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Electrical Fire Safety Week - be on the lookout for festive fakes

18 November 2019

Electrical Fire Safety Week 2019 runs from 18-24 November.  The week is a partnership between the National Fire Chiefs Council and Electrical Safety First, an independent charity committed to reducing deaths and injuries caused by electricity in the home.

Electrical Fire Safety Week - be on the lookout for festive fakes

With the convenience of internet shopping, people are moving away from high street retailers. Online marketplaces are particularly popular, frequently offering products at bargain prices. Marketplaces act as a platform for third party sellers to distribute their wares to millions of buyers under one “roof”.

However, sellers of counterfeit or sub-standard electrical products exploit these online marketplaces for the ease with which they can sell their goods to a mass market – it can be impossible to know what you are actually buying, with no real guarantee that the product you receive will be genuine.

Previous research from Electrical Safety First has shown that 30 per cent of people who had bought counterfeit electrical products got them from online marketplaces. However, there is a lack of awareness of the difference between Amazon and Amazon Marketplace and an assumption that there is more regulation of marketplace platforms than actually exists.

Following Electrical Safety First’s initial investigation into marketplaces in 2018, some progress has been made. A number of marketplaces signed a Memorandum of Understanding in the EU, committing them to removing dangerous products listed on their site. Amazon also launched ‘Project Zero’ which gives brands the power to remove counterfeit listings from its site, but we believe that more needs to be done.

Consumer Audience        

Online shoppers and bargain hunters – all ages but predominantly aged 18-35.
Digital support will target 18-25 year olds as these are the most likely to buy fakes.

Electrical Safety First’s Key Messages

If you are buying online, buy from a retailer that you trust, either directly from the manufacturer’s website or a trusted High Street name – that way if something goes wrong, you can return the product for repair or a refund.

The owners of online marketplaces must do more to protect their customers from dangerous electrical fakes and if a lack of self-regulation is evident the Government should consider legislating on the issue.

Fake and substandard items can be almost impossible to spot. Online shoppers are being misled by imagery taken from official product sites, fake official safety marks and believable pricing – items can even be priced just a few pounds below the recommended retail value to avoid arousing suspicion.

Buying fake electrical products is particularly risky as they often contain faulty parts that can overheat and catch fire or deliver a fatal electric shock. While many items appear sophisticated on the outside they lack essential safety components inside. 

If a bargain seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Additional Electrical Fire Safety Messages

Electriclal fire safety messages can cut across electrical distribution, faulty appliances and wiring and even misuse of electrical equipment.  This highlights the need for tailoring messages and activity to relevant audiences. Having sufficient fire detection equipment and escape plans remains of high importance.

Check that your electrical products have not been recalled

In the last six years, over 250 recall notices have been issued for electrical products, mostly due to a risk of electric shock or fire. Yet response rates are worryingly low with most recalls only achieving around 10-20 per cent. Use Electrical Safety First’s online product checker to make sure the appliances in your home are safe: www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/recall.

Make sure you register your electrical appliances so that you are the first to know of any safety repairs or recalls. You can do this through the manufacturers’ websites, or through the register my appliance website: www.registermyappliance.org.uk

Carry out a visual check of your electrics

Encourage people to carry out visual checks in their homes to ensure their safety and reduce the risk of electrical fires.  It is often the simple things that people could check that lead to a serious fire – such as an appliance lead near a hot surface or an overloaded socket.

The ‘Home Electrical Safety Check’ app can guide householders through visual checks (www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/visualchecks).

Keep combustible materials away from sources of heat

Encourage householders not to store combustible materials close to their electrical intake equipment (service head meter and/or consumer unit) in their homes.  The warning is particularly appropriate where, for example, the electrical intake equipment is in a cupboard which is used to store items such as coats, cleaning materials and other things that ignite easily.

Don’t overload plug sockets

An extension lead or adaptor will have a limit to how many amps it can take so, to help reduce the risk of fire, be careful not to overload them. Try to keep to one plug per socket.

Use Electrical Safety First’s online ‘Socket Overload Calculator’ to make sure that you are not overloading the sockets in your home.

www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/overloadingsockets 

Keep electrical appliances clean and in good working order

Look out for fuses that blow, circuit-breakers that trip for no obvious reason and flickering lights to prevent appliances triggering a fire.

Regularly check for frayed or worn cables and wires

Check to see if the cable is fastened securely to the plug and check the socket for scorch marks.  You should always carry out these checks before you use an appliance.

Switch off appliances at the socket when not in use

This helps to reduce the risk of fire.  Switch off appliances when you go to bed or when you go out unless they are designed to be left on, like freezers.

Buy your electrical chargers from a reputable source

Many imported chargers do not satisfy UK safety regulations and can cause serious electric shock, injury or fire

Get Out, Stay Out, Call 999

Never use water on an electrical fire and don’t take any risks with your safety.  Pull the plug out or switch the power off if it is safe to do so.  Get out, stay out and call 999.

Residual Current Device

Encourage homeowners to fit and use RCD protection, if they do not already have it. An RCD (residual current device) is a life-saving device which is designed to prevent you from getting a fatal electric shock if you touch something live, such as a bare wire. It provides a level of protection that ordinary fuses or circuit-breakers cannot provide.  RCD protection is particularly important when using electrical equipment outdoors.