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The main causes of electrical fires

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Thousands of companies and households suffer an incredible amount of financial loss due to fire every year. When it comes to electrical fires in the workplace, around twelve thousand cases are either caused by misused, faulty or damaged electrical devices. Faulty devices also cover an array of potential fire hazards such as improper usage leading to overheating, damaged electrics and even loose device cables.

Statistics have also shown that more than half of businesses that suffer from a major fire are not able to recover, creating a huge impact on any business no matter how well-established it is.

There are a lot of things you should look out for to prevent these catastrophes from happening. As a business owner, you can take preventative measures and look for or prevent faulty electrical equipment, loose connections, faulty connections and overloading socket outlets by having your property inspected by a trained and licenced electrician.

Electrical fires affect more than 20,000 homes in the UK every year. A lot of these cases are caused by overloaded electrical sockets and extension wires. You should look out for potential electrical hazards and tackle them before they become destructive or even fatal.

For instance, you should inspect your home for electrical installations that are outdated, electrical sockets that are damaged, home appliances that are damaged or faulty, lighting fittings and cables that are loose. During the colder months, you should frequently inspect your portable heaters and christmas fairy lights to make sure they are working properly and not overheating.

There are many signs that indicate your home is in danger of an electrical fire. For instance, if your circuit breaker trips every now and then, that is a potential hazard that can be managed. Do you smell something burning in your home, taking notice of charred or discoloured switches or outlets? Finally, if your wiring is outdated, you should have it inspected and updated by a qualified electrician as soon as possible.

These potential hazards are actually preventable if proper safety precautions are being practised. Before you decide what fire protection methods you should implement in your home or business, let us take a closer look at the other common causes of fire. 

  • Damaged electrical devices. Did you know that around twelve thousand cases of fires here in the UK are caused by electrical devices that are misused or damaged? Some of the reasons for this occurrence is the lack of proper device maintenance and inappropriate device handling. To prevent your devices from becoming potential hazards, check them for any visible signs of defect like frayed or loose cables or wiring. If any defect is found, have them replaced or repaired by an electrician immediately. Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) should be initiated every year to ensure that all your electrical devices are working and keep them in good condition. 
  • Flammable materials. Combustible materials and wastes can contribute to fires. Take note of materials such as aerosol cans, isopropyl alcohol, gasoline, propane or oxidisers and keep them at least 3 feet away from electrical sockets, panels and any kind of heating devices. Other materials such as cardboard and paper waste can accumulate and become a fire hazard. They should be disposed of properly. 
  • Smoking. More than 30% of reported fires between 2014 and 2015 were actually caused by materials used by smokers such as pipe tobacco, cigars and cigarettes. Cigarettes are considered as one of the leading causes of home fire and fire-related deaths here in the UK each year. To keep your home safe, do not allow anyone to smoke inside. Instead, assign a designated area away from your home.
  • Human error. We are not perfect and are always prone to making mistakes. Human error, just like smoking, is considered as one of the leading causes of accidents in the work environment. To address this issue, all employees must be educated on the proper procedures to take in case a fire occurs. Your home and business premises must be equipped with fire extinguishers that are stationed in key areas and make sure every member of the family or staff should be able to use it properly. 
  • Arson. Sadly, not all fires are caused by accidents. Some of them are intentionally started with the sole purpose of creating major damage. This act can be accomplished by somebody who is holding a grudge or a total stranger. 

You need to stay vigilant and impose strict security and safety measures in your home or business. It is advisable to install security systems that can help monitor and protect your premises 24/7.

As we have mentioned earlier, recovering from a major fire is not easy. That is why it is important that you take a proactive stance and implement safety measures that can help prevent the risks of accumulating potential fire hazards or minimise the impact that it may bring to you and your business. 

When it comes to safety in the home, the following measures can be done:

  • Have your electrical installation inspected by a qualified electrician. After it is thoroughly inspected, request for an updated Electrical Installation Conditions Report (EICR).  
  • Have all equipment and devices regularly PAT tested by a licenced electrician.
  • Schedule a regular visual inspection of your electrical installation. 
  • Seek the advice of professionals if you notice anything that is suspicious (such as smelling something burning or electrical circuits frequently breaking).

When it comes to safety in the workplace, the following measures can be done:

  • Implement regular risk assessment activities.
  • Take note of tripping circuit breakers, blown fuses or flickering lights and report them immediately. 
  • Ensure that all appliances and devices have the British or European safety mark.
  • When using appliances and devices, ensure that they are used in accordance with the manufacturer’s manual.
  • Do not leave any appliance or device running overnight.
  • Have all appliances and devices PAT tested regularly because business owners are required by law to carry out this task. 
  • Make sure that all staff is trained on what to do in cases of emergencies.  
  • Place fire extinguishers in key areas of your business premises and make sure they are checked regularly too. 

Electrical and fire safety should become a vital concern for everyone. If you want to make sure that your electrical installation is safe, tested and certified, contact EJS Electrical on 01793 238806, 07725 228145 or info@ejselectrical.co.uk today! Aside from fulfilling all your electrical requirements, they can also provide an emergency call out service for both domestic and commercial customers.

