In 2014 – 15 36% of accidental dwelling fires were caused by misuse of equipment or appliances. Crucially this means many of these fires could have been prevented.
It may seem obvious and hopefully we all understand the need for appliance such as a gas hob to be installed by a gas safe engineer, but double check the requirement of all appliances in the manufacturers instructions.It is very easy to just slot a new appliance in the place of where an old one once sat but sometimes a simple error can cause a problem.
A common mistake is to install white good in garages or sheds. The extremes of temperature and the possible damp environment in these areas mean it is not always appropriate to do this and can invalidate the warranty and impair the working of the product. If you look in the instruction manual most white goods will specify the safe operating temperatures. It’s also recommended not to install and appliance such as a fridge right next to an appliance such as a cooker.
Take a look at your leads. Make sure any appliances are not sitting on the lead or that it is not continually bent at one point or stretched so it can reach the plug.
Appliances need proper ventilation in order to work safely. This means that making sure there is the required space around the appliance and that any vents are clear of obstructions so air can circulate. Large appliances such as fridge should not be installed on a carpeted surface and the tops of microwaves should not be used as storage. Make sure that any vents are clean, they can accumulate dust very easily. This might mean cleaning under and behind appliances so make sure you move them a couple of times year to clean the hidden areas.
Cookers (hobs, grills and ovens) should be kept clean. Build up of fats and grease can cause fires. We should all know that we should clean our tumble dryer lint filter after each use but if your dryer vents to the outside worth making sure this is cleaned out once of twice a year. If you have a condenser dryer you should clean the heat exchanger and empty the water reservoir.
Make sure you use appliances for the purpose they were designed for. Ovens and hobs should not be used for heating rooms or drying clothes. Some people even use microwaves to warm pants or socks in the winter (So I’ve heard)
Don’t leave appliances running whilst the household is asleep or out unless they are designed to be left on – such as a freezer. This is commonly done with dishwashers, washing machines and tumble dryers. If you run them whilst you are around in the event of an incident you can respond quickly and safely.
Kitchens and utility rooms have a concentration of higher risk appliances – due to the combination of powerful motors, water, electricity and heat. These are also the areas where smoke alarms are problematic as they are often activated by cooking fumes. Consider installing heat alarms. They are not activated by fumes and can give you early warning of a problem.
It’s good practice to switch off and unplug any appliances which are not being used. Larger more powerful appliances should be plugged directly into the wall. Avoid using extension cables and block adapters especially on high powered items such as washing machines and dishwashers.
Although in such adapters there may be enough spaces to plug several sockets it does not mean you can safely use all the sockets. Different appliances use different amounts of power – most extensions can cope with 13amp or 3000 watts (some extensions may be lower than that). It will say on the extension. Most kitchen appliances cannot be combined on an extension so if you are someone you know is using one please check. Overloading extensions can cause fires. Have a look at Electrical Safety First’s socket calculator – great fun but shows how easy it is to overload.
It’s good practice to check plugs regularly. A visual check to make sure the cables are securely attached to the appliance and plug and there are no tears in the cable. The plug case should be in good order with no cracks and there should be no discolouring – this could be a sign of overheating.
If you or someone you know has a trusty old appliance it is worth simply checking the plug.
Modern plugs have insulated sleeves on the power pins, but old plugs did not. The sleeves ensure that a plug which is only partially inserted will not expose any live pins. This can be especially dangerous if you have trouble pulling plugs out and hook your finger on the underside to remove. This can give you an electric shock. If you have any old type plugs on electrical items get them replaced.