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Advances in Electrical Safety

Electrical shock kills hundreds of people and thousands more are injured by it in the workplace and around their home each year. The highest percentage of these accidents occur during the summer months when people spend more time around water or working outdoors with electric tools.

An inexpensive electrical safety device now makes many of these accidents preventable. It is called a ground-fault circuit-interrupter or G.F.C.I. This device detects the accidental leakage of current from an electrical circuit to the human body and immediately shuts off the electricity before any serious harm can occur to a normal, healthy person.

Traditional fuses and circuit breakers do not provide this type of protection. They are designed to protect circuits and appliances from the release of high currents of electricity that cause overheating and fires. Fuses and breakers are usually set to shut off a circuit at 5 to 20 amperes, however, it only takes a fraction of an ampere flowing through the chest to stop the human heart.

The typical G.F.C.I. fits in the palm of the hand and costs from $5 to $20. It can be inserted into a common wall outlet or incorporated into the plug of the power cord on an electric appliance. It is easily identified by its colored “Test” and “Reset” buttons.

The G.F.C.I. is the state-of-the-art in electrical safety. O.S.H.A. recently revised its electrical safety regulations to mandate G.F.C.I. protection in many workplaces. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the traditional reliance on grounding for electric tools and appliances is no longer adequate for protecting human life. This is particularly true for electrical equipment operated outdoors or in damp environments.

Although the National Electrical Code requires G.F.C.I. protection for many home and office outlets, it is often absent in older buildings. For this reason, over 350 safety-conscious companies are voluntarily including G.F.C.I. protection in the electrical products they sell, including indoor spas, outdoor lighting systems, automatic lawn sprinkler systems, and pool equipment.

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