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Electrical fires

With more and more electrical appliances and gadgets becoming affordable, great care should be taken to ensure we do not create dangerous environments with the misuse of electrical equipment.

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

Before you buy or use:

Follow these common sense guidance to improve your electrical safety.

  • Check the item is certified and bears the CE mark or the British standards kitemark. These may be supplied on paper depending on the item.
  • Ensure that the appliance will be used for the purpose it was designed for and that it will be used in the correct environment. Fairy lights for a Christmas tree are not suitable as outside tree decorations.
  • Check the correct rated safety fuse is fitted. Never replace a fuse with a higher rated one.

Appliance misuse is the top cause of all fires in British homes and the number has increased by over a third since 2009.

Millions of people are committing 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, only to be alerted by a burning smell or worse not being alerted or woken at all

How to be safe with electrics in your home

  • Carry out a visual check of your electrics every six months – the Electrical Safety Council have a free smartphone app to check your home.
  • Use an RCD (Residual Current Device).
  • An RCD is a life-saving device which 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.
  • Don’t overload plug sockets
  • Regularly check for worn or frayed wires
  • Buy electrical chargers from a reputable source
  • Keep appliances clean and in good working order
  • Keep combustible materials away from sources of heat and make sure that the area around your electrical intake equipment (often found in under-stairs cupboards) is clear
  • Unplug your electric blanket before going to bed (unless it has a thermostat for safe all-night use)
  • Don’t leave electric blankets folded as this can damage the internal wiring, store them flat or rolled up instead
  • Try not to buy secondhand blankets and check regularly for wear and tear
  • 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
  • Ensure your home has a full periodic inspection and test from a registered electrician
  • Avoid using faulty or damaged electrical appliances, lighting and sockets. If you think there is a fault with your installation or appliance, stop using it immediately and ask a registered electrician for advice
  • Don’t run electric cables and flexes under carpets and rugs. They can wear without you knowing and cause electric shock or fire
  • Always use the correct fuses
  • Some appliances such as washing machines should have a single plug to themselves because they are high powered
  • Try to keep to one plug per socket and don’t use block adaptors, we recommend trailing lead adaptors instead.
  • Look out for signs of dangerous or loose wiring such as scorch marks, hot plugs and sockets, fuses that blow or circuit breakers that trip for no obvious reasons, or flickering lights
  • Unplugging or switching off appliances particularly when you go to bed helps reduce the risk of fire and saves money  

Contact us if you require further information, or have another community safety enquiry.

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