ELECTRICAL SAFETY

The activities you’ll do in this course are safe. There is no danger as long as you follow the directions. However, many of the electrical concepts you’ll cover in this course also apply to situations that use higher amounts of electricity, such as in the circuits that run your house. Because of this, it is important to know the risks and to use good safety practices when working with any amount of electricity.

You probably already know to not stick items into electrical outlets. Hopefully, you’ve been told to stay away from downed power lines. Maybe you’ve heard that you shouldn’t hold a metal rod up in the air during a lightning storm. Electrical outlets, power lines, and lighting storms carry enough electricity to kill. But practicing good electrical safety is important even when dealing with low amounts of electricity.

When it comes to the dangers of electricity, most people think of electric shock. It’s true that a shock can hurt and potentially even cause severe burns. But there are other dangers associated with electricity as well. The human nervous system controls movement in the body. It works by sending small amounts of electric current from the brain through special cells called neurons to the muscles and other organs in your body. But when large amounts of electric current pass through neurons, the neurons can be damaged, which affects how your brain and body work.

Another danger of electric current passing through the body is an irregular heartbeat. Electric current causes muscles to contract. Because the heart is a muscle, electricity can throw off the natural heart rhythm, potentially causing death.

Another dangerous situation occurs when a person gets “frozen” to a wire. If a person grabs a wire carrying an electric current, his or her hand can contract around the wire to the point that he or she can’t let go. If you see this happen to someone, don’t touch the person, otherwise the electricity can pass to you. The first thing to do is to turn off the power to the circuit. Then, you can call for help and apply first aid as needed.

To avoid these dangers, you can take some safety precautions when working with electricity.

  1. Anytime you’re working on a circuit, make sure there is no power to the circuit. Supplying power to the circuit should be the last thing you do.
  2. Don’t work on a conductive surface such as a metal desk. When components of a circuit come in contact with a conductive work surface, it can cause a short circuit or even flow through the work surface to you.
  3. Wear appropriate safety gear for the amount of electricity you’re working with. This could include items like safety glasses, rubber gloves, or special non-conductive shoes.
  4. Remove all metal jewelry. Jewelry that conducts electricity can cause short circuits or provide a path for electricity to flow through you.
  5. Keep food and drinks away from your work area. Water can conduct electricity. A spilled water bottle can ruin a project and potentially your life if the electric current passes through it to you. Make sure your work area is dry.
  6. Keep your work surface clean and organized. Be mindful of where you store tools.
  7. If an electronic component is damaged, don’t use it and don’t try to fix it. The best thing to do is to replace it.
  8. Because your heart is on the left side of your body, use your right hand when working with high current or high voltages. This way, if you happen to get shocked, the current is less likely to flow through your heart.

It’s true that electricity can be dangerous. But these dangers can be minimized if proper safety procedures are followed. Remember, the activities in this course use low voltage and have low amounts of current. Therefore, the circuits you will be building are safe and pose no danger of shock or other bodily harm.

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