Electrical Safety

Electricity plays a major role in the modern woodworking shop, powering machines and tools, lighting fixtures and lamps, and heating systems. Electricityis so commonplacethat it is all too easy to forget its potential for danger. An electrical shock, even one that can hardly be felt, can be deadly For this reason, the electrical system is strictlyreg-ulated by codes and standards designed to protect you from fire and shock.

Living safely with electricity also requires following basic precautions designed to prevent mishaps. Inspect plugs for cracks and power cords for fraying, and replace any worn or damaged part before using a tool. Never replace a blown fuse with one of a higher amperage. Do not plug a three-prong plug into a two-slot outlet by removing the grounding prong from a three-prong plug. Instead, replace the outlet with a GFCI (right).

Before undertaking a repair, shut off the power at the service panel. To work on the system, wear rubber gloves and, where possible, use only one hand, keeping your freehand behind your back.

PLUGGING IN SAFELY

Using GFCI outlets

The U.S. National Electrical Code requires that any new outlet in a garage or unfinished basement must be protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). A GFCI protects a circuit—and you-by monitoring the flow of electricity passingthrough it and tripping instantly when it detects a leak to ground. If you need to replace an outlet in your shop, install a GFCI, such as the one shown above, following the manufacturer's directions, or have a qualified electrician do the work. Test the outlet once every month by pushingthe TEST button; the RESET button should pop out. If it does not, have the outlet serviced. To reactivate the outlet, press the RESET button.

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