I am not Adam Savage. I am not Jamie Hyneman. Those American chaps on the TV love to bust a myth. Be it finding out if gummy bears make good rocket fuel or if a minefield can be safely crossed in a hovercraft. They have their niche, I have mine. Electricity. I work with it, I know it’s unpredictability and get asked lots of questions about what is and what is not safe regarding electricity.
So, sit back, grab a coffee and let’s put some answers to those myths.
Pure rubber is an excellent insulator, however most rubber shoes, gloves, and other goods are rarely pure rubber. They will have been mixed with additives for strength and durability making them a conductor.
Wood is an insulator
False. Have you ever seen what happens to a tree when struck by lightning? Have a look at this video for evidence. The molecules in wood are far apart, so it is difficult for electricity to jump from molecule to molecule. But the higher the voltage, the easier it is for electricity to move through wood. If the wood is damp, wood becomes a good conductor even at low voltage.
Only high voltage is dangerous
Electric current, rather than voltage, is the real danger. The electric supply going into a house or building may carry from 100 to 200 amps, which can injure or kill a person. Therefore, we tell our children not to prod an electrical socket outlet in the wall. Thicker wires allow for more electrical current to travel through it? No, electric current can be compared to a river. At a wide point, the river is slow and calm. At a narrower point, the current flows much faster, but the same amount still flows through any given point.
How can a flock of birds sit on a powerline and not get electrocuted? Simply put, they do not touch the ground resulting in no charge imbalance.
So, the lines are insulated then? No, most powerlines are live as it is very expensive to insulate them. So, never go near or touch a downed powerline. It might not be sparking and jumping all over the place but it will be live and will kill you. There can be anywhere between 1,000 volts to a gigantic 700,000 volts running through them.
It is safe to leave mobile phones charging overnight?
If using branded chargers, then this is ok. However, 1.8 million chargers are bought online each year in the UK by mobile phone owners in search of a bargain. It’s often cheaper to buy imported unofficial chargers but the true cost to you and your family can be much higher.
Fake mobile phone chargers are often made with poor quality components that fail to meet UK safety regulations. This means they can cause injury, electric shocks and even fires.
It also goes without saying that certain safety practices we should have in the home we really do not adhere to. Socket overload, plugging extension leads into extension leads, leaving electrical heaters too close to flammable objects, loose wires, old electrical equipment can all lead to home fires.
In the UK in 2015/2016 there were 162,000 fire related incidents of which 73,400 were classed as primary fires (affecting people and property). Of the 73,400 fires, 54,000 were accidental. A total of the 303 deaths were recorded, 246 were from accidental causes of fire of which 191 deaths were due to accidental fires in dwellings. Startling statistics which can be avoided in we all become fire safety conscious. For more information on being safe at home visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk.