Electricity is a huge part of our daily lives. From the moment we wake up, to the moment we head back to bed, we all use it. As a result of this, we often forget just how dangerous electricity and the electrical appliances it powers can be.
According to the uSwitch website, electricity causes an average of 70 deaths and 350,000 serious injuries every year here in the UK. In fact, electricity causes more than 20,000 fires a year – almost half of all accidental house fires.
Of course, the rise of modern technology has increased the risk. Go back 20 years and most households would only have a hi-fi system and one TV. Fast-forward to 2017 and most households have two or three TVs, games consoles, computers, DVD players, a satellite receiver and several different appliances in the kitchen and bedroom.
To help keep you safe and aware of the electrical dangers in your home, we have compiled a list of 5 ways you can improve your electrical safety.
Visual Electrical Safety Checks
The first thing you should do to improve your electrical safety is to complete a visual check of your home. The Electricity Safety Council (ESC) have created a special app to help you spot any potential dangers in your home. Some of the things you’re asked to do during these visual checks include:
- Checking that visible leads and cables are in good condition.
- Checking your light fittings for any damage.
- Ensuring that you don’t store things on top of your microwave.
- Ensuring that there are no trailing cables under carpets and rugs.
- Ensuring that there are no mains-powered electrical items in the bathroom.
You should also ensure that the electrical installation in your home is well maintained. It is strongly recommended that you use a registered electrician to carry out this check and any work that you have done in your home.
Keep Electrical Items Away from the Bathroom
When it comes to your electrical safety, the bathroom is possibly the most dangerous room in your home. Although water carries electricity efficiently, mixing the two is a deadly move to make.
The human body is also more at risk after using the facilities in the bathroom. Wet skin reduces the body’s resistance, therefore the consequences of an electric shock are far more severe in the bathroom or shower room.
Here are few things to remember in order to improve your electrical safety in the bathroom:
- You should never bring mains-powered portable appliances into the bathroom. Examples include hairdryers, heaters and radios. Should an accident occur, you could be severely injured or even killed.
- An electric shower must be supplied on its own circuit, directly from your fusebox.
- You should try to use enclosed ceiling lights in the bathroom. Any fittings that are not enclosed need to be out of reach of someone who is using, or still wet from using, the bath or shower.
- A ceiling-mounted pull-cord light switch is also much safer than the traditional light switch.
- No sockets are allowed in the bathroom, apart from a shaver-supply unit, unless they can be fitted at least three metres away from the bath and shower.
Don’t Overload that Electrical Socket
It is an all too common occurrence for people to overload their extension leads. Overloading extension leads and adapters can result in an electrical fire, so its vital that users understand how many amps it can use safely.
Before using the extension lead you should check the current rating that it has. Most are rated at 13 A, but some only have the rating of 10 A or less. These ratings should be clearly marked on the back or underside of the extension lead. You should never plug in appliances that together will exceed the maximum rating of that lead. Here’re are some ratings of commonly used household appliances:
- Laptop – <0.5
- Mobile phone charger – <0.5
- 42″ Television – 0.5
- Games console – 0.86
- Desktop computer – <0.5
- Hairdryer – 3.0
- Kettle – 13
- Vaccum Cleaner – 9.0
- Iron – 12.5
- Toaster – 9.0
As you can see, there is huge difference in the amount of amps used in different appliances. Overloading your extension lead could caused the plug in the wall socket to overheat and then trigger a fire.
The ESF have a special ‘Socket Overload Calculator‘ to help you to understand whether or not you are overloading your sockets at home.
Take Special Care in the Kitchen
Government statistics have revealed that the largest number of accidental reported fires caused by electricity at home is due to people misusing electrical cooking appliances. In fact, more than half of all accidental house fires start in the kitchen.
In order to improve your electrical safety in the kitchen, you should firstly make sure that any sockets and switches are at a safe distance from the sink – at least 30cm horizontally. Of course, you should never use switches or other electrical equipment if your hands are wet.
Other useful electrical safety tips in the kitchen include:
- Checking that the flexible leads and appliances such as kettles and toasters are in good condition.
- Not wrapping flexible cables around any equipment when it is still warm.
- NEVER trying to get trapped toast out of the toaster whilst it is plugged in – especially with a metal item. There are live parts inside the toaster and you may receive an electric shock.
- Ensuring that sockets are not overloaded, as mentioned above.
- Not storing items on top of appliances such as the microwave. This can block ventilation and cause overheating.
- Always turning appliances off at the socket when they are not in use.
Don’t be a DIY Hero
DIY errors cause half of all serious electric shocks in UK homes. Being able to take care of and fix problems in your own home is an achievement that many strive for, even if they aren’t actually qualified to do so.
According to Electrical Safety First, almost 50% of men admit that they feel they should try and tackle household maintenance and repair jobs themselves, or ask a mate, before calling in a professional.
The main errors which lead to electric shocks include the cutting of power leads, drilling into wiring and repairing electrical items whilst they’re still switched on. Here are some tips to help avoid an electrical DIY disaster:
- Be cautious of online guides! Google and YouTube might be great, but you need to check the source of these videos and guides. Anybody can make a video.
- Locate all of the cables in your wall, by using a high-quality cable detector.
- Have a Residual Current Device (RCD) fitted in your fusebox. An RCD will cut the power in the event of an electrical fault caused by a DIY mistake.
- Turn the power off, where possible, when carrying out DIY work near electrical wiring or power supplies.
- Ensure your power tools and their leads are in a good condition.
- Seek advice! There is no shame in asking a registered electrician for advice and help.
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