More and more people are feeling emboldened to take the repair of their consumer electrical devices into their own hands, especially with increased coverage of right-to-repair laws in the US. However, tempting as personal repairs may be to undertake, there are a number of risks presented by working with electronics. Here we will help you understand some of the more important safety precautions you can take when attempting your own repairs.
A Note on General Safety
Before you attempt any use, repair or servicing of an electrical item, there are other risks beyond the risks posed by the electronics of the item. For example, if the device with – or on – which you intend to work has mechanical moving parts, you should pay especially close attention to them. Any testing involving the application of power could engage them, creating risk of potential damage to you as the tester. Potential risks range from crush risk to slice risks and can be mitigated by a combination of vigilance and the proper securing of moving parts. The majority of mechanical solutions will involve the use of a shaft lock to limit motion and tension springs; ensure that the shaft locks on a given mechanism are in their proper condition, and be ready to employ additional locking measures to prevent the full motion of parts in the event of electrical repair.
Preparing to Work on an Electrical Item
It can be tempting to get stuck in on a repair process with any electrical item, especially if you think you understand the problem and can repair it quickly. However, there are steps you need to take to remain safe ahead of engaging with the item – which you should incorporate as part of a strict step-by-step process to ensure you and your environment remain safe to work in.
Firstly, you should ensure that your electrical item is not plugged in to the mains when you open it up. Even if the item is powered off, there are potential points of failure which could deliver mains electricity to your body. Secondly, even with the item powered down and unplugged from the mains, the capacitors in the power supply can hold extremely large amounts of charge, representing a fatal hazard if shorted. These capacitors should be safely discharged with a high-value resistor before you begin work, but you should also take care to remove any conductive elements such as watches or jewelry before you begin.
Working on an Electrical Item
While you work on an electrical item, there are a number of things you can do to keep yourself safe while ensuring efficient diagnosis and repair. But first, a word of warning: for sensitive electronic devices, you may have seen builders and repair technicians use something called an ESD cord to effectively ground themselves. This prevents static electricity from affecting the electronics and does not confer a safety benefit. Instead, it could dramatically increase your risk of injury when working with high voltages. To prevent the risk of a shock while working on a circuit, place one hand behind your back. Using one hand will prevent you inadvertently making a circuit with your body.