Tips for Staying Safe Around Electricity

Electrical / Lightning Storms

The lazy, hazy, hot days of summer provide the right atmosphere for sudden thunder and lightning storms. Lightning is a form of static electricity and like other forms of electricity, lightning looks for a path to the ground. It will use the best conductor available, including water, a tree, a kite string, or a person.

Electricity always tries to get to the ground. It follows the shortest and easiest path it can. Metal materials such as copper and aluminum, things that are wet, and anything with water in it, including people and wood, are good conductors of electricity. Tree sap, with its high water content, is an excellent conductor of electricity.

Listed are some safe practices to ensure your safety during electrical storms:

  • Stay indoors.
  • Stay away from open doors and windows, metal pipes, sinks, and plug-in electrical appliances.
  • Do not take laundry off the clothesline.
  • Do not work on fences, telephone lines, power lines, pipelines, or metal buildings
  • Do not use metal objects, such as fishing rods and golf clubs. Golfers wearing metal cleated shoes are particularly good lightning rods.
  • Stop tractor work, especially when the tractor is pulling metal equipment, and get off the tractor.
  • Get out of the water and off small boats.
  • Stay in the car if you are traveling. Automobiles offer excellent lightning protection.
  • When there is no shelter, avoid the highest object in the area. If only isolated trees are nearby, the best protection is to crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from isolated trees as the trees are high.
  • Avoid hilltops, open spaces, wire fences, metal clotheslines, and any high objects which may conduct electricity.

Avoid Hazards

Electricity is essential to modern life. Because it’s used every day, it often isn’t treated with the respect it deserves. Some 350 electrical-related fatalities occur each year. The following hazards are the most frequent causes of electrical injuries:

Contact with Power Lines

Overhead and buried power lines are especially hazardous because they carry extremely high voltage. Fatal electrocution is the main risk, but burns and falls from elevations are also hazards. Using tools and equipment that can contact power lines increases the risk. Examples of equipment that can contact power lines include:

  • Aluminum paint rollers
  • Backhoes
  • Concrete pumper
  • Cranes
  • Long-handled cement finishing floats
  • Metal building materials
  • Metal ladders
  • Raised dump truck beds
  • Scaffolds
  • Irrigation Pipe

To avoid hazards:

  • Look for overhead power lines and buried power line indicators.
  • Post warning signs.
  • Contact utilities for buried power line locations.
  • Stay at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines.
  • Unless you know otherwise, assume that overhead lines are energized.
  • Use non-conductive wood or fiberglass ladders when working near power lines.

Lack of Ground Fault Protection

Normal use of electrical equipment can cause wear and tear that results in insulation breaks, short-circuits, and exposed wires. Without proper protection, a ground fault can occur, resulting in electrical burns, explosions, fire, or death.

To avoid ground fault hazards:

  • Use ground-fault circuit interrupters on all 120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles, or have an assured equipment grounding conductor program.
  • Follow manufacturers’ recommended testing procedures to ensure GFCI is working correctly.
  • Use double-insulated tools and equipment, distinctively marked.
  • Use tools and equipment according to the instructions included in their listing, labeling, or certification.
  • Visually inspect all electrical equipment before use. Remove from service any equipment with frayed cords, missing ground prongs, cracked tool casings, etc.

Strain Relief

Flexible cords are finely stranded for flexibility, so straining a cord can cause the strands of one conductor to loosen from under terminal screws and touch another conductor. Make sure flexible cords are connected to devices and to fittings in ways that prevent tension at joints and terminal screws.

Cord Damage

A flexible cord may be damaged by door or window edges, by staples and fastenings, by abrasion from adjacent materials, or simply by aging. If the electrical conductors become exposed, there is a danger of shocks, burns, or fire.


Extension cords must be 3-wire type so they may be grounded and to permit grounding of any tools or equipment connected to them.

Wet Conditions

When a cord connector is wet, electric current can leak to the equipment grounding conductor and to humans who pick up that connector if they provide a path to ground. Leakage can occur not just on the face of the connector, but at any wetted portion. Limit exposure of connectors and tools to excessive moisture by using watertight or sealable connectors.

  • Stay away from downed power lines, you never know if one is “live”.
  • Always fly your kites and model planes in open fields, away from overhead power lines or electrical equipment.
  • Keep things that use electricity away from sinks and bathtubs.
  • Never use an appliance while standing in water or on a wet floor.
  • Don’t stick anything in an outlet other than a plug or plastic cap.
  • Avoid shocks by pulling the plug, not the cord (wires won’t break inside either.)
  • Don’t let cords dangle where you may trip over them.

Pad Mount Transformers

What are those green electrical boxes found in yards or back alleys? To the Electric Utility, these boxes are known as Pad Mount Transformers. Pad mount transformers lower the voltage of the electricity from distribution levels to the 120/240-volt level used in homes. They are located in the Utility-Right-of-Way in underground services areas. If you have one on your property, contact Umatilla Electric Cooperative about landscaping and fencing around transformers. You can reach us at (541) 567-6414. While the transformers are safe on the property, follow the safety signs on the transformer and keep curious children away.

Safety Tips When You Fly a Kite!

  • DO fly kites in clear sunny weather, not storms.
  • DO make your kite from paper, wood, plastic, nylon, or fabric, making sure there are no metal parts on your kite.
  • DO NOT climb a power pole or tree to get a kite tangled in overhead power lines.
  • DO call Umatilla Electric Cooperative to take down a kite that is touching a power line.
  • DO check wind direction before flying your kite to avoid hazards; keep control of your kite by using a reasonable length of string.
  • DO have fun flying your kite safely!