Electrical safety at home

Electrical safety is particularly important when you have young children at home. Know how to keep them safe, what to do if someone in your house is electrocuted, and how to manage electrical fires.

Electricity is clean, efficient and instantly available to use. However, it cannot be seen or heard and has no smell. The risks involved with using electricity are electric shock, burns and fire.

Children and electricity

Young children are curious and will play with anything. Ideally, they should never be left alone in a room where electric appliances or fittings are in use. It takes only a moment for a child to post something into a heater, pull on a cord, topple an appliance, or poke something into an electrical outlet.

There have been cases of children being killed or injured as a result of sticking objects into power points or multi-boxes, heaters or other appliances.

To prevent this happening, you should:

  • Arrange your furniture so that children have room to play away from heaters and other appliances. Ensure that heavy appliances - like TV sets - stand on furniture intended to take their weight. Position them so that they are stable and not likely to fall on any child who may bump into it or climb onto it to reach something on a nearby shelf.
  • Always choose shuttered or recessed sockets for new installations or upgrades, especially for sockets accessible to toddlers and young children.
  • For sockets accessible to toddlers and young children, use plastic safety plugs in all unused power points that don't have safety shutters.  Ensure safety plugs are a firm fit and impossible for little fingers to remove.
  • Multi-boxes or power boards should be kept out of reach, preferably on a wall bracket. If this cannot be done, use a multi-box cover. If possible buy multi-boxes with shuttered outlets and an integral RCD.
  • When you finish using appliances like hair dryers, put them away so that children don't play with them.
  • Use a short cord on your electric jugs and kettles to prevent children from pulling them down onto themselves and getting badly burned or scalded.
  • Keep metal objects like keys, scissors or nail files out of reach so they can't be poked into socket-outlets, heaters or other electrical outlets.
  • Teach your children about the dangers of electricity and demonstrate safe behaviour. They will generally follow your example.
  • Appliances are not toys, so never let children play with them.

What to do in an electrical emergency

If someone comes into contact with a live electrical source around the home do not touch them. If you touch the person while they are still in contact with the electrical current you will also get an electric shock or be electrocuted.

  • Switch the power off, either at the source or at the main power switch. 
  • The longer a person is in contact with the power source, the more likely the shock will be fatal. If it is not possible to turn the power off, use an insulated object such as a broom with a dry wooden handle to push the victim clear of the source of shock.  Wear rubber soled shoes if possible.
  • Never choose anything even slightly damp to help rescue the victim.
  • Phone for an ambulance immediately – dial 111.
  • Administer appropriate first aid such as CPR. If you have not had first aid training, the emergency operator may be able to give you directions until help arrives.

In all cases of electric shock, even if the victim feels fine, seek medical treatment and advice immediately. Visit your local doctor or after hours medical centre. 

Electrical fire

  • Never throw water on an electrical fire. If possible, disconnect the appliance or turn off the power. Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher handy at all times.
  • If necessary, phone the Fire Service – dial 111.
  • Dispose of faulty appliances or get electrical installations checked by a licensed electrical worker.
  • To be prepared, install smoke detectors in your home and have an evacuation plan that all members of the family know and have practiced. Your local fire station can advise on the best routes out of your house in the event of a fire.

Electrical wires that have fallen down

Stay away from all electric wires that have fallen down, as they may be live. 

Get help immediately by calling your local electricity supply company. The company will disconnect the fallen wire from the power source and repair the damage.