Register right now for a safer home

Most households put quite a bit of time and effort into making sure they have the right appliances for their needs. It might mean you’ve shopped around for the best price, the best reviews or the latest safety features.

Once we open up the item how many of us fill out the paperwork and register the product? Well, according to a 2015 consumer survey by Populus for Electrical Safety First 47% of us do. Previous figures were lower at 36% of consumers and the rise is in part down to the Register My Appliance initiative by AMDEA.

There are many reasons why people don’t register appliances. It’s one of those jobs where you don’t quite complete the paperwork and shove it in a drawer or forget to post the envelope. If can often be because people are concerned about how personal details may be used. The assumption is that this information will be used for marketing purposes and therefore you expect a tirade of junk mail or simply people see no point in registering appliances.

What is the point in registering an appliance?

The main point of registering an appliance is down to safety.

When you buy a brand new appliance it will come with a warranty. Often the manufacturer asks that products are registered in a certain time period after purchase so as not to invalidate the warranty. Length of warranty can vary but if you have a problem you can look at getting it fixed by a qualified person.

Most crucially though, if there is a problem with a product even if the product is out of warranty the manufacturer can contact you and let you know what action needs to be taken.

On some occasions this might be advisory information but often this might be a repair. This repair will be free of charge. In cases of a large recall with an excessive wait for a repair a manufacturer may offer you a discounted replacement product. You don’t have to buy the discounted product – you can wait for the repair. CFOA’s advice though would be not to use a recalled product until it has been repaired even if a manufacturer says it is safe to use.

It is impossible for manufacturers to know who has these appliances unless we let them know. The easiest way to let them know is to register your product just in case there is a problem.

I’ve never registered my appliances – what should I do?

Electrical Safety First say the average success rate of a product recall is between 10-20%. Potentially this means many products are in homes which were recalled and area a fire or electric shock risk.

As part of Home Safety Week CFOA would like people to look at as many appliances as possible and get them registered.

Most people will have a range of appliances from different manufacturers. You can access all the main manufacturers via http://www.registermyappliance.org.uk/registration/

Douglas Herbison, Chief Executive of AMDEA says:

“Using registermyappliance.org.uk is one of the simplest ways of improving household safety. The portal provides quick access to the registration pages of over 65 leading brands. It only takes a few minutes to register appliances up to 12 years old and once it’s done you can be assured that you’ll be contacted in the rare instance that a safety action becomes necessary. “

You will need to know the make, model and serial number of the appliance. All of this information should be on the appliance on small safety plate. On washing machines and tumble dryers look on the inside of the door at the entrance to the drum. On dishwashers and ovens on the inside of the door and in fridges and freezers they are in the main compartment. Then you need a rough idea of the purchase date – it doesn’t have to be exact but useful as some recalls affect models made during a certain period of time.

Appliances do not have to be brand new to be registered. You can register appliances up to 12 years old. If you are not the first owner of an appliance you can still have a safety repair carried out.

What if I don’t know who made my appliance?

There are instances where products are made exclusively for a retailer or trade supplier and badged under that name. In a few cases you may not be able to register the product on AMDEA. You will need to contact the retailer directly and make sure they have your details. In some instances they do specify you should provide these details at time of purchase. Make sure you check if buying such items what the rules are.

Don’t just do your own appliances

As with most things these days – it is much easier to register appliances online. If you are taking the time to register an appliance make some time to do the same for a friend or family member that may need help. Not everyone has access to the internet and not everyone may be able to find the appliance information.register-my-appliance-promo-poster-a4

Advertisements

Behind closed doors

For 16 years Fire and Rescue Services (FRSs) have reduced the number of fires, injuries and deaths with prevention visits to home owners. They now deliver about 670,000 free home checks across the UK annually.

It’s not always obvious to people when they are putting themselves at risk. What some people consider acceptable may send shivers down a firefighters’ spine.

On a recent home safety check South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service came across an oven which was being used to store ‘bags for life’ and biscuits. The image was posted on Twitter by firefighters and attracted a huge amount of attention. Even if the home owner was not a fan of cooking,  the oven could have been inadvertently turned on. The risk of fire would have been very high.

