Category: Domestic Electrical

Fire-Christmas-Safety-Plugs-Lights

Christmas Is A-Coming – Think Safety First!

It’s almost time to get up in the loft or rummage in the garage for the box of Christmas lights and decorations. But before you start plugging everything in, think about electrical safety and any precautions you might need to take to protect your home and family this festive season.

We all have traditional favourites that we bring out year after year, but when it comes to anything electrical you need to carry out a few simple safety checks before you plug them in. Cables can easily become frayed or damaged, wires can become detached, and old bulbs can overheat and melt fittings so carefully examine everything first.

Check Your Lights

Christmas lights are often stored in a tangled mess which makes damage more likely and there’s more risk if they’re kept somewhere damp. Battery powered lights should have the power source removed before being packed away or the batteries are likely to corrode. The potassium hydroxide that leaks from batteries is highly toxic and can cause skin irritation, damage to your eyes and respiratory problems.

Old-style Christmas lights get hot whereas new LED bulbs operate at very low voltage, reducing the chance of an electric shock and using 80-90% less electricity. They’re far less likely to cause a fire as they stay cool to the touch and they’re much cheaper to run so it’s worth considering investing in new lights if yours have traditional filament or lantern bulbs. Make sure you buy from a reputable supplier and that they carry the CE safety mark.

Choose The Right Equipment

Many people like to decorate the outside of their homes with lights but it’s important that they are specially designed to be used in all weathers and are plugged into a socket with a residual current device (RCD) to prevent shocks and fires. All lights should always be switched off when you are out of the house and overnight – better still, put them on a timer so you don’t forget.

Don’t Get Overloaded

It’s tempting to overload sockets and extension leads at Christmas when you want to plug in lots of lights, but this is a serious fire risk and should be avoided. Supplement mains lights with battery-powered sets and consider buying rechargeable batteries to save money. If you have an imitation Christmas tree, make sure it’s fire resistant – and if it’s real don’t let it dry out or it’s a bigger fire risk (though you need to be careful when watering a tree with lights on!).

Christmas Statistics

Statistically, you’re more likely to have a fire-related incident over Christmas and the season is responsible for various festive injuries and even deaths:

  • Christmas tree lights injure nearly 350 people annually
  • 50% of fire-related deaths occur over Christmas
  • 26 people died between 1997 and 2010 in the UK of electrocution while watering their Christmas tree with the lights on
  • About 260 home fires begin with Christmas trees each year

Stay Safe

To make sure you keep yourself and your family safe over the Christmas period, check smoke alarms are working and do a dry run of your home fire escape plan to ensure everyone knows what to do.

For more advice about home fire safety including smoke and fire alarms and fire extinguishers, call Absolute Protection Group on 01622 437838.

DIY electrical work – is it worth the risk?

Whether to save time or money, many people attempt DIY electrical work in the home. But it’s important to understand the legal requirements and potential risks before embarking on any such projects.

Around one in 20 people will end up in A&E at some time in their life due to a DIY disaster, but accidents involving electricity can have devastating consequences including fire, electric shock, serious injury and even death.

Registered electricians are frequently called to fix issues caused by attempts at small electrical jobs in the home, with cutting through power leads and drilling through cables in walls just two of the most common incidents.

The availability of YouTube video tutorials and other online advice often tempts people to take on jobs outside their normal ability and expertise, but electrical work is an area where this should be avoided at all costs.

There are a few small jobs that it’s acceptable to tackle, such as wiring a plug or replacing like-for-like fittings such as light switches and sockets. But any bigger electrical work is covered by Part P of the Building Regulations and should be carried out by a qualified electrician, or at the very least checked and signed off by one.

Part P was introduced in 2005 to keep people safe from electrical hazards and ensure any works carried out meet a required standard. Failure to comply with the regulations, or to get work checked once completed, is not only dangerous but will also invalidate home insurance policies so it’s not worth the risk.

