What is a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)?
A Class A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) works by detecting any loss of electrical current in a circuit (e.g., it will trip at a maximum of 6mA). When a loss is detected, the GFCI turns the electricity off before severe injuries or electrocution can occur. A painful non-fatal shock may occur during the time that it takes for the GFCI to cut off the electricity so it is important to use the GFCI as an extra protective measure rather than a replacement for safe work practices.
GFCI wall outlets can be installed in place of standard outlets to protect against electrocution for just that outlet, or a series of outlets in the same branch circuit. A GFCI Circuit Breaker can be installed on some circuit breaker electrical panels to protect an entire branch circuit. Portable in-line plug-in GFCIs can be plugged into wall outlets where appliances will be used.
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When and how do I test the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)?
It is important that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions with respect to the use of a GFCI. Test permanently wired GFCIs monthly, and portable devices before each use. Press the “test” and “reset” buttons. Plug a “night light” or lamp into the GFCI-protected wall outlet (the light should turn on), then press the “TEST” button on the GFCI. If the GFCI is working properly, the light should go out. If not, have the GFCI repaired or replaced. Press the “RESET” button on the GFCI to restore power.
If the “RESET” button pops out but the “night light” or lamp does not go out, the GFCI has been improperly wired and does not offer shock protection at that wall outlet. Contact a qualified electrician to correct any wiring errors.
What is a sample checklist for basic electrical safety?
Inspect Cords and Plugs
- Check extension cords and plugs daily. Do not use, and discard if worn or damaged. Have any extension cord that feels more than comfortably warm checked by an electrician.
Eliminate Octopus Connections
- Do not plug several items into one outlet.
- Pull the plug, not the cord.
- Do not disconnect power supply by pulling or jerking the cord from the outlet. Pulling the cord causes wear and may cause a shock.
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Never Break OFF the Third Prong on a Plug
- Replace broken 3-prong plugs and make sure the third prong is properly grounded.
Never Use Extension Cords as Permanent Wiring
- Use extension cords only to temporarily supply power to an area that does not have a power outlet.
- Keep extension cords away from heat, water, and oil. They can damage the insulation and cause a shock.
- Do not allow vehicles to pass over unprotected extension cords. Extension cords should be put in protective wire way, conduit, pipe or protected by placing planks alongside them.