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ELECTRICAL SAFETY FOR STUDENTS

 

With student numbers on the rise, more and more people are starting university every year. This can be both an exciting and daunting time and, for most of you, it will be your first time living away from home. More than 70% of student accommodation is privately owned which means that proper safety regulations may not always be in place.

A few simple steps can ensure that you are clued up on some of the hazards and risks to look out for.

DOs and DON'Ts:

  • Do make sure your landlord hasn’t overloaded any sockets or extension leads prior to your arrival. This could cause overheating and even a fire, so make sure you check how the appliances supplied with the property are set up when you first move in.
  • Do ensure that your property is fitted with a working smoke alarm. Test the alarm upon arrival in your house and again at regular intervals throughout the year.
  • Don’t carry out any electrical work in the property yourself, even if your landlord asks you to. Fixing electrical problems is the landlord’s responsibility and they should employ a registered electrician to undertake all electrical work.
  • Do make sure your landlord or fellow housemates do not store anything on top of your microwave as they can cause it to overheat.
  • Don’t cook when drunk – Although it may seem like a great idea to cook a fry up when you get in from a night out, DON’T. Your usual safety-conscious brain is likely to have been numbed with alcohol and your response rate will be a lot slower. This means you are more at risk of leaving ovens and hobs unattended as well as suffering burns.
  • Do check that all appliances supplied with the property are in proper working order and do not bear any signs of damage or age. Things to look out for include cuts or abrasions to the cable, non-standard plugs, loose parts or screws and signs of overheating or burning.

And remember:

  • Your landlord is legally obliged to ensure that your electrical installation is kept in repair and proper working order. Keep an eye out for constant tripping of fuses, flickering lights and scorching around sockets. 
  • If your property uses gas, your landlord is legally required to provide you with a gas safety certificate. Make sure you see a copy upon arrival.

What to ask your landlord for:

  • An Electrical Installation Condition Report (previously referred to as a Periodic Inspection Report or PIR). Electrical Safety First recommends that a periodic inspection and test of the electrical installation should be carried out by a registered electrician at least every five years or on change of tenancy.
  • Certification confirming that any recent electrical work meets the UK national standards BS 7671

If you have reported an issue to your landlord and he or she has refused to put the situation right or ignored your request, you should contact your local authority who will be able to help you. Local authorities will ensure a landlord is meeting their legal obligations and can take enforcement action against them.

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PRODUCT RECALLS

 

The average success rate of an electrical product recall in the UK is just 10-20%. This means that there are potentially millions of recalled electrical items still in UK homes. As most of these products have been recalled because they offer a risk of electric shock or electrical fire, they present a serious risk.

Register Your Appliances

Unless products are registered, it is very difficult to track them down.

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Are you being scammed at Christmas?

 

We know it’s easy to miss those small details that give away a fake, especially in the rush of Christmas shopping and trying to grab a bargain on Black Friday. We’ve found that an estimated nine million UK shoppers have purchased a fake electrical product as a Christmas gift in the past – pretty scary when you think about the fact that fake internal components in electrical items are at risk of exploding, leaving you open to serious injury or property damage. When you buy a fake, whether knowingly or unknowingly, at best you’re being swindled but at worst you’re putting your life at risk.

So if you’re making a list ahead of Black Friday, make sure you check it twice!

Below are our five top tips for safer shopping this Christmas:

Buy electrical products from reputable retailers. This way you can be assured you’re buying the real thing as some fake products can be hard to identify

Check prices and shop around! Check online shops and if possible, visit the high street. If a bargain looks too good to be true, it probably is!

Check that the voltage is 230-240V, 50Hz and that they are fitted with a three-pin UK plug or charger

Look for the padlock symbol at the bottom of the screen when you are filling in your payment details.

Beware of glowing reviews, especially if the reviewers aren’t verified. Some sites cross-reference user reviews with their buyer database and label those people as "verified purchasers" 

We've also put together a video highlighting how difficult it can be to spot a fake, featuring Elvis Presley himself (well, sort of!)

For more information, including how to spot a fake, visit electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

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HOVER BOARDS

Hoverboard safety

Hoverboards, mini Segways, Swegways or self-balancing boards are the current 'must have' item and are surely at the top of many kid's (and adult's) Christmas lists. But their recent rise in popularity has highlighted the importance of electrical safety, with incidents involving hoverboards making headlines across the country.