SYFRS Oven with bags
Image courtesy of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service who came across this oven filled with bags and biscuits.

How not to heat your home

Sometimes age or culture may mean people are just not aware of the risks.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service  visited the home of a Polish man who was using a home made radiator despite having a gas central heating system installed in his home.  The illegal and dangerous device was made from metal can filled with water. Two cables powered from a telephone socket were wrapped around a home made heating element. This would heat the water in the can and in turn heat the room.

image002
Image courtesy of Merseyside FRS

The voltage which was passing through from the phone socket was 20-50 milliamps, this kind of shock can cause breathing difficulties, paralysis of the chest muscles and can be fatal.

Gary Oakford Prevention Group Manager said; “The Incident Investigation Team had never come across a device like this before and obviously the risk of electrocution was a significant. The gentleman informed us that this type of device was common practice in Eastern European countries.”

In Chelmsford, a man had a very lucky escape when a Home Safety Check identified very high levels of carbon monoxide in his home. The CO monitors gave a reading of 100 parts per million (ppm) – the safe level is 30 ppm.

The elderly gentleman had been using his grill to keep warm not realising that this was leading to a build up of carbon monoxide.  More details of this visit can be found on the Essex FRS website

It is estimated that one person dies every seven minutes in winter due to the cold, some useful advice on how to keep warm and well can be found on this link from the NHS.

Safe and Well

What was clear from the home checks was there were common risk factors between people. Those that benefit most from advice from fire and rescue services often needed to access health services. For example, people with an addiction or dependency, loneliness or cold homes were at increased risk of fire and an increased likelihood to need to access NHS services.

FRSs  in some case can even deliver some basic health checks – for example sight or hearing checks and offer advice on a range of subjects from cooking safely to heating the home safely and avoiding trips and falls. This is additional advice is particularly useful for elderly and vulnerable people.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue have some useful information a  Safe and Well flyer with some case studies of how people have benefitted from their help.

CFOA would like people to take the time to spread the word about these visits and consider arranging one for older or vulnerable friends or relatives – with their permission of course.

A visit from your local fire and rescue service might just make sure that what goes on behind closed doors is not a disaster waiting to happen.

If you can’t stand the heat …..

There are plenty of reasons in February to get into the kitchen and have a go at rustling up some food for friends and family. So whether it’s a Chinese banquet, some flipping fun or trying to impress a date, this month is a good time to think about kitchen and cooking safety.

Children and cooking

Children love helping out in the kitchen, especially if you are making things like pancakes, but according to RoSPA 67,000 children get injured in kitchen accidents every year. Of these 43,000 are aged between 0-4 years.

  • Try not to hurry and don’t get distracted – this is how most kitchen fires start
  • Use the rear hotplates on the hob and turn pan handles away from the front of the cooker, this reduces the chance of child pulling something hot off the cooker
  • If you are using the oven keep children away. Children can get injured from hot oven doors or from steam and heat as the door is opened
  • Make sure the oven door is closed firmly after you have finished using it
  • Keep hot liquids clear of children and never hold a child while you have a hot drink in your hand. What seems lukewarm to adult can be hot enough to scald a child
  • Look out behind you – children – especially very young children or their toys can easily be a trip hazard in the kitchen
  • Be careful when you are cooking with oil or fats as they can spit and burn you or a child
  • Oil and fat can easily catch fire, careful not to overfill a pan with oil or splash it when you add food
  • If a pan does catch fire don’t try and move it, never use water, turn the heat off if you can, get out and call 999
  • Don’t leave children alone in the kitchen
shutterstock_340236947
Figures from RoSPA say 67,000 children are injured in the kitchen every year

The NHS has useful information about treating scalds and burns.

Caution in the kitchen

The kitchen is the highest fire risk area in the home– up to 60% of fires start in the kitchen.  It’s not only due to the cooking it’s also because this area of the home has a high concentration of domestic appliances.

It’s worth registering your kitchen appliances so you are aware of any safety advice or product recalls. You can register appliances up to 12 years from purchase.

