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Electricity - it is so common and such a part of our daily lives, it's hard to think of a world without it. Every place you go, and all work environments, will use it in some way. But electricity can be dangerous and even deadly. Knowing how electricity works and how to work with it safely is critical to avoiding accidents, injury and even death.
Types of Electricity
There are three basic types of electricity, Static, low voltage and high voltage. Static electricity is what makes a balloon stick to your shirt, or what shocks you when you walk across a carpet and touch an object. It is pretty safe. Low voltage electricity is what we use in our homes and what powers our TVs, computers and electronics. Shocks from low voltage sources are more extreme than a static shock, but not often deadly. High voltage electricity is what produces electricity on a massive scale, this is the electricity that powers entire towns, and what travels through power lines. This type of electricity can be deadly if not properly grounded
How Electricity Works
Electricity works by traveling though a circuit, usually through wires. Each circuit has three components - the source that generates the power, the "user" or object receiving the charge (like a drill or light) and the transmission lines that carry the current from the source to the user. This circuit must remain unbroken. It can be 'closed' meaning the electricity is just looping, or it can be "open" where it goes in and out of objects (like the light or drill).
As long as electricity can move through a loop, it is OK Hazards arise when there is a break in the loop. If there is a break in the wires, the electricity, being unable to move through its circuit or escape to the ground, will start to collect and store at the breaking point. This is what we call a HOT wire. If you touch it, the electricity will use you as its conduit, and you will be shocked. Three-pronged plugs include a grounding pin. This pin acts as a conduit to the ground if there is a problem in the wiring. Although, this does not mean a hot wire won't hurt you. Grounding electricity certainly helps, but it does not prevent you from shock if you touch a hot wire.
To work safely with electricity, you must use cords and cables that are NOT old and frayed. If you have a three-pronged plug and the grounding pin is missing, dispose of the cord and get another. Do not plug too many things into the same outlet, as overloading a circuit can also be dangerous. Never touch two live wires together. And know where the phone numbers are for the National Electric Code.
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