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Government statistics show that electricity causes more than 20,000 fires a yearalmost half of all accidental UK house firesRead more
Electricity can kill. Electricity is now the major cause of accidental fires in UK homes.
Government statistics show that electricity causes more than 20,000 fires a year - almost half of all accidental UK house fires. Each year, about 70 people are killed and 350,000 are seriously injured due to an electrical accident in the home.
Modern living has meant we use more and more electrical appliances in the home. For instance, just 20 years ago the average UK home had a hi-fi system and one TV or video, whereas today it is more likely that there are at least two TVs, a DVD player, a satellite receiver, games console, microwave and computer. So the risk of electrical accidents in the home is much higher than before.
It is important that any electrical installation work is carried out only by people who are competent. This means people who have the knowledge, skills and experience needed to avoid dangers to themselves and others that electricity can create. It's easy to make an electrical circuit work - it's far harder to make the circuit work safely.
The main switch in the consumer unit (fuse box) allows you to turn off the supply to your electrical installation. Some electrical installations have more than one main switch. For example, if your home is heated by electric storage heaters, you may have a separate consumer unit for them. The consumer unit should be easy to get to, so find out where the main switch is to turn the electricity off in an emergency.
Older homes often have re-wireable fuses which automatically disconnect the circuit to prevent danger. When a fault or overload current flows through the fuse wire, it will become hot, and melt when the current goes above a safe level. The melted fuse breaks the faulty circuit so protecting it against overloading.
Newer homes are likely to have circuit-breakers in the consumer unit which switch off a circuit if there is a fault. Circuit-breakers are similar in size to fuse-holders, but give more precise protection than fuses. When they 'trip', you can simply reset the switch. However, you first need to find and correct the fault.
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. For more information on RCDs click here.
Faulty and aging wiring is one of the major causes of electrical fires in the home. You can avoid these by having regular checks carried out on the condition of your cables, switches, sockets and other accessories. There are clear signs that can help you tell the age of electrical installations in your home. These are:
If there is a fault in your electrical installation you could get an electric shock if you touch a live metal part. This is because the electricity may use your body as a path from the live part to the earth part.
Earthing is used to protect you from an electric shock. It does this by providing a path (a protective conductor) for a fault current to flow to earth. It also causes the protective device (either a circuit-breaker or fuse) to switch off the electric current to the circuit that has the fault.
For example, if a cooker has a fault, the fault current flows to earth through the protective (earthing) conductors. A protective device (fuse or circuit-breaker) in the consumer unit switches off the electrical supply to the cooker. The cooker is now safe from causing an electric shock to anyone who touches it.
Bonding is used to reduce the risk of electric shocks to anyone who may touch two separate metal parts when there is a fault somewhere in the supply of electrical installation. By connecting bonding conductors between particular parts, it reduces the voltage there might have been.
The types of bonding generally used are main bonding and supplementary bonding.
If you are having an alteration of addition made to your electrical installation, your electrician must check (as well as other things) that the earthing and bonding arrangements you have are up to the required standard.
This is because the safety of any new work you have done (however small) will depend on the earthing and bonding arrangements.
IB Electrics are happy to give you advice if your earthing or bonding needs to be improved for safety reasons.
We strongly recommend that you use an electrician registered with a government approved scheme to carry out any electrical installation work you need doing.
Electricity improves our daily lives - but only when used safely. Don’t create hazards by overloading sockets, and never ignore warning signs like burning smells, sounds of arcing (buzzing or crackling), fuses blowing or circuit-breakers tripping. Electrical accidents are most likely to happen when equipment is damaged or misused. Failure to correct the problem could have devastating effects. This sounds like common sense, but you would be surprised how many of us fail to follow basic safety guidelines.
Damaged plugs, sockets and flexible cables can cause electric shocks, burns and fires. For you and your family’s safety:
• Unplug appliances before you try to do any maintenance on them
• Trailing the cable under the carpet or rug to keep it out of the way.