  • Make sure hobs and grills pans are clean, the build up of fat can cause a fire
  • Take care not to lean over hot hobs or gas flames
  • Keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob
  • Don’t cook if you have been drinking alcohol
  • Take care when cooking with hot oil – it can easily overheat and catch fire
  • Never fill a pan more than one-third full of fat or oil
  • Make sure food is dry before putting it in hot oil
  • If the oil starts to smoke, it’s too hot. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool

Be alarmed

Most people have experienced the smoke alarm going off when cooking. It can be annoying – more annoying than Piers Morgan apparently. It’s not unusual for people to remove the batteries. In 19% of fires where a smoke alarm failed to activate it was because the batteries were dead or had been removed.

If this is the case in your household it may be time to double check you have the right alarms in the right places.

  • Is your smoke alarm too close to the kitchen? If it goes off when you are cooking it might be
  • Consider a heat alarms for the kitchen. These will not be activated by cooking fumes but react to the temperature increase caused by fire
  • You can never have too many smoke or heat detectors, as a minimum you should have one on every level of your home. Consider additional alarms for other rooms especially if there are lots of electrical in the room – such as teens bedroom
  • Help your alarms help you, test them – ideally once a week, replace the batteries once a year unless they are mains connected or a ten year alarm
  • Plan your escape route- just in case
  • Make sure you have the right alarms for your needs. For example if you are hard of hearing you can get alarms which have vibrating pads or flashing lights to alert you

If you need advice take a look at your local fire and rescue service website. Details of UK fire services can be found on the CFOA website. They often have guides and advice, even home safety checklists for you to follow. There will also be details of any services they may offer to help with home safety. This could be anything from arranging a home safety check to an open day event at a local station.

Register My Appliance Day

On 21st January millions of shoppers will receive a household safety message from their favourite brands of domestic appliances, reminding them to register the fridges, freezers and washing machines that they have bought over the last twelve years and are still running in their kitchens.

At a time when keen bargain hunters are registering new deals that they have snapped up in the sales, manufacturers want to ensure that their older,  trusted, models are not forgotten and can be swiftly located if over time a free safety repair  becomes necessary.

Manufacturers particularly want to reach out to the same older and vulnerable members of society that are often the focus of ‘Safe and Well’ visits which are delivered by fire and rescue services throughout the country. They fear that these older people are more likely to be harbouring unregistered appliances that are at least 10 years old.

Thousands of consumers are still missing out on product safety warnings as they fail to register their appliances. There are over 100 million large appliances in use in our homes and we keep them a very long time, but less than half (47%) of consumers registered the last product they bought.  Unlike cars, this leaves the vast majority untraceable if a safety action becomes necessary.

Even though product recalls on appliances are fortunately relatively rare (around 7 to 10 recalls a year) constant use of an older appliance could cause some unforeseen wear and tear. If over time, a free safety modification becomes necessary, manufacturers need an efficient way of tracking down the affected models so that the household remains safe. Normally a free and quick in-home fix by a qualified engineer will rectify the problem and ensure many further years of safe use.

Andy Reynolds, Electrical Safety Lead at CFOA said “Key to protecting your home and family is making sure you’re kept up to date with any potential safety issues and product recalls. We would urge members of the public to use Electrical Safety First’s product checker, to make sure their appliances have not been subject to a recall, and to register their appliance with the AMDEA website, or direct with the manufacturer.”

Register My Appliance www.registermyappliance.org.uk is the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliance’s (AMDEA) brainchild, unique to this industry who are investing thousands to keep all householders in the loop on product safety. The Register my appliance portal – whose growing number of supporters includes CFOA, the Government, Age UK, the National Landlords Association, Citizens Advice and RoSPA – provides quick access to the registration pages of 62 leading brands and, once registered, owners can be contacted immediately in the rare instance a safety repair becomes necessary.

