Electrical Safety in an Ageing Society

Living an independent life in our own home is something valued by everyone, and becomes increasingly important in our older years.

However, many older people are disproportionally at risk from electrical hazards in the home.They are likely to have lived in their properties for longer, meaning there is a longer time between comprehensive electrical checks. The electrical installations and appliances also tend to be older; 42% of householders who have lived in their property for 30 or more years live in non-decent accommodation.

There are other barriers to older people being electrically safe, which include a fear of letting strangers into their homes to carry out essential maintenance work, the cost of hiring  tradespeople and social isolation – all of which mean hazards may go unnoticed. Dementia can also increase safety risks as memory problems and confusion can mean electrical appliances are used unsafely.

Electrical Safety First is calling on central and local Government to:

  1. Ensure all housing meets the Decent Homes Standard to prevent injuries and fatalities from electrical hazards
  2. Make it mandatory for private landlords to ensure electrical installations are checked every 5 years and ensure tenants are protected so they can report electrical hazards to landlords without fear of eviction
  3. Target more ‘at risk’ homes with free electrical safety checks – for example the homes of older people who have lived in the same property for a long period of time
  4. Work with the voluntary sector to ensure that older people can claim the benefits they are entitled to which can be used to carry out electrical repair work

Electrical Safety First wants relatives and neighbours to ‘drop in’ and help keep their older friends safe by making a few simple checks:

  • Carry out visual checks to highlight electrical hazards that can be easily corrected and identify problems that should be referred to a registered electrician. Visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/visualchecks to download our free smartphone app that guides you around the home.
  • Make sure sockets are not overloaded. Most people use 4-way bar adaptors to increase the number of appliances that they can plug in. However, just because there is space to plug in four appliances, it does not mean it is safe to do so. Visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/overloadingsockets to test the load on sockets.
  • Portable heaters and electric blankets are popular solutions to rising heating costs. Make sure that heaters are not left unattended or switched on overnight and that blankets are checked for signs of wear and damage and always used according to manufacturer’s instructions.

For more information, visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/agesafe.