Electrical safety : precautions you can take in your home
Landlords, tenants and owner-occupiers all have legal responsibilities when it comes to electrical safety. But whether you own or rent your home, you should watch out for danger signs when using appliances. Take these important steps to keep your home safe.
Use our gas and fire safety checklist to make sure you’re as safe as you can be.
How can I reduce the risks?
There are many things you can do to minimise risks of electrical shocks or fires in your home. For example:
- have your electrics inspected regularly – see below
- use a Residual Current Device when using electrical equipment outdoors
- use a registered electrician to carry out electrical work in your home – look at the Registered Competent Person Electrician search facility to find a registered electrician in your area
- regularly check the condition of plugs, cables and extension leads for burn marks, sounds of arcing (buzzing or crackling), fuses blowing, circuit-breakers tripping or if they feel hot
- remove plugs from sockets carefully. Pulling out a plug by the cable puts a strain on it, and could damage the contact between the plus and socket
- use plugs with the British Standard safety mark – they have live and neutral pins with insulating sleeves that allow you to put them in and pull them out of sockets safely. (Nowadays, electrical equipment comes fitted with a plug.)
- be careful when using hand-held electrical appliances and ensure that they are switched off and unplugged when you have finished using them
- check that any adaptor used complies with British Standards and is adequately rated for the connected load
- have your electric blanket tested every three years (as recommended by Trading Standards Institute)
- have smoke alarms fitted and ensure that they are all in working order
- make sure you can access the fuse box and meter easily. Keep a torch nearby, so you can see what you’re doing if the lights go out
- plan what to do in case of fire, be aware of all escape routes and make that exit routes are always kept clear.
- bring mains powered portable appliances into the bathroom
- overload adaptors, particularly with high current appliances such as kettles, irons and heaters
- use adaptors plugged into other adaptors
- trail cables from electrical appliances (including extension cables) underneath carpets or rugs
- use any electrical equipment or switches with wet hands
- wrap flexible cables around any equipment when it is still warm
- clean an appliance such as a kettle whilst it is still plugged in
- retrieve toast stuck in a toaster whilst it is plugged in, and especially not with a metal knife – there are often live parts inside!
- fill a kettle or steam iron whilst it is plugged in
- exceed the recommended bulb wattage for light fittings.
The Electrical Safety First website has lots more useful information on electrical safety in the home and garden.
If you are concerned about the safety of any electrical appliance or wiring in your home, contact your landlord or a registered electrician immediately.
Home Electrical Safety App
Electrical Safety First have developed a free smartphone app that allows anyone to do a quick, visual check, to ensure their home is electrically safe. The app highlights potential dangers in each room and explains how to resolve simple, non-technical problems. Where more serious issues are flagged, people are advised to use a registered electrician.
What does an electrical inspection involve?
Electrical Safety First recommends that you get your home inspected by a registered electrician every ten years if you own your own home. If you rent your home, your landlord should get the home inspected before you move in and then every 5 years.
During the inspection, the electrician will:
- identify any defective electrical work
- check for potential electrical shock risks
- check for electrical fire hazards
- make sure your electrical circuits and equipment are not overloaded
- make sure all the wiring is safe.
Appliances will not normally be tested as part of an inspection, but if the electrician suspects that they are potentially dangerous they would bring this to your attention.
At the end of the inspection, the electrician will issue an Electrical Installation Condition Report detailing any damage, defects or other problems. If the report highlights any urgent problems, they should be fixed as soon as possible.
All repair and installation work must carried out properly. Always use a contractor who is listed in the Registered Competent Persons register. This means that they are registered with one of the Government-approved schemes and can issue a certificate to prove that the work has been done to the UK national standard BS 7671 (Requirements for Electrical Installations).