How To Register Your Appliance

It’s very simple to register your appliance, just follow these steps

  • First you need details of your appliance, this will include, brand name, model number and serial number. All this information should be printed and a safety plate attached to appliance. For washing machine sand tumble driers it will be at the entrance to the drum and in fridges or freezers inside the main compartment.
  • You will need a purchase date, this can be approximate
  • Go to http://www.registermyappliance.org.uk/registration/ and input your appliances details
  • You appliance will now be registered – simple as that

Some people may be put off from registering as they think they will be bombarded with calls or junk mail, but when you register your appliance you will only be contacted in the event of a product recall or safety advice relating to the product. You won’t be added to a marketing database.

CFOA is encouraging people on 21st January to look at their appliances and those of any older friends or relatives and get them registered.

Manufacturers and supporters are committed to ensuring that this simple and quick piece of administration should be on the to-do list of every household so that the public remain as safe as houses.

Resolve to make 2016 safer

It’s the time of year we once again make the effort to kick those bad habits such as smoking and drinking. CFOA is keen to point out that these changes can not only improve our health but can also reduce the risk of an accidental house fire.

Evidence from fire and rescue services across the UK shows the consumption of alcohol significantly increases the risk of an accidental fire in the home.

In November 2015 Peter Dartford, Chief Fire Officer for Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and a past President of CFOA, spoke at Alcohol Concern’s annual conference and  outlined the strong links between alcohol and fire and fire related deaths.

If drink or drugs are a factor in a house fire the risk of death is over three times higher. Details of the government’s statistics for the effect of alcohol on casualty rates in fires in the home for 2011-2012 can be found by following this link http://bit.ly/1Pk6liS

London Fire Brigade said that one third fatal fires in their region are alcohol related. The cause is usually because the person has started cooking and fallen asleep. Additionally the consumption of alcohol means that you are less likely to respond to a smoke alarm. Being under the influence can easily make people disorientated and therefore less likely to be able to escape the fire safely and quickly.

If you are looking at New Year’s resolutions it is worth while taking a moment to think about your drinking habits. Is wine o’clock a little earlier than it used to be? Is it a little more often? Maybe you have got into the habit of having a drinking while cooking after work. Alcohol Concern’s #Dry January campaign has some useful guidance if you are thinking of cutting down.

How to reduce the risk of alcohol related fires:

  • Don’t cook if you have been drinking – treat yourself to a take-away
  • Avoid drinking too much so that you cannot take care of yourself or anyone else in the home
  • Don’t smoke in the house while you are drunk
  • Don’t use candles or any naked flames while you are drinking
  • Alcohol can impair your judgement – don’t attempt to tackle a fire yourself, call 999

If smoking is your habit then unfortunately you significantly increase your risks of an accidental house fire.

A smoker is 75% more likely to have a house fire than a non-smoker and smoking materials are the cause of 1 in 10 house fires. Smoking related fires are usually due to the careless disposal of cigarettes. If smoking is combined with alcohol then the risk of a fatal house fire increases significantly.

How to reduce the risk of smoking related fires:

  • Don’t light up if you are tired or have been drinking – it’s is very easy to fall asleep with a lit cigarette
  • Use a proper ashtray and make sure it can’t be knocked over
  • Make sure that you have put the cigarette out properly – maybe pop a little water in the ashtray just to make sure.
  • Be careful when you dispose of cigarette ash – hot ashes can start a fire
  • Don’t leave your cigarette unattended
  • Consider not smoking in the house and have your cigarette outdoors.

The number of fires caused by smoking related materials has decreased over the past few years but it is still the biggest cause of fatalities in accidental house fires.

Many people are turning to e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking. Fire and rescue services across the UK have seen an increase in incidents relating these products as they gain popularity. Recorded incidents have risen from 8 in 2012 to 62 in 2014 and tend to relate to the charging or incorrect charging of these devices.

ecig-fire - London Fire Brigade

House fire caused by an e-cigarette. Image courtesy of London Fire Brigade.

If you are using an e-cigarette to help you quit smoking take the same precautions as you would with other small electrical devices.

  • Use the correct charger –even if the charger fits the voltage may be too high for your device
  • Avoid cheap or unbranded chargers
  • Don’t leave e-cigarettes charging unattended for long periods
  • Make sure you buy from a reputable store
  • Make sure your e-cigarette has a CE mark

Just in case you don’t manage to stick to your resolutions you can still decrease your risk of fire or accidents in the home in 2016. Contact your local fire and rescue service and ask them to carry out a home fire safety visit. This means you will get specific advice for your household and advice on what to do if a fire does break out.

