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Electrical Safety at Home

Electricity is often overlooked as a possible fire hazard. However, more than 20,000 electrical fires occur in UK homes each year. These are usually caused by electrical faults, accidents or misuse of electrical equipment.


Dealing with an Electric Fire

  • Only if it is safe to do so, switch off the power at the fuse box – sometimes this can stop the fire immediately.
  • Never use water on an electrical fire
  • Don't take any risks - get everyone out and dial 999.


Here are some electrical danger signs to check for in your home:

  • Loose wiring: Hot plugs and sockets, fuses that blow frequently, flickering lights and scorch marks on sockets or plugs; these are all signs of loose wiring or other problems that should be fixed
  • Badly wired plugs: if you can see the coloured wires sticking out, they can come loose, and debris can also get into the plug
  • Frayed power leads: the outer covering of all power leads should be in good condition and not damaged
  • Repaired power leads: split or frayed leads should not just be taped over as this is not a secure repair; they should be replaced
  • Overloaded sockets: too many electrical appliances plugged into one socket or adapter can overload it, which will lead to overheating
  • Badly positioned cables: they should not be anywhere they could be tripped over, or near to water, or close to cookers or other sources of heat; and don't run them under rugs or carpets where they can wear through without anyone noticing
  • Water near electrical items: cables and plugs should never be in danger of getting wet; so, don't put a vase of flowers on the TV, for example

Electrical Safety Advice:

  • One socket, one plug
  • Washing machines and tumble dryers should have a single plug to themselves. You should clean the filter in your dryer after every use
  • Make sure electrical appliances have a British or EU safety mark when you buy it
  • Unplug appliances when you are not using them or when you go to bed
  • Look for the danger signs in electrical equipment such as: scorch marks, overheating plugs, flickering lights, fuses or circuit breakers that trip for no obvious reason
  • Keep portable heaters away from curtains and furniture
  • An extension lead or adaptor will have a limit to how many amps it can take, so be careful not to overload them
  • Never leave the washing machine, dryer or dishwasher running overnight or while you are out


Electric Heater Safety Advice

Plug-in heaters use a lot of electricity and generate a lot of heat. This means they can be dangerous if they are not used correctly. You should:

  • Keep them clear of curtains and furniture.
  • Only sit at least three feet (one metre) away from them.
  • Buy them from reputable shops.
  • Never dry washing on or near them (or on fireguards).


Electric Blanket Safety Advice

Each year there are about 1000 fires caused by faulty electric blankets. Around 20 people are killed and 250 injured in these fires. Elderly people are particularly vulnerable. If your blanket (or its flex) shows any of these danger signs, you should have it checked or replaced:

  • Scorch marks
  • Exposed elements
  • Creasing or folding marks
  • Soiling or damp patches
  • Missing or damaged tie tapes
  • Loose connections
  • Fraying fabric or a worn flex
  • If in doubt, chuck it out!

Our electric blanket safety tips:

  • Any new electric blanket should have a recognised approvals mark, such as the British Electrotechnical Approvals Board (BEAB) mark, or the International Standard number BSEN 60335.
  • You should replace your electric blanket at least every ten years. Never buy one second-hand and always check for the British or European approval standard and the certification marks.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Never use an underblanket as an over-blanket (or vice-versa).
  • Keep all electric blankets flat or rolled to store. Do not fold as this can damage the wiring.
  • Tie electric underblankets to the bed or mattress as this stops them slipping and creasing, which could cause damage.
  • Keep it in a dry place when not in use.
  • Only leave a blanket switched on all night if it has thermostatic controls for safe all-night use – otherwise, switch it off and unplug it before you get into bed.
  • Don't get blankets wet; and if your blanket does get wet, don't use it – never switch it on to dry it.
  • Make sure your blanket is tested by the manufacturer, or qualified electrician at least every three years. You can ask the shop where you bought it about testing and servicing, or contact Trading Standards to see if they are holding a free event.

For more information view the Electrical Safety First website on electric blankets.


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