Electrical safety

Practical tips and guidance to help identify potential hazards and prevent electrical fires in your home.

The dangers of electrical fires

One of the most common causes of fires in the home is faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, and malfunctioning appliances. We are also seeing a rise in fires involving e-bikes, e-scooters and lithium batteries. Domestic appliances including dish washers, tumble driers, cooking appliances and washing machines are a common source of ignition. 

These types of fires can spread rapidly, igniting nearby materials, which make them difficult to extinguish quickly. Electrical products also contain many different types of materials. When these burn, they can produce a variety of toxic fumes and gases. 

On this page, we will discuss electrical fire safety and what you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your property. 

Preventing electrical fires

Any electrical appliance that is left plugged in to the mains could cause a fire. Some appliances like fridges and freezers are designed to be left on, but even these can cause fires if they are not used properly. 

Safety advice: 

  • keep the area around plug sockets and the mains switch clear 
  • always use the right fuses 

You should never: 

  • use anything with a torn or damaged wire or plug 
  • use anything electric that is broken or not working properly 
  • put electric cables under carpets 
  • put too many plugs in sockets 

Switch off

Switching off at the socket and pulling the plug out is the only way to be sure no electricity is flowing through an appliance. Just using the sockets on/off switch isn’t safe because the switch could be broken. 

If left plugged-in, many appliances still have power flowing through them even though they look like they are off. The same is true of equipment in ‘sleep mode’ or on ‘standby’. 

As well as keeping you safer, switching off and unplugging things at the wall will save you electricity and money! 

Where to plug it in

Appliances that have motors, pumps or large magnets in them can use up to seven times more power. Fridges, freezers, microwaves, washing machines, dishwashers, dryers, power tools and gardening equipment should never be plugged into adaptors or power strips with other appliances. Plug them straight into the wall instead. 

Overloaded plugs

It is important to avoid overloading circuits, which can cause wires to overheat and ignite. Avoid using extension cords and power strips for long periods of time, as they can also be a fire hazard. 

Also, keep the area around the plug sockets and mains switch clear.  

Use the right fuse

The fuse in a plug is a safety device that will ‘blow’ if an electrical appliance develops a fault. It cuts off the electricity to stop the appliance from overheating and causing a fire. If you fit the wrong fuse, it won‘t ‘blow’.  

A general guide to fuses is listed below, but always check the manufacturer’s instructions. 

3 amp fuse 

  • lamps/bed lights  
  • televisions/radios 
  • electric blankets 
  • hi-fi/DVD players 
  • docking stations 
  • clocks/computers 
  • games consoles 

13 amp fuse

  • refrigerators  
  • heaters 
  • kettles/toasters 
  • washing machines/dryers 
  • irons 
  • hair straighteners 

Using power adaptors and extension leads

When you use them safely, adaptors let you plug more than one appliance into an electrical socket. Overloading the adaptors can cause a fire.  

Rather than using a block adaptor, consider using a multi-way bar extension lead with surge protection. 

Always make sure your adaptor is fitted with a fuse and has a kite mark from Intertek British Electrotechnical Approvals Board (Intertek BEAB).  

Don’t overload your adaptor. Appliances connected to the extension leads should never use more than 13 amps of electricity in total.  

Electrical Safety First is a great place for more information on this. It features a calculator that shows you if you are overloading your adaptors and extension leads.

Find an Electrician

Poorly installed electrical work can put you at risk. One of the most effective ways to prevent electrical fires is to have your electrical system inspected regularly by a qualified electrician. This will help identify any potential issues before they become a problem. 

Electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk can help you to find local, registered electricians who are regularly assessed by one of these industry groups. 

  • NAPIT  

Choosing a registered electrician means that:  

  • they work to the BS7671 safety standard  
  • their work is regularly assessed  
  • they are insured so you are protected  
  • it is a legal requirement for certain electrical work 

Register your appliance  

When you purchase an appliance, you don’t always give your details to manufacturers. If an appliance develops a fault, it can then be difficult for the manufacturer to contact you. 

Registering your appliance means you will be the first to know of any safety repairs or recalls. You can register your old and new appliances at Register My Appliance. 

Typically, you will need the following details to register appliance.  

  • Model name or number  
  • Serial number 
  • Purchase date 

Product recalls

Appliances sold in the UK are designed to high standards. But, overtime, they can develop issues that require repairs or product recalls.  

Manufacturers issue product recall notices if an electrical appliance could develop a fault. Faults include a risk of electric shock or fire.  

Want to find out if a specific appliance has been recalled? You can check the list of recalled items on the Electrical Safety First website. There is a section which explains what to do with your recalled appliance. 

If you search for an appliance and it is not listed, this means that it has not been recalled and should be safe to use. If you have concerns about its safety, contact the retailer or manufacturer. 

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