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Electrical appliance fires and safety

The misuse of electrical appliances is the top cause of all fires in British homes.

Guidance to improve your safety

Every new electrical appliance should have a fused, moulded plug. Plugs and adapters should conform to British Standard 1363 (opens new window) and carry the kitemark, which shows the plug design has been tested and passed by the British Standards Institute (BSI).

  • Check any electrical item you uses is certified and bears the CE mark or the BSI kitemark. This might be supplied on paper depending on the item.
  • Ensure that the electrical item is used for the purpose it was designed and in the correct environment. For example, fairy lights for a Christmas tree are not suitable as outside tree decorations
  • Check the correct safety fuse is fitted. Never replace a fuse with a higher-rated one

Common mistakes

Millions of people commit basic electric safety 'blunders' in the home, without realising that they are exposing themselves to the risk of fire or electric shock. These include:

  • Using the microwave as an additional surface and blocking air vents
  • Leaving the tumble dryer running unattended or overnight
  • Blocking air vents by failing to clean behind the fridge/freezer
  • Overloading adaptor sockets
  • Leaving electrical appliances on while unattended

Tips to stay safe

  • Carry out a visual check of your electrics every six months. The Electrical Safety Council has produced a smartphone app to help you 
  • Regularly check for worn or frayed wires. Look out for signs of dangerous or loose wiring such as scorch marks, hot plugs and sockets, fuses that blow, circuit breakers that trip for no obvious reason, or flickering lights
  • Do not use faulty or damaged electrical appliances, lighting and sockets. If you think there is a fault with your installation or appliance, stop using it immediately. Ask a registered electrician for advice
  • Do not run electric cables and flexes under carpets and rugs. They can wear without you knowing and cause electric shock or fire
  • Do not overload plug sockets
  • Try to keep to one plug per socket and do not use block adaptors. We recommend trailing lead adaptors instead
  • Some appliances such as washing machines should have a single plug to themselves because they are high powered
  • Use a residual current device (RCD). This is designed to prevent you from getting a fatal electric shock if you touch something live, such as a bare wire. It provides a level of protection that ordinary fuses or circuit breakers cannot
  • Always use the correct fuses
  • Ensure your home has a full periodic inspection and test from a registered electrician
  • Buy electrical chargers from a reputable source
  • Keep appliances clean and in good working order
  • Keep combustible materials away from sources of heat. Make sure that the area around your electrical intake equipment, which is often found in under-stairs cupboards, is clear
  • Safety guidance on portable heaters
  • Avoid using foreign appliances in UK sockets unless they have been converted for UK use. We recommend you replace the appliance with a UK standard electrical product if the plug is not suitable for conversion
  • Unplugging or switching off appliances, particularly when you go to bed, helps reduce the risk of fire and saves money  

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