Some electrical work is notifiable, such as replacing a fuse board or rewiring a house. This means you must apply for permission from your local authority before carrying it out, unless you employ a qualified electrician who is registered with one of the Government-approved scheme providers and can sign off the work themselves. Otherwise, the work must be inspected on completion.

When carrying out even the simplest electrical tasks, it’s important to take your time and ensure you follow the safety rules every step of the way. NEVER do any electrical work until you are certain the power has been isolated at the fuse board.

Be certain the circuit you are working on is not live by switching the circuit breaker off and checking the lights or sockets in the room. If the circuits are not carefully labelled, switch off each breaker from left to right followed by the mains switch. You can then use a voltage detector to ensure there is no power flowing, preventing an electric shock.

By far the safest way to ensure your electrical work is done safely and to the required standard is to employ a qualified electrician. But people are often concerned they will end up with a huge bill or be hoodwinked by a rogue trader. So how can you ensure you’re making the right choice?

It’s important to check that they are registered with a government-approved scheme, which means they are qualified to carry out complex electrical work and their skills are regularly reviewed.

At Absolute Protection Group all our electricians are NICEIC and CHAS (Contractor’s Health and Safety Assessment Scheme) approved and their essential training is regularly refreshed.

They are also fully insured, checked by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and carry ID with them at all times. In addition, all our electrical installation work carries a two-year warranty.

For further details visit our website or call 01622 437838.

Put Safety First This Christmas

Christmas is a special time, and this year more than ever we’ll cherish sharing it with our loved ones and reflecting on a challenging few months. Who’d have thought back at the start of 2020 that most of the year would be spent in lockdown, wearing masks outside our homes and praying for a vaccine?

Celebrations are likely to be very different this year for many people and some have taken the opportunity to start the festivities early, putting up lights and decorating their homes. But while the twinkling fairy lights and sparkling decorations can lift spirits at a difficult time, it’s important to make sure safety is a priority to prevent a Christmas disaster.

Incidents of house fires can rise by up to 50% over the festive season, often caused by faulty Christmas lights or overloaded sockets, and exacerbated by an increase in flammable materials in the home. A dry Christmas tree surrounded by gifts wrapped in paper is a lethal combination if a fire starts.

So what can you do to protect your home and your loved ones?

Poor quality or old lights are the biggest risk, so consider investing in new ones from a reputable supplier and check they comply with British safety standards. If you need to replace bulbs, make sure they’re the same type and rating, and don’t use lights with a frayed cable or exposed wire.

Modern LED lights are cool to the touch and pose less of a risk than the traditional filament type because they operate at low voltage and don’t require as much power, but all lights should always be unplugged overnight or when you leave your home unattended.

There’s a temptation to overload sockets and use multiple extension leads to plug in all the fairy lights and illuminated decorations, but overheating can cause fires so limit what you’re plugging in and make sure everything has the correctly rated fuse.

When choosing an imitation tree, buy from a reputable source, ensuring it meets safety standards and is fire retardant. Real trees are less likely to catch fire as long as they’re not allowed to dry out, but be careful when watering your tree if you’re using electric lights – use a residual current device (RCD) to protect yourself from the risk of electric shock.

Never leave young children and pets alone with a Christmas tree. Pets can easily knock things over, especially where there’s limited space, and children can be tempted to touch hot bulbs, climb to reach treats or play with decorations. Extra vigilance is required to prevent an accident – and always check smoke alarms are working and batteries are fresh.

If you’re putting up lights outside your home, check they’re specially designed for outdoor use and make sure they’re plugged into an indoor socket. Always use an RCD – water and electricity don’t mix, and outdoor lights run more risk of becoming damaged.

It’s worth revisiting your family’s fire escape plan so everyone knows what to do if a fire does break out – it’s especially important if you have guests staying who aren’t familiar with your home.

A few simple precautions will ensure you keep your home and your family safe this Christmas. Taking chances just isn’t worth the risk.