With so many gadgets and related power cables abound in every home and office today, the threat of a fire caused by electricity is a very real one.
Whether faulty wiring or an overloaded plug socket, just a spark or two can be enough to ignite a nearby source of fuel and cause a potentially life-threatening blaze – over 20,000 fires in UK homes each year are started electrically.
Human error is as much a factor as badly wired electrics. An iron left unattended or a drink spilled over a plug socket is enough to cause some damage, and these accidents can occur regardless of how safe your electrical setup is.
Offices and other commercial areas are more strictly regulated when it comes to ensuring electrical safety, with PAT testing and other checks regulated by law. However, the home is where many electrical fires occur, as regular testing and safety inspections are less prominent.
Things to Consider
Try to get into the habit of checking plugs and cables. Look for fraying and areas where plastic coating has been eroded.
When using adaptors, check whether limitations in terms of current strength apply, and do not exceed these.
If you are renting a property, your landlord should have carried out checks and inspections before you move in. Certification proving this should be available.
Make it part of your routine to switch off electrical items overnight or when not in use.
Pay special attention to electrical items that are in danger of overheating, such as laptops, switching them off if they become too hot to touch.
Check sockets for excessive heat while in use or visible burn marks. This could be a sign of unsafe wiring.
Things to Avoid
First and foremost; never overload sockets. While 4-way adaptors and the like are safe to use in accordance with current limitations, they can become dangerous when put under too much strain – particularly if the items plugged into them require a high voltage.
Avoid blocking ventilation and fans on electrical equipment that needs to be kept cool.
Keep an eye on low hanging curtains and throws that hang close to plug sockets or electrical items that heat up.
Watch out for light bulbs that exceed the wattage of a fitting or lamp.
Don’t store combustible materials, such as fabrics, paper or cleaning products, close to power outlets.