There were 28 fatalities in the UK as a result of electric shocks and 22 of these were 'home or leisure electrocutions' (Electrical Safety Council 2010). There were also a large number of fires that had electrical origins that sadly resulted in 268 deaths and 7,776 injuries. What is not shown in these figures are the number of incidents that were caused by domestic animals damaging wires and cables.
Young animals, especially kittens and puppies are naturally very curious and will chew just about anything. Other animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and pet rats enjoy gnawing things and it is possible for them to gnaw through a wire with or without getting a shock themselves. Someone can then receive a shock from the exposed wire. Parrots can be another problem pet because they have such powerful beaks that they can easily slice through cable.
A member of staff recently got a low level shock as a result of their rabbit biting through an extension cable, so this sparked some suggestions for tips on electrical safety if you have pets:
- You can coat cables with a bitter or pet deterrent substance to discourage them from chewing them.
- Some electrical equipment, notably TVs, video/DVD players, Hi-Fi, and computers often have a mass of wire spaghetti at the back of them. One simple solution to reduce the danger to pets is to use a cable snake to wrap a up and hold the cables together. Our cable snakes will hold up to 6 cables and can easily be trimmed to the required length.
- If you have used a cable snake you may find that there are still some exposed areas which you can wrap with insulating tape.
- If you have wires trailing along the floor, it is very easy to cover them with a length of rubber cable protectors – by a lucky co-incidence the Workplace Depot also sell indoor cable protectors that you can cut to any length. Typically you can buy 9m lengths for about under £60 – translucent versions, which will blend into the floor covering, will be slightly more expensive – but 9 metres will generally be enough for most homes.
- There may also be an issue with outdoor cables, for example when fly-mowing a lawn or using an electrical hedge cutter. If you have a pet around you should keep them indoors whilst you are using the appliance but you can use a cable protector as a wire cover (see above) – you can also buy a universal outdoor cable protector although this is probably an unnecessary expense for the sake of keeping a pet indoors! If you are using an electric lawn mower or hedge trimmer then you should also be using a circuit breaker whether animals are around or not!
- If you are leaving a pet unsupervised in say a living room then you should switch off or disconnect as many electrical appliances as possible. There is a particular danger around Christmas time when pets get left alone alongside interesting attractions like Christmas tree lights and other decorations.
- Do not allow you pets to sleep behind electrical appliances like TV's, computers, fridges and dryers as over time they can damage wiring.
- If you notice an appliance with any fraying wires, then replace or repair them straight away. It is a good idea to check for these regularly and also ensure that plugs are pushed in all the way as an exposed prong could be dangerous for a stray paw, nose or tail.
- Be aware of the danger of free standing lights and exposed bulbs. If a table lamp for example is switched on an get knocks over then they can get very hot and start a fire.
If you have any other other electrical safety tips for pet owners then please let us know. We would also be interested to hear from anyone who has an electric shock 'caused' by their pets.
The Workplace Depot has a comprehensive range of cable protectors, covers, ramps, cable snakes and tidies - details. We offer a price guarantee on all our products.