Top tips for managing electrical appliance risk

At a glance

  • Electrical appliances present a number of fire risks that brokers’ customers should be aware of
  • A recent spate of faulty appliances has caused a number of major fires throughout the UK
  • We look at how to help Real Estate customers manage these risks at their properties

Electrical appliances are a common source of fire and represent an increasing risk for Real Estate customers to manage. In London alone, one fire each day involves household white goods – with 90% of cases stemming from appliance faults or electrical supplies.

We look at the risks posed by various electrical appliances and how you can manage exposures.

A flurry of faults

The risk of home appliances creating fires has grabbed headlines after several leading brands announced faults with their products.

Early in 2016, a Zurich Real Estate customer was significantly affected when a tenant’s faulty tumble dryer ignited and caused fire to spread throughout their 18-storey tower block. The blaze took 120 firefighters to bring under control and inspired calls for Parliament to legislate on manufacturers’ management of product faults and recalls.

Millions of households in the UK are thought to be affected by faulty products, but a large proportion of these remain completely unaware of fault notifications, or can experience long waiting periods before the manufacturer takes action. In fact just 10-20% of electrical products are ever successfully recalled, which means that electrical goods that could cause fires are still being used in a large number of homes.

Monitoring and responding to faults

In light of the recent spate of recalls, Real Estate customers are recommended to communicate the following tips to their tenants:

  • Always register appliances with manufacturers or via another service, such as Register my Appliance. This enables manufacturers to notify them directly about any faults or recalls.
  • Suggest they check whether their appliances have been reported as faulty using a product checker, such as the one provided by Electrical Safety First
  • If their appliance has a known issue, contact the manufacturer to arrange a repair/replacement. In the meantime, never use the appliance when it is unattended (including overnight) and unplug it when not in use

Purchasing safe appliances

Fires often occur due to unsafe or incompatible electrical products being used – for example, imitation chargers being purchased instead of the manufacturer’s genuine versions.

This issue received national publicity when an increasing number of fires were attributed to incompatible e-cigarette chargers, and devices being left to charge for longer than the manufacturer stipulated.

The following guidance should therefore be provided to tenants:

  • Check for the ‘CE mark’ on any electrical product. This shows that it complies with European safety standards
  • Always use the manufacturer’s dedicated charger. Generic or imitation products often do not regulate power in the correct way. This can cause too much current entering the battery, causing it to overheat
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on charging. Many appliances can overheat if left for too long
  • Unplug chargers from their socket when not in use

Electrical socket use

Overloading electrical circuitry is a common cause of fire, as households seek to accommodate more and more electrical appliances at once. Multi-plugs and extension cables can often overheat when overloaded.

The following best practice should be recommended to tenants, and Real Estate customers may wish to incorporate these points into their periodic property checks:

  • Keep to one plug per socket whenever possible
  • If using an adapter, make sure it is a fused ‘in line’ type, not an in-wall multi plug
  • Check the power limit of adapters. Ensure the sum of the power of the appliances being run through it does not exceed it
  • When using cable drum extension leads, always fully unwind it to prevent overheating if safe to do so

To help tenants identify and manage fire risks such as these, the Fire Service offers free home fire safety checks.

The government has also issued an easy-to-read fire safety leaflet for the home, which can be given to tenants.

For more information on reducing fire risk, or to discuss our Engineering or Real Estate offerings, please speak with your local Zurich contact.

You can also find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our new Fire Risk Resource.