Electrical fire safety
Electrical appliances, plugs and cables that are old or poorly wired can be a real danger.
Just because there's no flame does not mean there's no fire risk.
Find out what to check for to ensure your appliances don't put you, your family or housemates at risk from fire.
Electric cooking appliances are the biggest cause of accidental dwelling fires in England.
Fire Statistics, UK 2007 reported that nearly 14,000 fires started due to 'electric cookers', 'microwave cookers' or 'other electric cooking appliances'.
What to check for on your electrical appliances
There are particular danger signs to look out for on all electrical items you have around your home.
If you think something needs fixing or changing, do it straight away.
Plugs and sockets
For plugs and sockets, keep an eye out for the following:
- hot plugs or sockets, scorch marks, fuses that often blow, or flickering lights - they are all are signs of loose wiring or other electrical problems
- badly wired plugs - any coloured wires sticking out could come loose and debris could also get into the plug
- make sure the wires are held firmly in place inside the plug
- overloaded sockets - plugging too many electrical appliances into one socket can lead to overheating
- use sockets safely - it's better to use a bar adapter (multi board) on a lead than a block adaptor
- only use one adaptor per socket - don't plug one adaptor into another and try to keep to one plug per socket
Cables and leads
The risks with cables and leads include:
- getting frayed and damaged - make sure the outer covering of all power leads is in good condition and replace if necessary
- being badly positioned - they shouldn't be anywhere that they could be tripped over, or near water, cookers or other sources of heat
- running them under rugs or carpets where they can wear through without anyone noticing - position them elsewhere
When you're fitting or replacing a fuse, it's important to use the right fuse for the appliance to make sure the fuse doesn't overheat.
Check the manual or look for a sticker on the appliance to find out its wattage and then use the correct fuse:
- for appliances up to 700 watts, use a 3 amp fuse
- for appliances between 700 and 1,000 watts, use a 5 amp fuse
- for appliances more than 1,000 watts, use a 13 amp fuse
Extension leads and adapters have a limit on how many amps they can take, so be careful not to overload them, to reduce the risk of fire.
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For electrical appliances, you should never:
- get them wet - this includes plugs and sockets, so don't put a vase of flowers on top of the TV, for example
- leave them on at night - unless they are designed to be left on, like freezers
- put anything in the microwave that is made of metal, or has a metallic finish or parts
Keep electrical items in good working order
Follow the guidelines below to make sure your electrical items are safe to use.
Electrical appliances, especially ones that run at high speeds and contain motors, like washing machines, should be serviced once a year by a qualified electrician.
Product Safety Recalls
Manufacturers occasionally recall products with potential safety problems.
We have information about a number of websites where product recall information can be found.
Dealing with an electrical fire
If there is an electrical fire, pull the plug out, or switch off the power at the fuse box - if it's safe to do so. Sometimes this can stop the fire immediately.
Never use water on an electrical fire, and don't take any risks with your safety - get out, stay out and call 999.
Electric heater safety
Plug-in heaters use a lot of electricity and generate a lot of heat.
This means they can be dangerous if they are not bought from reputable shops and used correctly.
- Heaters should be kept away from furniture and fittings. Ensure that nothing can fall onto a heater.
- Keep at least three feet - one metre - away from them
- Have fireguards to prevent and protect children and/or pets coming in contact with them
- Never dry washing on or near them (or on fireguards)
- Try to secure heaters up against a wall to stop them falling over.
- Don't cover air vents on storage heaters or fan heaters.
Electrical safety guidance for landlords and tenants
Ensuring the electrical safety of your property and tenants is vital.
It is important that you make simple visual checks at least once a year and it is strongly recommended that you also do so at each change of tenancy.
The Electrical Safety Roundtable have produced two guidance documents to help you make these checks which you can download here. These guides can be used by both landlords and tenants and will help you identify any potential fire risks.
The Electrical Safety Roundtable are a leading industry forum, uniting a diverse range of experts in their field behind the common goal of improving electrical safety in the home.
Electrical Safety First
The Electrical Safety Firstis a UK charity committed to reducing deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents at home and at work.
As well as running general awareness campaigns and events to help educate consumers about the dangers of electricity, the they also run campaigns and initiatives covering specific areas of risk such as product safety, fire safety and child safety.
They provide free electrical safety publications and leaflets.
You can view the full range on their website.
"Most of us take electricity for granted. We use it every day and forget that it can be dangerous if we do not treat it with respect. Of reported fires, over 19% are caused by electrical faults and a further 25% are caused by people not using electrical equipment and appliances properly. So, it is important that we do all we can to reduce the risk of a fire in our home caused by an electrical problem."
Electrical Safety First
For more information: Electrical Safety First Unit 331,Great Guilford Business Square
30 Great Guilford Street
London SE1 0HS www.esc.org.uk Tel : 0870 040 0561 Fax : 0870 040 0560 email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Residual Current Device (RCD)
The Electrical Safety Council, through their campaign, 'Plug Into Safety',is encouraging homeowners to use RCDs to protect against dangerous electric shocks and reduce the risk of electrical fires.
An RCD is a sensitive device that quickly turns the electricity off when danger arises to reduce the risk of death or serious injury. RCD protection is particularly important when using electrical equipment outdoors.
Electronic cigarettes are an increasingly popular way for people to reduce the amount of tobacco they smoke or stop smoking altogether. While the immediate health benefits may be obvious, e-cigarettes they can pose a fire safety risk.