Why you need to pay attention to electrical socket safety They say familiarity breeds contempt. While that might not be true when it comes to using sockets safely, familiarity certainly can lead to an excessively casual attitude towards them. It’s a worrying fact that some people expose themselves and others to danger and potentially fatal situations simply through careless use and a lack of appreciation of the fire risk. So here are a few reminders about how you and those around you can minimise that risk. Use the right fuse Using the right fuse matters because it’s a safety device that ‘blows’ and cuts off electricity if the appliance develops a problem. That stops overheating which otherwise could cause a fire. If you’re using the wrong fuse, it won’t blow. Check the manufacturer’s instructions or look for the sticker on the appliance to see which fuse you need. Be cautious with extension leads Never overload sockets. Plugging too many electrical appliances into one socket can lead to overheating and fire. That means the risk is likely to be at its highest when extension leads are being used because it’s very easy to overload them – even with just 2 appliances. In fact, some appliances (like washing machines and dishwashers) use so much electricity that it’s unwise to connect them via an extension lead if at all avoidable and they should never be used at the same time on the same socket.
  • Is an extension lead really necessary?
The first question to ask yourself is whether there’s a better alternative. If you’re regularly using leads in a certain area could you have another socket installed instead? Or can you rearrange a room’s layout so other empty sockets are used?
  • Know its rating
Look on the back of the extension lead to find its rating. Usually it’ll be 13A but some are 10A. Make sure you don’t plug in a combination of appliances that’ll exceed that rating.
  • Never combine extension leads
Don’t plug one extension lead into another. It increases the risk of their fuses failing and could cause them to overheat and catch fire.
  • Use bar extension leads
No matter what extension lead you’re using always check it’s fitted with a fuse and meets relevant safety standards. Rectangular bar blocks plugged into the wall with a lead are almost always fused so less likely to catch fire. But the cuboid block adaptors that plug directly into the wall are less likely to contain fuses. Ideally, opt for a multi-socket adaptor with surge protection.
  • Unwind the extension lead
If you’re using a coiled up extension cable on a reel, unwind it fully before use to reduce the risk of it overheating. Know the early warning signs of an electrical fault
  • A burning smell – particularly one similar to burning rubber, plastic or metal.
  • Hot plugs or sockets.
  • Any sootiness, dark patches or blackened scorch marks around the socket.
  • Sparks or smoke when you’re removing or inserting a plug.
  • Fuses that blow frequently or circuit-breakers that trigger for no obvious reason.
It’s not just the socket you need to keep an eye on; look out for badly wired plugs and damaged or frayed leads. What should you do if there’s an electrical fire? If it’s safe to do so, pull the plug out or switch off the power at the fuse box. Never use water on an electrical fire and only use the appropriate type of fire extinguisher. Don’t take any risks – if you cannot quickly extinguish it get out of the area and call 999 immediately. But of course it’s far better to avoid an electrical fire in the first place so if you have your suspicions that something may need sorting out do it now. And one final and very important reminder. If you’re not using them, switch appliances off (pull out the plug too as it’s the only way to be 100% sure no electricity is reaching it). And if you’re the one who pays the electricity bills it might save you a bit of money too!