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Electric Shock Risks

While do-it-yourself projects can be very satisfying, they pose special risks when it comes to electricity.

“Mistakes can be costly—or even deadly,” warns John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager for Underwriters Laboratories Inc. “The first and best safety tip is to call in an expert rather than be your own electrician.”

The Quincy, Mass.-based Fire Protection Research Foundation has uncovered typical DIY wiring mistakes. Some of the most common:

Working with a live wire. Thousands of DIYers receive electric shock injuries each year. Always turn off the circuit breaker (or remove the fuse) before working on or replacing electrical equipment.

Using the wrong light bulb. Most light fixtures have a sticker on the socket listing the proper type and maximum wattage of bulb to use. Installing a different type of bulb, or one with higher wattage, could damage the lights and cause a fire.

Not being grounded. For optimal safety, receptacles should be wired with the proper grounding and polarity. Generally, three-pronged outlets signify an effective ground path in the circuit. However, homes built before the mid-1960s probably don’t have a grounding path, and simply replacing the existing outlet with a three-pronged outlet won’t create one.

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