Social awkwardness puts 18 million Brits at risk of electrical disaster

02 July 2015

Electrical Safety First reveals the nation’s awkward side with research showing British politeness is putting millions of homes at risk.

Leading safety charity Electrical Safety First is offering advice to awkward Brits risking serious property damage, injury and fire after research showed over 18 million of us are too embarrassed to ask an electrician if they’re registered to carry out work in our home[i]. 

Asking your electrician for proof of registration featured in the top three most awkward questions, after asking your boss for a pay rise[ii] and asking a queue jumper to get to the back of the line[iii].

While the majority of us claim to use registered tradespeople, only one in five of us actually ask for proof[iv]. Having someone who isn’t a registered electrician undertake work in the home increases the risk of injury, property damage and fire[v].

The Charity is concerned that British self-consciousness and a lack of knowledge on how to check whether an electrician is registered[vi],or even that we’re supposed to[vii], is putting people’s safety at risk. In addition to deaths and fires, 350,000 people are seriously injured as a result of electricity each year.

Electrical Safety First and Grant Harrold, the UK’s official expert on British etiquette and household matters are offering guidance on how to ask the ‘awkward’ question to help ensure families and homes stay safe.

Phil Buckle, Director General of Electrical Safety First says: “There are far more embarrassing things in life than asking if your electrician is registered, but it seems that British awkwardness is a real barrier for some when it comes to checking their electrician is safe to carry out work on their property. We want to empower people to ask what should be a simple question, as it could save their life.”

Grant says: “The British are renowned for being overly apologetic and avoiding awkward situations, but sometimes they can be too polite for their own good. It’s ridiculous to worry about offending a professional by asking for proof of their qualifications. There is nothing wrong with being direct in these situations and decorum certainly does not prevent you from politely asking questions like these. Shying away to prevent embarrassment now could put your home and family at risk, and asking this ‘awkward’ question might be the differences between life and death.”

Electrical Safety First has created a video exploring our British ‘awkwardness’. To watch the video and for more information about staying safe in your home, visit:



For more information please contact Libby or Issy on or call 0207 403 2230.

Notes to Editors:

  • Electrical Safety First is the UK charity dedicated to reducing deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents. We campaign to improve safety regulation and messages, and provide expert information and advice to the public and professionals to help ensure everyone in the UK can use electricity safely. Visit for more information
  • All consumer research, unless otherwise stated, was conducted from 22nd – 25th May 2015 by Populus on behalf of Electrical Safety First with a sample of 2,010 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults
  • There are some electrical jobs that by law should be carried out or checked by a registered electrician. For more information and to find a registered electrician in your area visit in England and Wales and

Electrical Safety First is offering five tips on how to ask the ‘awkward’ question:

Know the law

By law, homeowners and landlords must be able to prove that electrical work in their property meets certain standards. Be aware of these before inviting anyone to conduct work by visiting and

Be direct

Have a phrase prepared in your mind before asking your electrician for proof of registration - something like “Before we get started, I just need to see your proof of registration documents.” This will help you be relaxed but clear and should avoid any confusion

Ask early

It’s easier to ask before any work has been agreed upon, so make it part of your selection process

Be insistent

Demand to see proof if necessary and be prepared to turn away any electrician who refuses to provide this

Put the emphasis on them

All registered electricians will be easily able to provide proof so will not be offended at being asked to - watch out for those that are

Electrical Safety First has identified the top 3 most awkward questions:

  1. Asking for a pay rise
  1. Asking a queue jumper to get to the back of the line
  1. Asking an electrician if they are registered and to prove this

Electrical Safety First has created a video exploring our reactions to awkward questions, view it here:


[i] Based on the UK adult population of 49.8 million; 37% (18,426,000) thought it was awkward to ask an electrician if they are registered and to prove this

[ii] 62% of adults said they find asking for a pay rise awkward

[iii] 49%  of adults said they find asking a queue jumper to get to the back of the line awkward

[iv] 20% of adults said they asked if the last electrician they hired was registered and for proof of this

[v] 34% of registered electricians said they had seen an increase in the amount of substandard or dangerous work carried out by non registered electricians between 2011 and 2013. Electrical Safety First 2013, base 200 qualified electricians

[vi] 54% of people don’t know how to check if an electrician is registered

[vii] 33% of adults said they were unaware you should ask an electrician if they are registered