CFOA supports action to improve product safety and recalls

wash-268082_640

Andy Fry, CFOA Vice President Elect, appeared at Electrical Safety First’s fifth annual Electrical Product Safety Conference on Tuesday 17th November, and set out our concerns about the risks from unsafe and faulty products in UK homes. The event was chaired by broadcaster and campaigner Lynn Faulds Wood, who led a recent review for the government of the current product recall process. The report of this review is expected to be published over the next few weeks.

There were over 7,500 house fires caused by faults in electrical products or systems in 2013/14, and in total over 21,000 fires of all kinds that can be attributed to faults in the same period. During the same period, a significant number of people were known to have been injured or killed as a result of Carbon Monoxide poisoning attributable to faulty or incorrectly installed appliances.

Andy discussed some of the challenges that face trading standards, regulators, manufacturers and fire services when dealing with the issue of faulty products. These include the low numbers of people agreeing to register their products, the limited reach of recall campaigns and the problems of counterfeit or poor quality imported goods.

Outlining CFOA’s view on what more could be done, Andy was clear that the best way to deal with these issues is to prevent the need to recall unsafe products in the first place, by having a robust and well enforced standards and inspection regime. He also suggested that a more convenient product registration process, increased use of social media in recall campaigns and harsher financial penalties for those manufacturers or suppliers that fail to act, might improve the success of recalls.

Improving communication between bodies involved would be helpful, Andy argued, as would utilising the fire and rescue services trusted brand to promote product registration and information on recall websites. You can see a copy of Andy’s presentation by clicking the link.

When Lynn Faulds Wood’s review was announced, CFOA provided a written submission from our electrical safety lead, Andy Reynolds, outlining some of our concerns. The response can be found on the CFOA website.

Avoid a Counterfeit Christmas….#ElectricalSafetyWeek15

During this week’s Electrical Safety Week (9 – 15 November) Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is alerting people about the dangers of buying cheap electrical goods online in the run up to Christmas this year.

Fire services across the country are alerting people to be aware of the dangers of fake electrical goods and chargers after a number of home fires caused by electrical goods this year.

CFOA has already seen fires caused by ‘hoverboards and balance boards’ causing thousands of pounds worth of damage. A BBC Watchdog investigation found many of the boards were being supplied with non-standard plugs, with many of them not having fuses leading to some overheating,  causing them to explode or catch fire.

According to Electrical Safety First the number of counterfeit and sub-standard electrical goods sold online has increased considerably in recent years with the most common fakes being for popular and sought-after items. The number of fake mobile phones seized has risen by more than 50% with other top electrical fakes including hair straighteners, e.cigarette chargers and games.

Photos below courtesy of Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bedfordshire Fire and rescue Service campaign includes statistics from Electrical Safety First showing that:

  • 24% of people have knowingly bought a counterfeit product
  • 21% would consider buying one in order to save money
  • 16% do not think counterfeit products could put them at risk.

However, these fake goods often contain faulty parts that can cause products to overheat and catch fire. With products left charging overnight or on beds, and sometimes under pillows, a small spark can cause a major fire within minutes.

Pete Buckingham, Community Safety Team Manager said:   “With Christmas coming everyone is looking for a bargain to make their money go further. But if a deal looks like it’s too good to be true, then it probably is not only too good to be true but could actually be dangerous and life-threatening to you and your family.

“More people now shop online which increases the opportunities for rough traders to sell you fake products. Our advice is to stick to reputable retailers both on the High Street and online and have a look at Electrical Safety First’s online Safe Shopper’s Guide for advice on shopping safely online.”

You can download the Safe Shopper’s Guide.

