Your basic electrical safety checklist
As experienced domestic and commercial electricians, one of the most common things we’re asked is whether or not a client’s electrics are safe – so we thought we’d put together a basic electrical safety checklist that you can run through yourself.
With around 20,000 electrical house fires in the UK every year, it’s only natural that people are worried about the safety of their electrics. So how safe are yours?
The answer isn’t always clear cut, but our electrical safety checklist will provide some helpful guidance so you can check for common and easily identifiable issues.
Electrical safety guide – things to check
Now remember this is just a simple guide in simple terms, so if you’re in any way worried about your electrical installation, please contact a local registered electrician straight away.
- No electrical safety certificate – Do you have a copy of an electrical certificate for your home? If you don’t have an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) or an Electrical Installation Certificate (EIC), you might want to seriously consider getting one. An electrical certificate is an important document that will tell you the condition of your installation and whether or not any work needs doing to bring it up to the correct safety standards.
- Fishy smell – If you smell something rather fishy coming from one of your sockets or your switches, it’s a clear sign that the cable behind it is beginning to melt.
- Dodgy DIY – Do you suspect dodgy DIY in your home? Or have you attempted your own DIY? While it can be tempting to think that wiring up that new light is easy, please remember that paying a qualified electrician will reduce that risk of an electric mishap in your home. The last thing you want is having the kids or grandkids flicking a switch and – god forbid – getting a shock. Where possible, please leave it to the professionals.
- Not enough socket outlets for demand – Is there a lack of sockets in your home and you find yourself having to use extension leads? Please be careful when plugging too many appliances into extension leads, as over-loading is a common cause of electrical fires. If you feel there are one too many sockets plugged in to an extension, call your local electrician and ask them to add some new sockets to your existing circuit.
- Loose or cracked sockets and switches – Do you have any cracked sockets or switches? Or perhaps a socket hanging off the wall? Be extremely careful if you do, as any chance of touching any exposed conductors can prove fatal. For a simple call out you can get these replaced easily.
- Buzzing sounds – Does there appear to be a busy bee flying around but you can’t seem to locate it? Chances are it could be a socket or a light fitting with a loose connection. This can result in electric shock, so listen up and get it checked out.
- Damaged or frayed cables – Have you noticed any damaged or frayed cables? If the answer is yes, why risk it? If it’s an appliance such as a kettle or a toaster, please unplug it immediately. If it’s a fixed appliance, such as a heater that’s hardwired into a spur and you can’t unplug it, call your electrician immediately. Unsafe electrics are just not worth the risk.
- Old consumer units (fuse boxes) – How does your consumer unit (fuse board) look? An old board or unit doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe, but electrical standards and regulations how moved on leaps and bounds over the last few years and you can ALWAYS be safer. If you notice anything untoward about your fuse board, be sure to get an electrician to take a look. A common way of bringing your electrics up to standard is upgrading your consumer unit to introduce RCD protection. This is a life saver when it comes to electrical faults. If you’re not RCD protected yet, we highly recommend that you get this sorted!
- Sockets located at low level and in skirting boards – This could indicate that your installation happened before the 1960s, and that the cables could be lead and suffering from deterioration. Again, an old installation doesn’t automatically mean that it’s unsafe, but all electrical installs deteriorate over time and we’d strongly advise an EICR to check this over.
- Incorrect breaker sizes – Now this is something that the average Joe can’t check, but it needs including as having the incorrect breaker size is a big no-no when it comes to your electrics. One to ask your electrician to check next time they’re at your property.
- Adapters plugged into other adapters – Again this is not part of your electrical install but many homeowners and tenants seem to think it’s ok to plug an adapter into another adapter just to gain that extra socket. Please don’t do this – it really CAN and does cause fires.
- No certificate provided with your installation – Have you had an electrician in your home to wire a new circuit but they didn’t provide you with a certificate? If so, alarm bells should be ringing – and not fire alarms, at this point at least! While we appreciate that tradesman are quite often under pressure to put in the cheapest possible price to get the job, you have to remember that the cheapest price generally equates to the cheapest quality of workmanship, and the likelihood is that corners will be cut – and with electricians, one of those corners will be the certification. ALWAYS ensure you get a certificate with your install. If they don’t provide you with a certificate, then who else knows what other corners they will have cut?! Remember cheap doesn’t usually mean good!
- Circuits not labelled – Have you ever had an electrical issue and needed to turn the power off, only to find your circuits aren’t labelled? It really is a good idea to have your circuits clearly marked up in case of emergency, and to enable you to safely isolate a particular circuit if needed? You could attempt this by yourself, or call a qualified electrician.
- No earthing – Earthing is a very important part of your installation. If you suspect that your home has no earthing in place, or has an unsecure earth cable, please contact your local electrician. We can’t stress enough how important it is to have the correct earthing arrangements in place.
- Outdoor power – Do you have an outdoor socket? Is it RCD protected? If the answer to the latter is no then you MUST either STOP USING IT or get an electrician to install RCD protection. You should never use outdoor power without this.
- Broken plugs – Is the plug that you’re using damaged? Can you see any exposed wiring or copper? Is the wiring loose beneath the plug? If so, please stop using it immediately. Be careful before unplugging, as you may be exposed to live conductors and make sure the plug is switched off before unplugging otherwise you run the risk of electric shock.
- Regular breaker or RCD trips – Do the breakers or RCDs in your home keep tripping? If they do, this is a sure fire sign that there’s a deeper issue and you should get it checked out – you can also read our guide to electrical tripping here.
- Flickering lights – do your lights flicker? It could be something simple, such as the lamp becoming loose and it just needs tightening up, or it could be a sign that you have a loose connection. If you do attempt to check for a loose connection yourself, please ensure you’re competent to do so.
- Discolouring of your sockets, switches and fittings – If you notice any discolouring e.g. a browning of any of your equipment, this is a sure sign of burning. It could either be the item you have plugged in, or it could be the socket itself.
- Inadequate protection for outdoor cables – Have you got cables outdoors? Do they have adequate protection? If you have power to, say, a garage outside, then the cable should ideally be in armoured cable or in some form of containment. If you have outdoor cables without containment but in a grey PVC material or something similar, you need to seriously consider whether this is safe or not – in honesty, it probably isn’t.
We hope this electrical safety checklist will help you to gauge whether or not your electrics are unsafe in any way and always be sure to check with your local registered electrician if you have any concerns with your electrics – if you’re in Leeds or West Yorkshire, we’re just a phone call away!