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How Long You Have To Fix Defects Following an Electrical Inspection

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Safety and security is a major factor that we need to consider at home and at work. As a homeowner, landlord or business owner, it is your duty to make sure that your constructed dwelling doesn’t have faulty electrical systems. Regulations such as the Electricity at Work Regulations of 1989 have even been set by the Health and Safety Executive in an effort to resolve this issue. It is stated in Regulation 4 that employers should take all necessary steps to prevent the danger that may arise from electrical systems and work activities on or near them.

A regular electrical inspection is advised to prevent any type of electrical-related problems. Your electrical installation should meet the standards that are set by the 18th edition of the Wiring Regulations. The Regulations require landlords to ensure electrical standards are being implemented and that remedial or investigative work must be carried out if the electrical report requires it. An electrical inspection will determine if your electrical installation is safe. If the report indicates that no remedial or investigative work is needed, the landlord is not required to do any further work.

What happens during an inspection? The electrical inspector will thoroughly inspect areas that may be overlooked by other electricians, find areas in your property that are fire hazards or areas that have potential risks of electrical shock, determine any defective electrical work, and examine the lack of bonding or earthing (these are proven ways of preventing electrical shocks from electrical installations). 

To make sure that your electrical installation meets that standard set by our government, here are tips as to where duty holders should go for their electrical inspection and testing and when they need to handle defects depending on how severe the problem is.

THE ELECTRICAL INSTALLATION CONDITION REPORT

After the inspector is done with the electrical inspection, the property owner should obtain a copy of the report which will contain detailed information about the current situation of your electrical installation, its outcomes, the need for further investigation or remedial work. 

After obtaining a copy of the detailed report, if the property is rented, the landlord must supply a copy of this report to their tenants within 28 days of the electrical inspection and test. For new tenants, this report should be given before they occupy the premises. To prospective tenants, the report must be supplied within 28 days when the request for a report was made. If a local authority is requesting a copy of the report, the landlord must be able to supply it within 7 days when the request was received.

If the electrical report involved the need for further investigation or remedial work, the landlord must complete a written confirmation indicating that the required work was carried out within 28 days of completing it. The landlord must keep a copy of the report and send a copy to the tester and inspector who will carry out the succeeding test and inspection. 

The report will indicate that the electrical installation is safe for continued use or show codes that will indicate the specific problem that must be addressed. These are the classification codes that indicate when remedial work must be carried out. 

  • Code 1 (C1) means there is a risk of injury or danger is present. The electrical inspector may fix any C1 hazards safe before they leave the property.
  • Code 2 (C2) means that the electrical installation is potentially dangerous.
  • Further Investigation (FI) means that your electrical installation requires further investigation without delay.
  • Code 3 (C3) means that your electrical installation needs to be improved. Further remedial work may not be required for the report to be deemed sufficient.

If your report has the C1 or C2 code, remedial work must be scheduled as soon as possible because it indicates your electrical installation is not safe for continued use. If the report indicates FI, remedial work is also required. If the report indicates C3, electrical improvement is recommended but not required.

If your property is new or completely rewired, an Electrical Installation Certificate or EIC must be obtained. The certificate must be supplied to the local authorities or tenants if it is being requested. The landlord is not required to carry out electrical checks or obtain an electrical report 5 years after the IEC was issued, provided that they have maintained the standards set by the Regulations.

THE IET REGULATIONS, DEFECT CODES AND EXPECTED TIME FRAME

The following should be included and the standardised codes that should be part of all electrical testing and reports:

  • Test results
  • Condition Report: This will state how severe the defects are against the standards.
  • Schedule of Defects: These will be given the codes C1, C2, C3, and FI terms of severity of defects and timescales for rectification

The time when you have to carry out repairs depends on the Schedule of Defect code.

C1: DANGER PRESENT (REQUIRES IMMEDIATE ACTION)

When danger is present, immediate action is advised without delay to fix the defect or take any other appropriate step to remove the danger.

Examples:

  • Exposed live parts
  • Live conductive parts due to faults

C2: POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS (ACTION SHOULD USUALLY BE TAKEN WITHIN 30 DAYS)

As we all know, the installation may not pose any immediate risk but urgent action is required to remove any potential danger.

Examples:

  • No reliable and/or effective ways of earthing for installation
  • No earthing at a socket outlet
  • Ineffective overcurrent protection

C3: IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED: NO TIME LIMIT PROVIDED.

This applies when present on the case is a clear non-compliance with a current safety standard is found. Remedial action would significantly improve safety but there is no immediate or potential danger, Remedial work should be given consideration.

Examples:

  • No RCD protection for a socket-outlet that supply portable or mobile equipment for outdoor use
  • No RCD protection for cables at a depth of less than 50mm from a surface of a wall where cables do not incorporate an earthed metallic covering, not enclosed in earthed metalwork, or are not mechanically protected against penetration

FI: FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION: THE ISSUE SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

If a potential safety issue has been found but is not yet fully identified, further investigation regarding the matter is highly recommended.

Examples:

  • Characteristics of electricity supply do not conform to supply industry norms
  • Presence of circuits that cannot be readily identified or traced

Electrical compliance may not be your cup of tea but it must be carried out to ensure the safety and security of everyone inside a property. To determine if your electrical installations meet the standards of the Regulations or if you require assistance to carry out all the required processes, call on EJS Electrical to meet all your electrical requirements!