Don’t take risks with unsafe electricity

28 August 2009

Student safety

As thousands of young people prepare to go to university, the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) is calling on them (and their parents) to make sure that their student accommodation is as safe as possible.

In a recent survey of students in the UK, the ESC found that almost a third of students weren’t confident that the electrical appliances supplied by their landlord were safe. Reasons given for this lack of confidence were having a lack of faith in landlords or that appliances supplied were old and in poor condition.

Poorly maintained electrical wiring and appliances are a major cause of fires and student houseshares are at particular risk of having heavily used appliances that haven’t been tested properly. Government statistics show that over 1 in 5 of all accidental fires in homes in the UK are caused by electricity and in 2006 this resulted in 19 deaths and 1177 injuries. Electricity also causes approximately 20 deaths by electrocution and 2700 electric shock related accidents annually.

The ESC survey found that 1 in 10 students reported visible damage (such as burning, discolouration or cracking) to the electrical wiring, sockets and light fittings in their home – often a sign of a dangerous overheating fault.

The research also revealed that, although 44% of students claimed electrical safety was a concern when looking for accommodation, there is a lack of understanding about the potential dangers of electricity. Particularly the link between electricity and fire - 41% of students said that they didn’t test their smoke alarms regularly and 14% admitted disconnecting the battery to stop the alarm going off.

Lorraine Carney, ESC Campaign Manager, explains;

“Electricity needs to be taken seriously, particularly in rented homes, where electrical appliances are subject to heavy demand and where there is a lot of confusion about what a landlord’s responsibilities are. We are raising awareness of this important issue and providing parents and students with the information required to know what they should ask and look for when viewing property to rent.”

Here are some of the basics that students and parents should ask a landlord to provide to help reassure them that the electrics are as safe as possible:

  • an electrical report confirming that the electrical installation is safe for use (known as a Periodic Inspection Report)
  • a certificate confirming that any recent electrical work meets the UK national standard
  • sockets, switches and light fittings that are in good condition with no signs of damage
  • that any appliances are provided with manufacturer’s instructions, have up to date PAT test stickers on them (if the product is not new) and are in good working order.

For more information please contact