Using electricity safely

General electrical safety

  • Most electrical appliances are designed for indoor use. Ensure any appliances you use outdoors are labelled as safe for outdoor use.
  • Before using an appliance, check the cords, plug and overall condition of the appliance to make sure there is no sign of damage. If there is damage, don’t use the appliance.
  • Electricity and water don’t mix. Wet electrical equipment can cause an electric shock, which may result in a serious injury or death. Never leave appliances, extension cords, powerboards, sockets and plugs where they may get wet and avoid using them in wet areas, such as near swimming pools.
  • Check all power and extension cords have no signs of damage before using them.
  • If using an electric blanket, check it for hot spots as it heats up. Don’t lie on it or put sheets on it until you are sure it’s operating safely, as it could burn you or start a fire. To store it, roll it up rather than folding it so you don’t damage the element wires.
  • Don’t use electrical appliances outdoors in bare feet or just thongs – it increases your risk of electric shock.
  • Make sure your electrical appliances and home are protected by a switchboard or portable safety switch. If an appliance trips your safety switch, disconnect it and avoid using it until it can be checked by a licensed electrician, or replace it.

Reduce fire hazards

  • Never use or store combustible materials near heaters, including paper, paint, curtains, clothing, bedding or flammable liquids.
  • Never leave a heater unattended – if a fire starts while you’re asleep or away from your home, it could become out of control before you’re able to respond.
  • Make sure portable heaters are kept upright at all times and not where they could be knocked over. Avoid putting them on table tops, unless they’re designed for that purpose, as the heat could damage the table or they could fall off and start a fire.
  • If using a clothes dryer, make sure the lint filter is cleaned regularly. Built-up lint can catch fire.

Home wiring safety

  • Never cut, drill or nail into walls, ceilings or floors unless you know the exact location of the electrical wiring. If necessary, get a licensed electrician to help to locate the wiring.
  • Be extra cautious of wiring in homes built during the 1960s and earlier. Cables used at this time we mainly lead and rubber sheathed, or rubber insulated, and some had cotton coverings. As these insulation materials degrade, the risk of electric shocks or fires greatly increases. Old homes may also use timber ducts in the roof space or metal conduits to run cables, which can cause fires or electric shocks if damaged.
  • Electrical installations in any home can deteriorate with age. If you’ve not had the wiring checked since you bought the property or you are not sure when it was last checked, get a licensed electrician to inspect it.

Powerline safety

Caravan and camping electrical safety

  • Use a portable safety switch or ensure your caravan or motorhome has a safety switch installed.
  • Only use safety-approved, 15 amp extension cords that are no longer than 15 metres, and make sure they’re protected from the weather.
  • Do not use multiple high-wattage electrical appliances (eg kettle, microwave, water heater or air conditioner) at the same time, as the powerboard or caravan/motorhome wiring may overheat and cause a fire.
  • Avoid the risk of electric shock from touching underground electrical cables by making sure tent pegs are driven no deeper than 400mm into the ground.
  • Make sure any electrical appliances and accessories you plan to use while camping are designed for outdoor use.
  • If you own a caravan or motorhome, clearly understand the safety requirements for living amenities, cooking facilities and accommodation.

Decorative and Christmas light safety

  • Decorative lights in Australia must comply with relevant safety standards – know what to look for when buying electrical appliances to check if lights have safety approval.
  • If you are going to use decorative lights outdoors, make sure they’re labelled as suitable for outdoor use. Indoor lights do not have suitable insulation against wet and windy weather and could cause electric shocks, injury or death. Using outdoor lights indoors is safe.
  • Check lights are free of defects, such as damaged wires or loose connections before using them.
  • Always lay lights out straight before plugging them in.
  • Plug the lights in temporarily to check if all bulbs are working. Unplug the lights before replacing any broken globes and always use globes of the same type and wattage to prevent the lighting set overheating.
  • When mounting lights, keep them away from flammable materials and metal foils (such as tinsel).
  • Only use plastic clips to mount lights, never metal pins, staples or nails.
  • Don’t connect sets of lights to each other unless they’re specifically designed for that purpose.
  • Rope lighting (tiny bulbs inside a flexible plastic tube) and fairy lights (strands of tiny globe holders) should be handled with care, as the wires and fittings are very fragile and can damage easily.
  • Never prune or trim plants that are decorated with lights, as the cables are hard to see and can easily be cut accidentally.
  • Festoon lighting, which uses standard sized globes connected to double insulated wiring, can be used as a permanent outdoor fixture if installed by a licensed electrician.

Was this page useful?

Thanks for contributing - your feedback helps us improve this website.

Page last updated 12 March 2019

Provided by:
Department for Energy and Mining
Last Updated:
Printed on:
Copyright statement:
SA.GOV.AU is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence. © Copyright 2023