• Drying clothes on an electric heater - with water dripping onto live parts - This is particularly dangerous, and could cause an electric shock or fire. Many electrical appliances, such as heaters, have ventilation slots to prevent overheating. If these slots are covered up, the appliance could overheat and catch fire, or if water drips in, there is a risk of electric shock.
• Installing downlighters - Choosing the wrong downlighters, installing them incorrectly or fitting the wrong replacement lamp can pose a serious fire risk in your home. Use a registered electrician to install your downlighters. For your safety you should check for visible markings on downlighters indicating lamp wattage and lamp type.
• Never drill or fix nails in walls without knowing what’s behind them - Walls and partitions conceal electrical cables and gas and water pipes.
he most sensible action would be to install extra sockets. While you are at it, ask a registered electrician to install twin sockets rather than single ones.
Millions of people in the UK expose themselves and their families to potentially fatal electrical accidents in the home by making simple blunders, down to a lack of knowledge about the dangers of electricity.
It is important to make sure that the electrical installation in your property is well maintained, and we recommend that you use a registered electrician to check that it is safe.
However, there are a number of simple, visual checks that you can carry out yourself:
In this context, a competent person is someone who has the suitable training, skill and knowledge for the task to be undertaken to prevent injury to themselves and others.
A successfully completed electrical apprenticeship, with some post-apprenticeship experience, is one way of demonstrating technical competence for general electrical work.
More specialised work, such as maintenance of high-voltage switchgear or control system modification, is almost certainly likely to require additional training and experience.
More than half of all accidental house fires start in the kitchen. Government statistics show that the largest number of accidental reported fires caused by electricity in the home is due to people misusing electrical cooking appliances, including microwaves.
So it's important that you take special care when using electrical appliances. The mixture of water, hot surfaces, flexible cables and electricity can be very dangerous. Follow our tips to stay safe.
To avoid water coming into contact with electricity, make sure that your sockets or switches are fitted at a safe distance (at least 30cm horizontally) from the sink
If appliances such as fridges, dishwashers and washing machines are fitted under worktops, getting to sockets may be difficult. Ideally, these appliances should be controlled by a switched fuse connection unit mounted above the worktop where you can reach it easily.
If a socket in the kitchen, or anywhere else in the house is likely to be used to supply portable equipment outdoors, it should be protected by an RCD.
Never use switches or any electrical equipment when your hands are wet
Water carries electricity efficiently. But, if the two mix, the result can be deadly. So, the bathroom is possibly the most dangerous room in the house when it comes to Electrical Safety. The consequences of an electric shock are far more severe in a bathroom or shower room as wet skin reduces the body’s resistance.
There are special requirements for electrical installations in bathrooms as most electrical work must comply with Part P of the Building Regulations.
We strongly recommend that you use an electrican registered with one of the government-approved schemes to carry out any electrical installation work that you need. Find out more by visiting our Find an Electrician pages.
Our advice will help you to stay safe.
Sockets are not allowed in bathrooms or shower rooms (apart from shaver-supply units) unless they can be fitted at least three metres from the bath or shower.
Electrical shaver points must be a safe distance (in meters) from the bath or shower to avoid splashes.
Enclosed ceiling lights are preferable to the ones that hang down.
All light fittings, that are not enclosed, should be out of reach of someone using, or still wet from using, the bath or shower.
Everyday light switches are a danger because of dampness and wet hands. A ceiling-mounted pull-cord switch is the safest option.
Central heating is the safest way to keep a bathroom warm. But if you do have an electric heater, it must be fixed at a safe distance from the bath or shower.
Electric and gas water heaters in a bathroom must be fixed and permanently wired, unless they are powered by a socket fitted three metres from a bath or shower.
A pull-cord or switch outside the bathroom is the ideal way to control electric heaters.
An electric shower must be supplied on its own circuit directly from your fusebox.
Never bring mains-powered portable appliances such as hairdryers, heaters or radios into a bathroom. You could be severely injured or killed.
It’s not only electrical faults that start fires, human error is often to blame. Whether it’s a badly wired plug or an iron left on – we all need to take more care.
