Top tips for managing electrical appliance risk

  • Electrical appliances present a number of fire risks to be aware of
  • A recent spate of faulty appliances has caused a number of major fires throughout the UK
  • We look at how to manage these risks at your properties

Electrical appliances are a common source of fire and represent an increasing risk for Real Estate customers to manage. In 2018/19, there were 15,463 domestic fires caused by appliances and whilst that is a decrease on previous years, it still equates to nearly 300 a week.

We look at the risks posed by various electrical appliances and how you can manage exposures.

A flurry of faults

The risk of home appliances creating fires recently grabbed headlines after several leading brands announced faults with their products.

Millions of households in the UK are thought to be affected by faulty products, but a large proportion of these remain completely unaware of fault notifications, or can experience long waiting periods before the manufacturer takes action. In fact just 10-20% of electrical products are ever successfully recalled, which means that electrical goods that could cause fires are still being used in a large number of homes.

Monitoring and responding to faults

In light of the recent spate of recalls, we are recommending customers and their tenants follow these helpful tips:

  • Always register appliances with manufacturers or via another service, such as Register my Appliance. This enables manufacturers to notify you directly about any faults or recalls.
  • Check whether appliances have been reported as faulty using a product checker, such as the one provided by Electrical Safety First
  • If an appliance has a known issue, contact the manufacturer to arrange a repair/replacement. In the meantime, never use the appliance when it is unattended (including overnight) and unplug it when not in use

Purchasing safe appliances

Fires often occur due to unsafe or incompatible electrical products being used – for example, imitation chargers being purchased instead of the manufacturer’s genuine versions.

This issue received national publicity when an increasing number of fires were attributed to incompatible e-cigarette chargers, and devices being left to charge for longer than the manufacturer stipulated.

To minimise the risk of an incident occurring, we recommend the following:

  • Check for the ‘CE mark’ on any electrical product. This shows that it complies with European safety standards
  • Always use the manufacturer’s dedicated charger. Generic or imitation products often do not regulate power in the correct way. This can cause too much current entering the battery, causing it to overheat
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on charging. Many appliances can overheat if left for too long
  • Unplug chargers from their socket when not in use

Electrical socket use

Overloading electrical circuitry is a common cause of fire, as we seek to accommodate more and more electrical appliances at once. Multi-plugs and extension cables can often overheat when overloaded.

The following best practice are recommended, and landlords may also wish to incorporate these into their periodic property checks:

  • Keep to one plug per socket whenever possible
  • If using an adapter, make sure it is a fused ‘in line’ type, not an in-wall multi plug
  • Check the power limit of adapters. Ensure the sum of the power of the appliances being run through it does not exceed it
  • When using cable drum extension leads, always fully unwind it to prevent overheating if safe to do so

To help identify and manage fire risks such as these, the Fire Service offers free home fire safety checks.

The government has also issued an easy-to-read fire safety leaflet for the home, which landlords can issue to their tenants.

Find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our Fire Risk Resource.