It goes without saying that electricity is extremely dangerous. Whether you are a professional or a hobbyist, anyone working with electricity should take steps to protect themselves. Batteries, desktop power supplies and other power sources should be treated with respect. But how can you protect yourself?
1. Always ground yourself
This first tip doesn’t really protect you when working with electronics; it protects your equipment. Your body can build up a small amount of electrical charge. When you come in contact with a conductor such as metal, this charge enters it, which can damage sensitive electronic components. Touching unpainted metal before working with electronics and electrical devices will ground you.
2. Use an ESD wristband
Electricity follows the path of least resistance, and it will be your body if you touch the wrong thing when working with electronics. ESD wristbands provide a path for electricity without damaging organs.
3. Avoid direct battery soldering
Batteries become volatile when exposed to heat. Whether they overheat or their protective shell is damaged, soldering directly on a battery is dangerous.
Spot welding exposes your battery contacts to much less heat than welding. This allows tabs to be attached to your batteries, giving you a safe soldering surface to use. You can buy batteries that come with tabs or find a battery bundle that works for your project.
4. Disconnect power sources
Some power sources, such as mains connections and desktop power supplies, are equipped with a kill switch. Disconnecting power from sources like this will make your job much safer, reducing the risk of electric shock.
5. Cover/Protect Live Connections
Batteries don’t come with the luxury of being disconnected. This means you need to find other ways to protect yourself. You should never let a positive connection and a negative connection touch each other when working with batteries, especially at high voltages.
Electrical tape, heat shrink tubing, and even 3D printed caps can all serve this purpose. You need to make sure they have a secure fit.
Some materials, such as steel and copper, are conductors that allow electricity to pass through them. Others, however, like silicone and rubber, are insulators.
Using insulated tools is a smart idea for anyone who works with electricity. Not only will this ensure that you always have a firm grip, but it will also prevent electricity from flowing through your body if you make a mistake.
7. Check the temperature
As mentioned in our third tip, batteries don’t like heat. When a battery gets too hot, the chemicals inside can react explosively, making them dangerous. Heat can also be a sign that something is wrong with a battery or power source.
High resistance and overloaded circuits will create a lot of heat, giving you something to watch out for. If your power source gets very hot, stop what you’re doing and wait for it to cool down. Continuous heat under electrical load should always be avoided.
Working in a well-ventilated area and keeping batteries out of direct sunlight are simple ways to avoid dangerous situations.
8. Work at safe low voltages
No battery is capable of maintaining a perfectly constant voltage. The more potential energy stored in a battery, the higher its voltage. Along with this, however, having a lot of potential energy will make leaks, explosions, and shocks more powerful.
Manufacturers provide safe storage voltage for their batteries in their documentation. You can check this and drain your batteries before working with them, limiting the threat they pose if damaged.
9. Keep fire extinguishers accessible
Besides shock and electrocution, fire is one of the main risks when working with electronics. Water can make an electrical fire more dangerous, so it is essential that you have access to a suitable fire extinguisher at all times.
You can take online training to make sure you know how to fight an electrical fire at home. Prevention is always best, but being able to actively respond to fires will reduce the consequences.
10. Use fire and smoke alarms
Being able to fight a fire is only possible if you know it is there. Fire and smoke alarms are essential in any workspace, especially ones where people use electricity.
There are many companies in the market that offer reliable heat, fire, and smoke detectors. This type of product is usually a legal requirement in workplaces, but you should use one at home, even if you don’t have to.
11. Work in battery/power source settings
Like the safe storage voltage provided by battery manufacturers, most power sources have other parameters. Peak current, maximum voltage, and operating temperatures are good examples.
Check the settings of your power sources before using them. This becomes more important as the voltage you are working with increases, but you should always consider it safe.
12. Learn to use a multimeter
Multimeters are electrical test tools that can give you a lot of information about a circuit. You can use a device like this to check voltages and resistance, as well as things like circuit continuity.
Learning how to use a multimeter won’t take much effort with our handy guide. Getting a reliable multimeter will make it much easier to work with electricity safely.
13. Never touch things you don’t understand
Although power sources can certainly be dangerous, proper handling will always improve your safety. It may seem obvious, but it is essential that you fully understand the power sources you are working with.
You can learn about electronics and electricity online or at school. Of course, though, it’s worth keeping in mind that asking for help is never a bad idea if you’re worried about safety.
Work with DIY power sources
Following these tips will improve your safety when working with electronic and electrical devices. Taking steps like this can also help you with your projects, giving you the ability to better understand the tools you’re using.
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