The Electrical Challenges of Summer

Chairman of the NAPIT Trade Association, Frank Bertie, discusses the various types of electrical work to expect during the remainder of summer and how to ensure safety for homeowners.

Whilst we are almost halfway through the Summer, there are still many things that can be done to ensure electrical safety before the start of Autumn. Throughout the summer months there are numerous electrical safety risks and, subsequently, a rise in demand for the services of competent electrical installers. Installers themselves need to take provisions to ensure their own safety, whilst at the same time giving advice to homeowners on steps they can undertake to protect themselves. To help with this, I will outline some key risks associated with the summer months and how best to approach each scenario.

DIY work is synonymous with sunny days as people look to take advantage of the pleasant weather to do work around the house. However, recent figures show that around 70 people die and over 350,000 are seriously injured by electrical accidents in the home every year. In a survey of registered electricians, around a third had seen electric shocks caused by botched DIY work, with 15% reporting that it had caused an electrical fire. This is a major issue which is threatening the safety of both installers and homeowners. To combat this, it is vital that installers make homeowners aware of the electrical dangers of DIY work and the benefits of using a registered competent installer. This is something that everyone can be doing throughout the summer and beyond. Indeed, despite many unregistered people continuing to undertake DIY work, opportunities for installers generally increase throughout summer so this is something to bear in mind.

Whilst not all DIY work that homeowners do is electrical, there is always the risk of hidden electrical dangers. Installers cannot stop people from doing DIY work, yet there are some key bits of general advice that they can provide. These tips are applicable to any time of the year, not just summer. As with any electrical work done by an installer, homeowners should be advised to check walls for cables if they are planning on doing any drilling or other work. This can easily be done by using a cable detector so it’d be wise to recommend one if they have any concerns. Secondly, it is always sensible to advise the use of residual current devices (RCDs) and offer to install them wherever possible. It is worth reminding people to have one fitted in their “fuse box”, whilst also recommending plug-in RCDs when necessary. In both scenarios, people should be reminded that they should always look to the services of a registered competent electrician before doing any significant work around the home.

Since a lot of the summer is spent outside, there is generally an increase in the amount of outdoor work for installers. As before, you should always make sure to promote the use of RCDs with all outdoor electrical equipment and offer to have them installed. Without an RCD, a simple job like mowing the lawn has the potential to cause serious harm. Any socket used to plug in a lawnmower, hedge trimmer or other power tool should have an RCD, but it is worth reminding people to have an electrical inspection to ensure the safety of their property. Whilst it may seem obvious, steps should also be taken to ensure that electrical equipment is kept well away from contact with water, both as an installer and homeowner. It should also be recommended that equipment, such as barbecues or lawnmowers, are stored in a dry and safe place. Equally homeowners should be reminded to routinely check that equipment hasn’t been damaged or affected by water before use. Finally, whilst installers shouldn’t need to be reminded of this, one should always avoid using electrical equipment in wet conditions whenever possible.

Barbecues are synonymous with summer, yet they do bring their own electrical risks and subsequent work opportunities for installers as a result. The latter point is particularly true when it comes to electric grills and built-in barbecues. To begin with, homeowners should have confidence that any cables connecting to their barbecue are secure and undamaged. Certain jobs, such as the installation of a built-in barbecue, would require the services of a registered competent electrician who can do the appropriate wiring work. Equally, with all types of barbecues, homeowners should be reminded to inspect plugs and all connections for damage and wear, ideally by someone competent and qualified to do so. Finally, barbecue repair work in general will become more commonplace throughout the remainder of summer, so do be aware of this if you are prepared to do such work.

Lawnmowers and hedge trimmers present their own electrical risks and many outdoor accidents occur when using such equipment. This is made worse when considering that many people do not think of electrical safety when using such equipment. As with barbecues, it is likely that the number of repair jobs for lawnmowers and hedge trimmers will increase throughout summer. Again, this is something that inspectors and testers should be aware of as there will be work opportunities in this area. In terms of electrical safety advice, the best advice to give to someone who is looking to operate a lawn mower or hedge trimmer is to tell them to always check that the cable is moving away from the equipment and that they don’t accidently loop back onto the cable.

In addition, there are some other smaller pieces of advice that an installer can give to help homeowners stay safe when cutting the garden. Firstly, when purchasing a lawn mower or hedge trimmer, it is wise to recommend to homeowners that they always look to buy a good quality product from an established manufacturer and that they seek manufacturers advice if they have any initial concerns. If they continue to have any worries about the electrical safety of a product, homeowners should have the knowledge that they can contact people who are trained and qualified to carry out full checks on the products.

Alongside the areas discussed thus far, there are additional work opportunities that installers should expect over the coming months. To begin with, the installation of mains supplied lighting in the garden is more generally commonplace throughout the summer. With this comes the initial installation work of getting the outdoor lighting to work, in addition to any necessary repair work. Once again, this is something that registered installers, inspectors, or testers can partake in if they so choose. Since mains supplied lighting can create complex wiring jobs, registered electricians are normally the first point of contact. Alongside lighting, other equipment such as electric pumps present their own electrical risks. Once again, repair work can present itself to registered electricians, as well as RCD installations and testing. In the case of electric pumps, the risks associated with water become far more prevalent so this is something to keep in mind.

In conclusion, the remainder of summer will continue to present electrical risks for homeowners and new challenges for installers, testers and inspectors across the country. The most common types of work will be repair work, however particular installation jobs do become more commonplace during the summer. Alongside increased work in these areas, registered competent installers, testers and inspectors should help to ensure that homeowners are made aware of the electrical dangers of doing DIY work or operating certain equipment. In both scenarios, they should recommend the services of a registered competent electrician whatever time of the year.

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