Millions in UK risking lives with basic electrical blunders

16 November 2011

'Home Electrical Safety Check' app launched

New research shows dangers of electricity gravely underestimated in the UK. On anniversary of National Grid, ESC launches free app to ensure families and homes are kept safe.

  • At least one person in the UK dies each week from an electrical accident and nearly 1,000 are injured every day
  • Complacency is leading to basic blunders, including repairing appliances whilst still plugged in
  • People don’t know the danger of electricity, citing plane crashes and lightning strikes as similar concerns, despite fatalities due to electricity being drastically higher
  • Celebrity home improvement experts  Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan urge UK to  download ESC’s new smartphone safety app to ‘bridge the gap’ between the public’s perception of electrical danger and the reality

A new study finds that millions of people in the UK expose themselves and their families to potentially fatal accidents in the home through simple electrical blunders because of an alarming lack of knowledge about the real danger of electricity. Today, on the birthday of the National Grid, the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) is launching a free smartphone app to help people ensure their families and homes are safe. 

The research from ESC reveals a dangerous level of ignorance about the perils of electricity in UK households. In the past year, almost one million people have repaired an appliance while it is still plugged in; despite the fact this can result in a fatal or serious injury. Other electrical ‘confessions’ included knowingly using faulty plugs or sockets (12.2 million people), ignoring burning smells coming from an appliance or socket (1.5 million people) and trailing cables near hot surfaces or cookers (2 million people). 

People are severely misjudging the risks involved with electricity.  At least one person dies each week from its everyday use, while 350,000 people are  injured annually. Yet those surveyed were as concerned about having an electrical accident as they were of being in a plane crash, or getting struck by lightning. In reality, on average, only one person in the UK is killed by lightning each year and no one has died in a commercial plane accident in 11 years. 

Easy to prevent

Most electrical accidents can be prevented by a Residual Current Device (RCD), a life-saving device which prevents you from getting a fatal electric shock if you touch something live, such as a bare wire. It works by cutting power if there is a surge. However, the ESC study shows a serious lack of knowledge of this vital safety device: 70% of people surveyed do not know what an RCD is and almost half of all UK homes (49%) don’t have adequate RCD protection.  In contrast, smoke alarms are owned by 88% of the population but nearly half (49%) of accidental house fires in the UK are caused by electricity.

Celebrity home improvers, Colin McAllister and Justin Ryan, want people to take charge of their electrical safety. Colin said: “We have seen plenty of dodgy wiring in our time but often it is the simple things that people could check themselves – such as a wire left near a hot surface or an overloaded socket – that can lead to a serious accident. We are urging everyone – including those looking to move into a new home – to download the free ESC app as a basic protection for themselves and their families.”

Free and impartial help

The new ESC app, which launches today, allows anyone – whether they live in the home or are looking to move into it – to do a quick, visual check, to ensure its electrically safety. Designed to be as easy-to-use as possible, the app highlights potential dangers in each room and explains how to resolve simple, non-technical problems. Where more serious issues are flagged, people are advised to use a registered electrician. The app is available for iPhone and Android phones - just go to the App Store or Android Market, search for ‘Home Electrical Safety Check’ then follow the instructions to download.

Director General of the ESC, Phil Buckle, said: “Electricity has become vital to our lives since the formation of the National Grid, 76 years ago. Yet even though we are using more electrical products than ever before, there is a worrying gap between the public’s perception of electrical danger and the reality, with people making simple yet potentially fatal errors that can be easily prevented. The ESC’s Home Electrical Safety Check app was designed to bridge that gap. We wanted to create something which people would find effortless but essential. It can be used any time in your home. It can also be used as a basic tool when viewing accommodation, whether you are planning to buy or rent.  Landlords too, should find it useful, as it will allow them to review their properties to ensure tenant safety.”


Notes:

All data unless stated otherwise is from either:

  • Populus. Interviews with 2101 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th September and 3rd October 2011.  The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
  • Ipsos Mori.  Face to face interviews with 2011 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th and 21st April 2011.  The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

To download the app from your iPhone, click on the App store button and search ‘Home Electrical Safety Check’. Select the ‘free’ button, then ‘install’. The app should appear on your desktop. Wait until the download is finished and ‘Home Electrical Safety Check’ app is ready to use.

To download the app from your Android phone, go to the Android market and search for ‘Home Electrical Safety Check’. Select the ‘free’ button then ‘OK’. Wait until the download is finished and ‘Home Electrical Safety Check’ is ready to use.

The National Grid is cited as being formed in 1935, when ccommercial operation of the national 132kV electric power transmission grid began in the UK. The National Grid celebrated its 75th Birthday on 16th November 2010. Source: www.nationalgrid.com

For more information please contact Penny Walshe on 020 3463 5125 or at penny.walshe@electricalsafeteyfirst.org.uk