Electricity is a major cause of accidental fires in UK homes - over 20,000 each year, while nine out of 10 (89%) electrical fires are caused by electrical products.
We use electricity every day but it can be dangerous. Treat it with respect and follow these simple do’s and don’ts:
• Regularly check flexible cables on kettles and other similar appliances – look for signs of fraying, general wear and tear, or a loose plug. Do this before you plug anything in.
• Be careful when using hand-held electrical equipment – make sure you switch off and unplug when you have finished. This is important with items that get hot, for instance hairdryers or curling tongs, as they may come into contact with materials that can catch fire (like curtains).
It may not be immediately clear, but if you think someone is suffering from electricshock, approach with extreme caution.
The first step is to separate the person from the source of electricity as quickly as possible. The best way of doing this is to turn off the supply, for example, by unplugging the appliance or by turning the mains off at the fusebox (consumer unit).
If this isn’t possible, then try to remove the source of electricity from the person using a piece of insulating material, such as a length of wood.
NEVER touch the person receiving the electric shock, or you could suffer one too.
After removing the person from the source of electricity, if the person is unconscious call for an ambulance immediately. Only those with the necessary knowledge and skill should carry out first aid.
Where the person is conscious and seems well, it is still advisable to monitor their condition, as the effects of an electric shock may not be immediately obvious. In worst case conditions, an electric shock may lead to a condition known as electroporation, where cells within the body rupture, leading to tissue death. Additional problems might include deep-seated burns, muscle damage and broken bones.
Use an RCD. Using an RCD will help to protect you from dangerous electric shocks. Although not a guarantee of absolute safety, it limits the time current can flow through the body if a person comes into contact with a live source of electricity.
We strongly recommend that anyone using electrical appliances in the garden ensures that they are protected by an RCD, preferably one fitted in the main household fusebox.
Alternatively, a dedicated RCD-protected socket or a plug-in RCD should be used.
As energy prices continue to rise, our simple tips will help you to keep the bills down.
They last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs, and use around 80% less energy. An energy-saving light bulb produces the same amount of light at 13-18w as the more traditional 60w bulb. This reduces energy costs and saves you up to £60 over the lifetime of the light bulb.
You can reduce your electricity bill and avoid emitting CO2, simply by not leaving your electrical products on stand-by. Switch them off and unplug them when not in use.
90% of the energy a washing machine uses goes towards heating the water. A 30°C wash could save over a third of the energy you use when compared to washing at higher temperatures.
When using your dryer, ensure that it is full, but don’t overload. Tumble dryers consume more energy than most washing machines. In fact, it’s much cheaper and better for the environment to use a washing line or a clothes horse if you can. If you do need to use a tumble dryer, make sure you use a fast spin on your washing, as this removes more of the water.
Only use your dishwasher when you have a full load as a half load uses the same amount of energy. If possible, stop the dishwasher’s cycle when it gets to the drying stage, open it up, and let the load dry naturally.
Only put in the amount of water you need, as over-filling each time wastes energy and money.
Look for the Energy Saving Recommended logo. These more efficient appliances could save you as much as £37 a year.
• Try turning your washing machine down from a 60º to 40º wash. It’ll save you 30% of your electricity bill with every wash.
• Try turning your thermostat down by 1º and the only thing that will notice will be your purse. You could save up to 10% of your annual bill.
• Consider using an energy efficient bulb. They last up to 12 times longer and save on electricity.
• Britons waste the equivalent of around two power stations’ worth of electricity each year by leaving TV sets and other gadgets on standby. You could save up to 10% off your yearly electricity bill.
Electrical Safety First has found that landlords are exposing themselves to significant financial risks, from fines and invalidated insurance, through not acting on their Electrical Safety obligations.
Landlords are also putting millions of UK private tenants at risk of serious accident or fire. We have clarified your obligations for Electrical Safety in rental properties and provide a range of resources to help you keep your tenants safe.
