Appliance safety in the home

Between tumble driers, gas cookers and the tragic Grenfell tower fire – we are all horribly aware of the importance of appliance safety in the home.

The charity Electrical Safety First (ESF) aims to reduce incidents of death or injury caused by electricity in UK homes. The charity estimates that 25% of people in the UK have been victim of some kind of online counterfeit scam, and a third of electrical fake products were purchased online.

ESF says buyers should always purchase from a trusted retailer or direct from the manufacturer and, to help consumers identify who is who, it has launched an online browser extension that will highlight third party sellers.

Around one in ten of us has first-hand experience of an electrical shock or fire. Buying and using appliances without consideration to safety can clearly present some serious risks, so here are some safety tips when buying new appliances and when you use them in the home.

Choosing new appliances

The internet makes all things available at the click of a button, but think about where an appliance is coming from. UK safety laws are strict but if you buy from overseas there is a chance that the appliance may not be manufactured according to UK safety standards.

Check to see that the appliance carries appropriate safety markings. Some products are required to display the CE mark to be retailed in the UK. The CE mark confirms that the manufacturer meets the UK’s specific safety, health and environmental requirements.

Keep a record of the name and address of the manufacturer and check that the appliance comes with a user manual. If you haven’t got a paper copy of the manual, it can often be downloaded from the internet, either from the manufacturer or from a reputable retailer.

Check for safety and recall notices

If you register your new electrical appliance online with the manufacturer you will be directly informed in the event of future safety issues. Most manufacturers will replace or refund your purchase if a product is recalled.

RTFM (Read the manual)

Not everyone’s first step when putting together flat pack furniture or using a new gadget for the first time, but, especially in the case of electrical goods, the user manual will contain important safety information that you should read before setting up your new appliance for use. Once you’ve read it, make sure you keep your manual somewhere safe as it will often contain information about the warranty and how to contact the manufacturer.

Locating your appliance

Whether it’s used inside or outside, ensure that your appliance’s electrical parts, leads and outlets are kept well away from water sources. Check the condition of all cables and connections regularly and, if you need to use an extension cable, make sure it is suitable for the purpose. Always ensure that the cable is fully unwound during use as heat generated by an unwound cable can cause a fire.

Using your appliance

Always operate appliances according to the manufacturer’s user manual. Failure to do so might invalidate your warranty or even be unsafe.

Other than fridges and freezers, which are generally in constant use, you should not leave appliances switch on in your absence. Make sure you are at home when appliances are running and preferably don’t run them at night, when you are at your most vulnerable and are likely to be unaware of a safety problem until it’s too late.

If you aren’t using your appliance, switch it off to keep risks to a minimum. You might also save money on your energy bill.

Give your appliances a regular clean to remove any dirt, grime, grease or lint. This will prevent safety hazards and prolong the life of the appliance.

If you have safety concerns

Switch off the appliance and disconnect it from the power source as soon as you have any safety concerns. Contact the manufacturer and ask for advice.

If the manufacturer does not address your concerns, you may get help from Citizens Advice who might refer your complaint to Trading Standards. This could help you get a refund, replacement or repair.

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