If you’re one of the estimated one million people who are considering buying a hoverboard this December, or if you are one of the 500,000 people who have already purchased one as a gifti, use ourchecklist to stay safe.

If, after checking this list, you’re not sure your hoverboard is safe, don’t buy it. If it’s already under the tree, return it. Don’t take the risk.

Visual signs that your hoverboard may not be safe

Non-compliant plugs
Cloverleaf plug with no fuse:
Non-approved fake plug with incorrect markings and counterfeit fuse (BSI approval kitemark back-to-front and fictitious approval body STGD):

Other safety points to consider:

Price isn’t a factor

For hoverboards, price is not an indicator of a safe product. In this brand new category, even the more expensive brands on offer remain unproven in terms of safety and quality. Remain on the alert for faults even if you’ve paid a generous sum.
Choose a reputable retailer

Make sure you purchase from a reputable retailer you know and trust, that way if something goes wrong you can contact the retailer or manufacturer to deal with any problems.
Do not purchase through unknown sellers on online marketplaces, social media or from a market stall.


Check the plug

As a minimum, you should check that the three pin plug on the device states it is made to BS 1363 and that there is a fuse fitted inside the plug. If it doesn’t, don’t buy the product. With no fuse, there is potential for overheating, explosion and fire risk.


Check appearance and marking

Check the input voltage range of the charger includes 230/240V, 50Hz (the UKs nominal voltage) and that the hoverboard is fitted with a three-pin UK plug or charger.


Look out for poor quality construction and finish, misspelt brands or product names, or instructions with poor English translations.


The packaging should also be of good quality – avoid plain cardboard boxes not marked with a manufacturers name or trademark, and always check for contact details on the packaging or instructions.


Check that the instructions are for the product in the box.


Ensure traceability

Check for details of manufacturer and contact details, if these are not present your product is likely to be substandard.


Faulty hoverboards will also often be missing warranty cards, instructions and other associated literature.


Charge Safely

Never leave the device charging unattended – especially overnight: there have been a number of incidents in which they have overheated and exploded while charging due to a faulty cut off switch or plug without a fuse.


If there are no instructions on how to charge the hover board safely, don’t buy it.


Report it

If you suspect you have a sub-standard or faulty hover board, stop using the product immediately and report the fault to the manufacturer or retailer (if known) AND the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.

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ELECTRICAL FIRE RISK WARNINGS IN NORTH WALES

Fire officers in North Wales have warned residents and business owners of the dangers of electrical fires following a number of incidents.

The warning came after three fires at commercial properties during one weekend in mid-April which were all believed to have been started due to electrical faults.

Stuart Millington, senior Fire Safety manager, said: “Luckily there were no casualties, and due to the efforts of our fire crews the commercial properties had minimal damage.”

During the same weekend fire crews also attended five residential fires which are all believed to have been started due to an electrical fault.

“Fires in the home can be devastating, and sadly two of the five fires had caused substantial damage to the homes," added Mr Millington.

“We attend around 470 accidental fires in dwellings each year and electricity or electrical items are responsible for over 300 of these fires.

“Last October a fire in Llanrwst which claimed the lives of two men aged 19 and 39 was most likely to have started in a tumble dryer. The matter remains subject to a coroner’s inquest."

Advice provided by the fire and rescue teams includes not overloading plug sockets, checking for frayed wires, unplug appliances when not in use and keep appliances clean and in good working order.

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BEDFORD COMPANY FINED AFTER TEENAGE TRAINEE ENGINEER LOST HIS LIFE

 

Date: 12 May 2015


Grundfos Pumps Limited, Leighton Buzzard, Bedford, pleaded guilty to safety failings after a trainee design engineer lost his life.

On 30 March 2009, 19-year-old trainee design engineer, Jake Herring, came into contact with a live 3 phase electrical system and died from his injuries. Jake was carrying our electrical testing work at the Grundfos Pumps Ltd factory in Windsor and was working unsupervised whilst testing a live electrical control panel.

