Be Careful Working Outdoors

Follow safety rules when using a ladder near
power lines. Your life may depend on it. Photo by Mike Teegarden

When preparing to spend long winter days indoors, most folks love to get outside in the fall—even if it is to do chores. But outdoor chores come with electrical hazards.

Ladders contacting power lines cause 9% of electrocution-related deaths each year, according to recent data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Landscaping, gardening, and farming equipment account for another 7%.

Faulty extension cords are also a common cause of injury.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following tips:

Use fiberglass or wooden ladders when working around overhead wires or other electrical sources. Metal conducts electricity and can kill anyone touching the ladder if it comes into contact with electricity.
If you must use a metal ladder, carefully check the location of all overhead power lines to avoid contacting the wire or touching the ladder to something that makes contact with the electrical source, such as a tree branch.
Lower the ladder before moving it.
Never work on a windy day. A gust of wind can shift the ladder into a power line.
When placing a ladder on the ground, make sure the distance to the nearest overhead power line is at least twice the length of the ladder.
Place the ladder on solid level ground to prevent sliding.

Extension Cords and Power Tools
Check power tools and electrical cords to make sure they are in good condition. When working outside, use power tools designed for outdoor use.
Use extension cords designed for outdoor use. They are thicker, more durable and have features to prevent moisture damage.
Use three-wire extension cords with three-pronged plugs.
Check the amperage rating of the extension cord to ensure it is adequate to meet the power demand of the tool.
Do not plug one extension cord into another. Use the proper length for the job.
Unplug extension cords when you are finished.