Electrical safety tips and advice
Whether you're a consumer, installer or professional, read our latest guide to electrical safety including tips and advice to staying safe.
150 years ago domestic electricity was not a concept, let alone available at the flick of a switch. Now, we all take electricity for granted and it’s part of our everyday lives.
Modern living means using more electrical appliances in the home. Televisions, DVD player, radio, microwave, computers and games consoles are prevalent in most homes and as a result, we often forget how dangerous it can be.
Product misuse is the top cause of accidental fires in British homes and the number has increased by over a third since 2009. Many people commit “blunders” in and around the home without realising they are exposing themselves to the risk of fire or electric shock.
Being safe when using electrical appliances, cables, lights and other equipment is common sense, but should be included as part of household rules and daily expectations for every member of the family. It only takes one mistake to cause a fire or injury. Did you know that the human body is an excellent conductor of electricity? This means that an electrical current can travel through our bodies incredibly easily. When it does, it interferes with normal electrical signals between the brain and our muscles (e.g. your heart may stop beating, your breathing can stop or muscles can spasm). Thermal burns can also occur both to the outside of our skin, but also to internal tissue causing severe damage that you will not be able to see.
Whether you are a consumer that wants to brush up on advice for safe operation around the home or a professional electrician that needs tips for safety on the job, take the time to read our Electrical Safety Guide below. This list is not exhaustive, please use this article for guidance purposes only. Do not substitute this article for professional advice, instructions, qualifications or national regulations. You can find more information at www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk.
Electrical safety for consumers
When spring-cleaning, check your power sockets for any discolouration. Discoloured outlets mean something is going on behind the walls. These are not normal and need to be checked out by a registered electrician.
- In the event of electricity failure, check if you are the only house affected. If you are, check the “mains” box to see if the main power switch has tripped. If it has, switch it back on – the circuit with the fault should now remain off. Have it fixed as soon as possible.
Overloading a plug can cause a fire. A multi-plug surge adaptor will allow you to use appliances as needed without the risk of overheating. Inspect them regularly for damage or signs of overloading.
Pulling a plug out by the cord can expose bare wires. Disconnect the power and then grip the plug itself to pull out.
- Switch off electrical items at the plug. Items left plugged in can be a fire risk and waste energy if left on standby.
Ensure any electrical items are of an approved standard when purchasing and keep them correctly maintained where necessary. Look for a British safety mark before you buy it.
- Don’t put anything inside electrical sockets or appliances like toasters, especially metal objects like knives. Switch off and unplug the appliance before you rescue your breakfast.
Appliances that generate heat, such as electric radiators, lightbulbs, clocks, televisions and computer monitors should be given ample clearance all around for good air circulation and cooling. Do not drape clothes, toys or other items over these sorts of appliances.
Keep your smoke alarm in good working order and regularly test it. It could save your life.
Don’t store combustible materials (clothes, paper and cleaning fluids) close to your cut-out fuse, electricity meter or fuse box.
- Always register your electrical appliances so that the manufacturer can contact you if there is a problem. You can register your Rointe product here.
Look out for critters like rats, mice and other pests that like to chew on wiring. Damaged cables can easily cause fires so if you see signs of a pest problem, check your cabling and call pest control.
Make sure you use an RCD with electrical garden tools and ensure it is fitted in the fuse box. In the UK, all new or rewired homes from July 2008 require an RCD.
- Know where your cables are. Whether you’re putting up a shelf or hanging curtains, you should know exactly where your wires are. It’s a common mishap to drill or nail into cables.
Keep all electrical appliances away from water. Likewise do not operate any electrical appliance with wet hands or while standing in water.
The only sockets permitted in bathrooms are designed specifically for shaving and electric toothbrushes, unless they can be fitted at least 3m from the bath or shower.
For homes fitted with an electric shower, the electricity must be supplied on its own circuit directly from your fuse box.
Always use a registered electrician. They are regulated by the UK Government and have to work to the BS7671 safety standard. In addition, their work is regularly assessed and they are insured so you are protected. Click here to find one in your area.
Never use water on an electrical fire and do not take any risks with your safety. Pull the plug out or switch the power off if it is safe to do so. In case of any fire, get out, stay out and call 999.
Electrical safety for professionals
Inspect electrical cords, cables and equipment before installing or use. If damaged, replace immediately and dispose of damaged equipment.
Use equipment and cords that are rated for the level of amperage or wattage needed.
- Always use tools, ladders and equipment made using non-conductive handles or side rails when working with or near electricity.
Always check that appliances, sockets and equipment are de-energized first by using a tester.
You should always avoid live wires. No matter how small or routine the job is, do not take risks. Focus on the job as much as you did the very first time around and never become complacent or careless.
Capacitors retain a charge and should be drained before you handle them.
- Always disconnect the power before attempting to install, repair or replace any electrical equipment.
Use protective gear like rubber insulated boots and gloves appropriate to the environment.
Don’t wear loose clothing like ties or scarves when working with or near to electricity.
Whilst on the job, ask homeowners to secure their pets in a safe enclosed space to avoid accident or injury.
Avoid taking drinks or other fluids into the workspace. Most liquids are conductors, and if spilt, can create a path from nearby live equipment.
- Work with one hand. Your body will complete an electrical circuit, so touching a live wire with both hands will allow the current to pass directly through your arms and chest.
When replacing fuses, always use the correct size. Replacing larger sizes can cause excessive electric currents and fires.
Keep cords and cables out of the way by taping them to the floor or wall. Never staple or nail cables.
- Know where panel and circuit breakers are located in case of an emergency.
Label all circuit breakers and fuse boxes clearly, so each switch can be positively identified.
Only use equipment for its intended purpose. Misuse can cause accidents, lead to injury and broken equipment.
In the UK, all new or rewired homes from July 2008 require an RCD.
Tangled cables and disorganised patching make investigating a problem much harder. Plan any new circuits, reorganise badly planned schemas and place labels on wires so you are sure what belongs where.
- Never use metallic pens or pencils, or wear metal jewellery such as watches, when working with electrical equipment.
The only sockets permitted in bathrooms are designed specifically for shaving and electric toothbrushes unless they can be fitted at least 3m from the bath or shower.
- All sockets in the kitchen should be at least 30cm from the sink or water source.
- Hard to reach cables such as your fridge-freezer, should be fitted with a fuse connection above the worktop in easy reach in case you need to switch off quickly.
It is tempting to try to help as much as you can but know your limits. If you are a regular household electrician, do not be tempted by an offer to fix a power line into a house.
- Never use water on an electrical fire and do not take any risks with your safety. Pull the plug out or switch the power off if it is safe to do so. In case of any fire, get out, stay out and call 999.
What to do in an emergency.
If an individual is exposed to live electrical conductors, appliances or equipment, do not touch the equipment, cord or person. Disconnect the power source from the circuit breaker. It is not enough to unplug the appliance.
- Call 999. Only those with necessary knowledge should carry out first aid.
- If the current cannot be turned off safely, use a non-conducting object such as wooden broom to gently push the individual away from the source of the current. Never use a wet or metal object. If possible, stand on something non-conducting such as a rubber mat.
Find out more here.
As manufacturers, we want our products to be installed and used safely. Always use a trusted Rointe installer and ensure you both read the instruction manual thoroughly before installation or operation of the product. You can find your nearest trusted Rointe installer here.