  • Power tools should have either a three-prong plug or double insulation. Keep all tools and cords in good condition and never use power tools on wet grass or other wet surfaces. 
Upgrading your electrical service

There can be many reasons for deciding to upgrade the electrical service in your home. You may be adding extra living space, air conditioning, more appliances, a swimming pool or a sauna, or you may decide to replace your existing screw-in fuse type electrical panel with a circuit breaker type panel. 

We recommend that the following guidelines be used to plan this work: 

  • Always use a licensed electrical contractor to perform the work. For more information and to locate a licensed electrical contractor, visit the Electrical Safety Authority website.  
  • A licensed electrical contractor is required to display their Electrical Safety Authority/ECRA licence number. Ask to see it. 
  • An electrical permit needs to be taken out within 48 hours of when the electrical work starts. 
  • The electrical contractor that you hire will coordinate the planned work with both the Electrical Safety Authority and Alectra Utilities. A service layout may be required. 
  • As a guideline, please allow a minimum of three working days for us to schedule our work. 
  • On the date and time that is chosen to perform this work, Alectra Utilities will disconnect the electrical service to your home. 
  • Your electrical contractor will complete their work and have the Electrical Safety Authority inspect the work. 
  • Once the inspection is complete, you will receive a certificate of inspection from the Electrical Safety Authority. 
  • The Electrical Safety Authority will then contact Alectra Utilities and provide us with a Connection Authorization. This allows us to reconnect the electrical service to your home. 
  • Learn more by visiting the ESA website

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