Electrical shocks are no laughing matter. They can kill. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) publishes more than 700 standards related to electrical products. From fuses to refrigerators, many of these codes are designed to improve safety in the home. Chief amongst these is the Canadian Electrical Code (CE Code), which published its 21st edition in early 2009. Read our electrical saftey tips below. The CE code has become the signature standard for addressing the shock and fire hazards of electrical products sold and used in Canada. The CE Code is available here.
Codes, regulations and certifications are there to protect individuals and professionals but the sad truth is, in children, in-home injuries are the leading cause of childhood trauma.
Children and electricity: a deadly mix
Children live in a world designed for adults and are often not able to judge the level of risk and the consequences associated with their activities. Smaller bodies are more vulnerable to traumatic injury than those of adults. A nasty but survivable shock in a 100 kg adult might prove fatal to a 15 kg child. From 1991 to 1996, 16 children died and 597 were injured as a result of non-lightning-related electrocutions in Canada, according to a 2004 study published in the British Medical Journal. Most occurred outside while males accounted for majority of the victims. The median age was just over 13-years-old.
The 2009 CE Code included new safety requirements such as tamper-resistant receptacles, new requirements for ski and tow-rope assemblies and bonding for swimming pools, all aimed at keeping users safer.
CSA Group tracks various benchmarks though its Key Performance Indicators (KPI). In 1997 more than 640 electrical injuries were reported in Canada. By 2007, that number had dropped to about 475. CSA introduced the standard CSA C22.2 in 1985 and have seen reductions in most years since that time. CSA Group’s Key Performance Indicators are available here.
Number of in-home injuries fall
The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) of Ontario’s 2007 Ontario Electrical Safety Report recorded, in the 10-year period from 1998 to 2007, 106 deaths due to electrocution, with the average annual death rate of 0.849. The rate of electrocution per million of population in Ontario for 2007 was 0.311, 0.946 in 2006 and 0.718 in 2005. The decrease in the fatality rate was 67 per cent from 2006 to 2007. In 2007, Ontario had four electrocutions compared to nine in 2005, eight in 2004 and twelve in 2003. Home electrical fires declined by 23 per cent between 1997 and 2006.
Safety, first and foremost
When it comes to electricity, caution is always key. Do not stick anything into electrical wall outlets, into the end of an electrical extension cord, or into electrical appliances that are plugged in. And electrical wall outlets should be childproofed to help avoid accidents.
Don’t overload outlets by plugging too many cords into them. Also be aware that using adapters to add cords can still cause overloads and fires.
Don’t use any cords that show signs of damage such as loose prongs, splits in the plastic casing (cord jacket), or cords that heat up when in use. Also, never remove the third prong or ground pin of a plug and don’t touch outlets or switches with missing or broken cover plates.
Water and electricity: a bad mix
Don’t plug anything into an outlet if there is water on the floor near it. Mop it up and wait for the area to be totally dry. Don’t use hair dryers, radios, or any other electrical appliances in the tub or shower. And, always unplug hair dryers when you are done with them.
Don’t go near any electrical wiring, electrical equipment or get on any roof to play or retrieve a ball or toy. Be careful when you are playing outside at home or in the park – always check for overhead wires and know that there are underground wires too. Finally, don’t climb utility poles and fences around electrical equipment.
Counterfeit products – electrical fires and shock hazards
Each year, CSA International works to make retailers and customers aware of suspected counterfeit products on the market. Often, these products will bear a CSA certification mark that was not earned and for which no testing was ever done. Examination often shows these products are faulty and pose a significant threat to unsuspecting consumers.
CSA International is a member of the Certification Industry Against Counterfeiting, an international network of organizations coordinated by INTERPOL, and committed to stopping the counterfeiting of certification marks that may endanger public health and safety. For more information, visit www.ciac.info.