Electrical Safety

Holiday Hazards: Electrocution

34-year-old James Byrnes of North Beach, Maryland, was working from a ladder, hanging Christmas lights at his neighbor’s home in December 2013, when he came into contact with an overhead power line and was electrocuted. That same month, 13-year-old Georgia Marshall of Barry, South Wales, United Kingdom, was electrocuted while helping her father retrieve Christmas decorations from the family’s attic. Georgia was holding a metal stepladder for her father when the ladder came into contact with a live wire in an extension cord.

Remind workers to be aware of electrical safety issues during the holidays, at work and at home.

Holiday Electrical Safety Tips

To prevent electrocution during the holidays, remind workers to:

  • Be aware of overhead power lines when they are mounting outdoor decorations, and to maintain a clearance of at least 10 feet for themselves and anything conductive that they are holding.
  • Keep aluminum ladders away from live electrical equipment and installations.
  • Use only electrical decorations that are UL listed. Electrical decorations that will be used outdoors should be rated for outdoor use.
  • Inspect lights, extension cords, and other decorations for physical integrity:
    • Discard any decorations that have damaged plugs, insulation, or housing.
    • Replace any broken bulbs. Always unplug the decoration before replacing bulbs.
  • Avoid damaging the insulation on cords by mounting them improperly, for example, by stapling wires to buildings or running them through window and door openings. Instead, use plastic hooks or other nondamaging mounts.
  • Use ground-fault interruptors (GFIs) with outdoor electrical installations. GFIs shut down the electrical circuit if electricity is leaking from the insulated circuit. GFIs should be tested every time they are used.
  • Protect electrical cords against damage caused by weather and vehicle traffic and moisture infiltration.
  • Use only extension cords that are appropriate for their intended use.