Electrical Safety



We rely on electricity, but sometimes we underestimate its capability of causing injury. The voltage of the electricity and the available electrical current in regular homes, offices, and workplaces have enough power to be a dangerous hazard.

All electrical systems have the potential to cause harm. Electrical equipment has the ability to cause fires, electrical shock, skin burns and tissue damage, and disruptions to heart & breathing patterns, which can lead to serious injuries, death and/or major structural damage.

Reduce your risk of a fire, shock, or injury

The following tips are designed to keep you safe and remind you of the steps you should take in order to work with/handle electrical equipment safely.

Purchasing equipment

  • Only purchase equipment/appliances that are certified by a qualified testing laboratory (e.g. CSA, ULC, ETL, etc.). To ensure your equipment has the approved certification marks for electrical products, visit the Technical Safety BC.

Plugging and unplugging appliances/devices

  • Only plug-in one heat-producing appliance (e.g., a coffee maker, kettle, space heater or microwave) directly into a wall outlet at a time.
  • Do not use power bars or extension cords for heat-producing or major equipment/appliances. Unplug unused devices to prevent phantom power loss and reduce equipment wear. Unplug electrical equipment before servicing.

Electrical outlets

  • Not all electrical outlets have a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) installed. Ensure that electrical sockets and circuits near water have a GFCI. GFCIs are most often found in kitchens, bath, and laundry rooms.

Using space heaters

  • Make sure space heaters are never left unattended and are kept well away from soft furnishings, curtains and other flammable materials. Make sure the heater is clean and dust free, and that the heater’s cord is not damaged. Learn more about plugging in a space heater on campus.

Charging devices

  • When charging devices, always use either the charger and cable that came with the device, or branded genuine replacements. Cheap knock-off or counterfeit chargers may ignore safety standards; chargers can have hundreds of volts internally, if it doesn’t have proper insulation the risk of electrocution is much higher.
  • Do not leave any charging devices unattended for long periods of time. Devices/equipment that use lithium batteries should be unplugged as soon as the charge is complete to prevent “thermal runaway”. Thermal runaway is when the device’s lithium-ion batteries enter an uncontrollable, self-heating state that can result in extremely high temperatures, battery cell venting, smoke and fire (e.g. electronic transportation devices like e-scooters and e-bikes).
  • Unplug all chargers when leaving home/work or when away from your home/work area for an extended period.

Extension cords and power bars

  • Extension cords should only be used temporarily. Stress on extension cords (walking on, hanging, pinching) can lead to damage. Inspect regularly for damage.
  • Use surge protectors on power bars to prevent damage to equipment due to high or low voltage situations. Surge protector will help prevent damage to electronic equipment from voltage spikes or variation in current of frequency.
  • Power bars with switches can offer protection to surges and be used to turn off equipment in groups.
  • Replace extension cords and power bars if worn, old, or damaged.
  • Avoid placing extension cords and power bars where they can be easily damaged, pinched, or stepped on.


For information on the removal of hazardous energy, visit the de-energization and lockout page
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Reporting an electrical incident

Contact the UBC Facilities Service Centre at 604-822-2173 if you observe any of the following:

  • Flickering light bulbs or lights that dim when you use certain appliances.
  • Light switches or outlets that are hot to the touch.
  • Outlets that spark when you plug something in.
  • Outlets or electrical wires that create any sound or heat.
  • Circuit breakers that trip constantly.
  • Any other electrical safety concerns.

Additional Resources

For more information on electrical safety, visit the links below:

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