Top Five Checks to Avoid a Fake Christmas:

  1. Check the reviews: Use reputable online review sites to see what people who have bought products say about them and the retailer and use website checkers set up by companies to confirm you are buying from an approved stockist.
  2. Check the seller: Look for the seller’s contact details and ensure there is a full address, not just a PO Box number because just having a .co.uk address doesn’t mean they are based in the UK. Is the seller a well-known name or have you bought from them before?
  3. Check the price: If a bargain looks too good to be true, it probably is. Check what others are selling it for and ask the trader why their price is so low.
  4. Check the purchase process: Look for websites that allow you to pay safely – these have a padlock symbol on your screen when you are filling in your payment details – but don’t assume safe payment definitely means your purchase is genuine. Also ensure there is a returns or complaints procedure should you be unsatisfied.
  5. Check the product: When it arrives, firstly check for damage or loose wires, then check the voltage is 230V, 50Hz (the UK’s usual domestic voltage) and that they are fitted with a three-pin UK plug or charger. Also check the packaging note – does it come with instructions and a guarantee? If you have any suspicions about a product’s safety, or if you think it’s a fake, do not use it.

English Housing Survey – Fires and Fire Safety 2013/14

Victorian_terraced_housing,_Mutley_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1418563

In the last couple of weeks the government has published the latest English Housing Survey for the period 2013-14. This survey has been run every year since 2008 and is the most detailed set of information on English homes available. It is put together using survey data of over 13,000 people and physical inspections of some 6,200 houses. Amongst the many issues covered are fire and fire safety, and we thought we’d take a look at some of the key findings.

Fire Incidents

The survey has found that approximately 385,000 households (or 2% of all homes) reported a fire of some sort in the past two years. Only around a third of these were reported to the fire and rescue service and required their assistance to extinguish, with nearly half being put out by the occupier themselves. People living in private and social rented homes are significantly more likely to have a fire than those living in homes they own themselves. Nearly three-quarters of all reported fires started in the kitchen (74%) with more than half (54%) specifically caused by cooking.

Smoke Alarms

20.8 million or 92% of all English households reported having at least one smoke alarm installed at home, with 88% sure that the alarm was working when surveyed. That leaves some 2.5 million homes without a working smoke alarm or any smoke alarm at all. Those in private rented accommodation are the least likely to have a working smoke alarm at 82%, while those in housing association accommodation were most likely at 94%. This highlights the importance of the government’s plans to make smoke alarm installation compulsory in private rented accommodation – a move strongly supported by CFOA.

It is also positive to note that from 2008-09 to 2013-14, there was a 13% reduction in the number of smoke alarms that were powered by a one year ordinary battery (from 53% to 40%) and an increase in smoke alarms that were powered by a ten year battery (10% to 16%) or that were mains powered only (from 16% to 21%).

Fire Hazards

As part of the physical inspections carried out for the survey, the presence of fire hazards are taken into account, which includes issues such as lack of means of escape or a high number of ignition sources. In 2013, one million dwellings were assessed as having a ‘higher’ risk of fire. Of these, 88,000 had the most serious Category 1 fire hazards. Again, private rented accommodation was found to be over-represented within the most at risk housing. Just 77% of households who lived in higher risk homes had a working smoke alarm.

Regarding electrical safety, it was found that only 425,000 of the 1,000,000 most at risk homes had all five electrical safety features present (modern PVC wiring, modern earthing, a modern consumer unit, overload protection and personal protection). This is lower than in the housing stock at large, where 57% had all five of these safety features, which reduce the risk of fire or electric shock.

Still more to do

The survey shows a generally improving picture of fire safety in UK homes, but does highlight just how many homes remain unsafe either through a lack of detection or the presence of specific fire hazards. It therefore remains vital that fire and rescue services target these most vulnerable households to reduce their risk from fire.

Could your home appliance be a fire risk?

A recent report from consumer organisation Which? has highlighted a worryingly high number of fires caused by faulty home appliances.

The Which? figures showed that there were nearly 12,000 appliance fires between January 2011 and March 2014 – with more than a quarter of this total caused by washing machines (1,723) and tumble dryers (1,456).

As a result of these concerning figures, CFOA wants people to be aware of any safety risks that have been identified in their household appliances. Find out more about how you can do this on the CFOA website.

The BBC ran a news article on the report which highlighted the appliances which caused the most fires, from toasters to central heating systems.