Landlords are required by law to ensure:
To meet these requirements a landlord will need to regularly carry out basic safety checks to ensure that the electrical installation and appliances are safe and working.
• Using a registered electrician for any work on your property.
Please read the following information for tenants:
Every year around 70 deaths and 350,000 injuries in UK homes are caused by faulty electrics and electrical equipment. Almost half of all domestic fires are caused by electricity. And if you live in a privately rented property, statistics show that you are at a higher risk of electric shock.
There is confusion amongst landlords and tenants over who has responsibility for Electrical Safety in rented properties.
By law, your landlord must ensure that electrical installations and wiring are maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy.
And as a tenant, you should feel obliged to flag electrical problems as soon as they appear, as well as maintain any electrical items you bring into the house.
If you have reported a problem to your landlord and he or she has refused to put the situation right or ignored your request, you should contact your local authority who will be able to help you. Local authorities will ensure a landlord is meeting their legal obligations and can take enforcement action against them
The statutory requirements for electrical installations are different in England and Wales from those in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Electricians carrying out work in England and Wales have to comply with Part P of the Building Regulations whereas in Scotland it is the Building Standards system. At the present time Northern Ireland has no equivalent statutory requirement.
We are particularly concerned with the government's preferred course of removing electrical work in kitchens and outdoors from the scope of Part P and continue to campaign for these areas to be retained as notifiable, due to the increased risks to householders.
Electrical accidents in the home can pose a more significant risk to older or vulnerable people. This is often due to old or poor quality housing that contains faulty electrics and appliances.
Please Follow the following advice:
Our statistics show that one million people over 75 live in homes that are not warm enough, are in a state of disrepair or do not have modern facilities. These homes can be dangerous as they don’t meet basic Electrical Safety standards, and don’t include life-saving devices such as a modern fusebox, circuit breakers and PVC wiring.
Sometimes a health condition such as dementia or Parkinson’s can increase the risk of an electrical accident, as these conditions cause reduced mobility and memory.
Your fusebox controls the electrics in your home which is why it’s important that you check it’s working safely. All fuseboxes should have a main switch and fuses and/or circuit breakers. It should NOT have a wooden back, cast iron switches or what looks like a mix of different fuseboxes. If your circuit-breakers trip or fuses regularly blow, then it’s worth getting them checked by a registered electrician.
An RCD (Residual Current Device) is a life-saving device that cuts out power if there’s an accident and can prevent you from receiving a fatal electric shock. To check whether you have an RCD press the ‘Test’ or ‘T’ button. If you do have one then pressing it will switch off the power to the areas of the home that it protects. If you don’t have an RCD in your fusebox or it’s not working then you should use plug-in RCDs for all the sockets in your home.
If your electrics are over 50 years old they’ll need checking and updating. Electrics can also be become damaged or faulty which will require professional attention. Things to look out for – round pin sockets, braided flex hanging from ceiling light fittings, sockets mounted in skirting boards, damaged plugs and sockets, visible burn marks, crackling sounds or excessive heat being omitted.
Any signs of overheating such as curled labels, discolouration or scorching should be a warning sign. If you see any signs of cracking or burn marks around the light fittings stop using them immediately and get them checked by a registered electrician.
Cables should be in good condition with no signs of damage, cracking or splitting and should be enclosed in a PVC sheath. Cuts, damage or signs of excessive wear and tear mean that the lead or plug might need replacing. Try to avoid trailing cables across the floor or under carpets and rugs as this can be a trip hazard.
Every property should have a working smoke alarm and batteries should be changed every year. You can test the smoke alarm by pressing the ‘Test’ button. If there’s no smoke alarm then contact your local Fire and Rescue Service
Older people should ask their energy provider to add them to the priority service register which means that they are eligible for a tailored billing service, free meter readings, and alternative facilities for cooking and heating if something goes wrong,
If the property is over 50 years old and its electrics haven’t been checked in the last ten years, ask a registered electrician to carry out an Electrical Installation Condition Report, or EICR, (previously known as a Periodic Inspection Report, or PIR).
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