The company appeared at Reading Crown Court on Monday 11 May 2015 and was fined £300,000,  with total costs of £115,000 after pleading guilty to breaching the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 3, (1) (a), and the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 Reg 3, (1)(a), contrary to Regulation 14.

An unsafe system of work was found to be the cause of Jake’s death.  Grundfos Pumps Ltd had not adequately risk assessed the testing of live electrical panels to identify a safe system of work and failed to provide suitable training and supervision to undertake 3 phase live testing. 

Inspector for the Health and Safety Executive, Paul Williams, said:

“This tragic incident could and should have been avoided.  Grundfos Pumps Limited’s failure to adequately risk assess the electrical testing process led to an unsafe system work being in place. Training and supervision arrangements were clearly inadequate.

If live electrical testing has to be undertaken, suitable precautions must be in place.”

More information about electrical safety can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/electrical.htm

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ELECTRIC SHOCKS PUT CINEMA OPERATOR IN COURT

Electric shocks put cinema operator in court

A cinema operator has been fined after two employees received electric shocks from a popcorn machine.

Manchester Magistrates Court fined Cineworld Ltd. £9,000, plus costs, after two members of staff at its Didsbury multiplex received electric shocks from a machine that keeps popcorn warm.

After one employee received a shock, management were alerted, but failed to isolate the machine or post warning notices to stop staff using it. Later the same day, a second worker was shocked when he turned the machine off.

An investigation by Manchester City Council found the machine had a faulty switch and a panel missing, meaning a live circuit board was exposed. Neither worker was seriously injured by the shocks, but the court heard that they could have been fatal.

Cineworld Cinemas pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

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POTENTIALLY LETHAL HOT WATER BOTTLES

'Potentially lethal' hot water bottles seized by Trading Standards officers

More than 1,200 electric hot water bottles seized by Kent County Council Trading Standards officers have been described as potentially lethal.

The bottles – intended for use by children – were recovered from a lorry arriving through the Port of Dover.

Mains electricity is passed through the water in the bottle to heat it up, which is against the relevant safety standard. Any leaking water would be “live” and could lead to electrocution.

An electrical safety expert examined the hot water bottles and found numerous faults. The faults included insufficient insulation to protect the user from electric shock, the cable was inadequate for the load and the construction of the cable was not safe because wrong connecting devices had been used.

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Product Recall - Russell Hobbs Steamglide Iron

Russell Hobbs has issued an urgent recall after customers complained they had been left burned after their irons caught fire.

The fault was laid bare in a BBC Watchdog investigation, which was broadcast on 4th December 2014 . The electronics firm has since announced it is recalling 15 different steam irons.

They have the following codes: 15081, 18651, 18720, 18741, 18742, 18743, 19220, 19221, 19222, 19400, 19840, 20260, 20280, 20550-10, 20560-10.

If you have one of the above models, you need to check the five-digit batch code. If the code starts with 045 through to 365 and ends with 12 or starts with 001 through to 195 and ends with 13, then you have an affected iron.

Tim Wright, the company's vice president, admitted to Anne Robinson that they first knew about the problem 18 months ago.

"We recognised that we had a flex in our irons which is actually UK and European compliant, but in certain special occasions was causing an issue.

"So we amended that then, we worked with trading standards and we have been monitoring the situation. Every individual that has contacted us we have worked with to reach an amicable resolution and then product was recalled.

To make further inquiries Freephone 0800 307 7616, or 0333 103 9663 if you are calling from a mobile.

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Electrical Fire Safety Week

Each year, the Government's Fire Kills campaign is used to promote electrical fire safety in the home. In 2014, Electrical Fire Safety Week runs from 10th to 16th November.

For 2014, the focus is on the dangers of portable heaters, responsible for 4% of accidental house fires. The number of deaths and serious injuries is higher than with any other cause. Elderly people and children are particularly vulnerable.

This problem is one that we believe will increase as householders, worried about the rising cost of energy bills, look for alternative, cost-effective ways of staying warm during the winter months.

Research showed that over three quarters of people are worried about being able to afford to heat their homes, and over half will be using portable heaters to keep warm.

