Our Key Policies in Northern Ireland

Our Key Policies in Northern Ireland

Electrical Safety First works closely with the Northern Ireland Executive and Members of the Legislative Assembly to ensure that people are kept safe in their homes from accidents, injuries and fires caused by electricity.  

Our focus in Northern Ireland includes:

  • Reducing the number of house fires caused by electricity to protect the most vulnerable, and targeting emerging risks such as safe charging of electric vehicles.
  • Safer housing, with electrical safety checks across the rented sectors.
  • Improving consumer safeguards around defective electrical products and electrical counterfeits, including those which are sold online and have been recalled.
  • Ensuring that consumers always use registered electricians.

Safe Housing

Over the last five years, we have led the charge for a legal requirement for five-yearly electrical safety checks in the private rented sector (PRS) in Northern Ireland. These have now been in operation in Scotland since 2015 and are due to be implemented in both England and Wales. The Department for Communities found overwhelming support to introduce legislation for this measure and we believe social tenants should be provided the same protections in Northern Ireland.

We want to see:

  • Mandatory five-yearly electrical safety checks in the PRS in Northern Ireland, carried out by registered electricians.
  • The same measures for social housing – to ensure all renters, regardless of tenure, are protected from electrical hazards.
  • The current fitness standard replaced with the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, which considers the safety of a dwelling in light of the particular characteristics of members of the household.
  • Protections for older and disabled people in the PRS so they can report electrical hazards to landlords without fear of eviction.

Preventing fires caused by electricity and protecting the most vulnerable

In 2019, 62% of house fires were caused by electricity in Northern Ireland. We also know that between 2012-2017, there have been 20 deaths and 722 casualties caused by electrical fires in Northern Ireland homes.[1]  We currently rely on fire analysis which fails to identify current or emerging risks.  Older or vulnerable people can be most at risk of fire because they often live in old or poor quality housing with faulty electrics, own older appliances or are unable to afford essential electrical repairs

We want to see:

  • Creation of an All-Party Group in the Northern Ireland Assembly to provide a forum for MLAs and stakeholders to discuss a range of high risk electrical safety issues and propose policy solutions.
  • A more up-to-date reporting system that allows for better capturing of incidents caused by modern technology.
  • A review of the causes of fires by electrical sources and the cost to public services to allow targeted campaigns to be developed, focusing on the most vulnerable.
  • The option of free five-yearly electrical safety checks for all owner-occupied households with one person of pensionable age.

Protecting consumers from Unsafe Product

The process around the recall of electrical products  is generally very poor with a response rate of only around 10 to 20 per cent. The UK’s complex and self-regulated product recall system has left many unsafe products in people’s homes, threatening lives and property. With the growth in online shopping, there are more opportunities for unsafe electrical products to enter our homes without proper regulation. Online platforms have become the place to advertise and trade in unsafe electrical products.  

We want to see: 

  • Research undertaken to better understand the risks and harm from unsafe products to consumers in Northern Ireland.
  • Improved consumer campaigns in Northern Ireland to raise awareness of potential risks associated with electrical goods being purchased online.
  • Additional resources given to Trading Standards in Northern Ireland to enforce action against sales of unsafe electrical goods.
  • Support from the Northern Ireland Executive and elected representatives in Northern Ireland for our policy proposals on areas which remain the responsibility of the UK Parliament alone:
    • a centrally-managed product recall database so consumers have a single place to go to check for recalls in the UK.
    • mandatory registration of electrical goods at point of sale.
    • legislation to prevent the sales of unsafe, sub-standard and counterfeit electrical goods.

Building Regulations

There are currently no statutory requirements for domestic electrical installation work in Northern Ireland.  However, there are certification organisations that register and assess electrical contractors. 

We want to see: 

  • A commitment from the government to assess the current situation with building regulations, and focus on promotion of the electrical certification bodies.
  • Wider awareness of the dangers of undertaking electrical work in the home and the need to always use a registered electrician.

[1] Electrical Safety First methodology on fire data provided by Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.