We highlighted the most common mistakes and found an alarming number of people did not realise that they were putting themselves at risk:

38% would leave a heater switched on and unattended 
33% would use one to keep elderly relatives warm
21% would leave one switched on overnight

NEVER LEAVE A PORTABLE HEATER SWITCHED ON AND UNATTENDED

DISCOURAGE THE USE OF PORTABLE HEATERS FOR ELDERLY RELATIVES

NEVER LEAVE A PORTABLE HEATER SWITCHED ON OVERNIGHT

Finally, remember to check your smoke detectors and replace batteries at least once a year.

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Yet another Megger PAT Tester project comes to fruition.

PATS Limited has again been involved from start to finish on the Megger PAT100 series PAT Tester that has been launched today. We were involved in the initial concept of the hand held testers and conducted field testing on both the PAT120 and PAT150.

The PAT100 series of hand held portable appliance testers enable simple, fast safety testing in all environments including offices, shops and business units. It is ideally suited to training organisations, easy to learn to use, tough and reliable yet with full  functionality. 

With rubber armoured cases and fitted with hardened, scratch proof glass, the PAT100's are exceptionally tough instruments, well able to cope with the treatment they will encounter on site or in the van. Trevor says "Its great not having to search for a power supply to plug the PAT into in order to carry out a test" This makes testing easier in a warehouse where there may not be an adequate safe power supply or if you just have to do a couple of tests somewhere.

There are 3 testers in the range:

PAT120 simple PAT tester offer Class I, Class II and power and extension lead testing with fixed pass limits; because it has two insulation test voltages it can be used to test IT and surge protected equipment.

PAT150 full functionality PAT tester adds to the offering Portable RCD  (PRCDs) testing at 10 mA and 30 mA, separate tests for continuity, insulation, mains powered leakage testing and SELV measurements using the quick test (QT) button, and can be used for testing fixed appliances.

PAT150R is a rechargeable version of the PAT150.   

For further information please see our PAT 100 feature on our Test Instruments page.

 

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Fire Risk from Cheap Phone and Laptop Chargers

Fire risk from cheap phone and laptop chargers

Release date: Wednesday 19th December 2012 (Although this was dated 2012, why do we still have house fires and death attributed to faulty electrical goods?)

Trading standards officers in Wandsworth are urging bargain hunters to steer clear of cheap mobile phone and laptop chargers amid warnings that some could be lethal.

The warning comes after a cheap phone charger nearly caught fire the very first time it was used by a local resident.

The episode has sparked an urgent investigation by trading standards officers which has revealed a shockingly high number of faulty chargers on sale.

Visits to 25 shops across the borough in the past few days has netted a haul of nearly 1,000  phone chargers and over 200 laptop computer chargers that are believed to be unsafe.

Tests carried out on a small sample has revealed they do not meet safety standards. Among defects found by the investigators are: 

Inadequate insulation between the input and output circuits.
Internal components not properly secured and poorly soldered - increasing the risk of loose wires which could cause fires or electric shocks.
Incorrect size and positioning of live and neutral pins in cheap plugs.
The council's consumer safety spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: "Our trading standards team have acted swiftly and decisively to protect residents from these dangerous chargers.

"These items may look like a bargain, but the sad fact is that their true cost could be far greater. Our message is to only buy from reputable retailers and don't be tempted to buy electrical items like this on the cheap.

"It also goes without saying that people should try and avoid leaving chargers like this unattended or leaving them on overnight while you're asleep."

The Electrical Safety Council has produced a guide on substandard and counterfeit electrical chargers, which shows what consumers should look for when buying an electrical charger, namely:

There must be at least 9.5mm between the edge of the pins and the edge of the charger.
Look for the required markings- manufacturer's brand name or logo, model and batch number.
Check for a CE mark.
Check the output voltage and current ratings marked on the charger and your electrical device are the same.
Check for adequate warnings and instructions.
By law only electrical items which satisfy detailed safety requirements and are properly labelled with information to allow traceability and safe use can be sold.

The products seized this week appear to have been imported from the Far East and those importing them have not carried out the checks necessary for ensuring the products they sell meet these requirements. No stock has been removed from any high street retail chain shops.

Anyone worried about an electrical charger they have purchased should stop using it immediately and contact your  local Trading Standards Office.

Although the laptop chargers seized by trading standards bear the names of famous computer manufacturers, the units examined so far have been confirmed as fakes.  Investigations are now continuing with the focus on tracing those who imported these products.

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