Planning to construct or work with scaffolding?
Be aware of the potential dangers of coming into contact with our electricity network - ‘Work Safe – Think Electricity’. Take a few minutes to watch our safety film and share it with colleagues before starting work – it could save a life. Watch the film here.
Using electricity safely in the home
Electricity is very safe if you observe sensible precautions – and ensure that children or vulnerable adults in your home understand the dangers. Below you can find detailed safety advice dealing with different appliances and areas around the home and garden.
Here’s a quick summary of the main points:
- Never use electrical equipment with a worn flex.
- Always turn the power off before working on any appliance - even changing a light bulb
- When using electrical equipment outdoors, e.g. drills, saws, trimmers or lawnmowers, plug the appliance into a Residual Current Device (RCD). This will cut the power, if there’s a problem or if you slice through the flex.
- Always call a qualified electrician when work on your house wiring is needed.
Avoiding danger outside the home
- Never enter electricity substations
- Never climb electricity towers or poles
- Don’t fly kites near overhead power lines
Turning off the power
- In an emergency (an electrical fire, for example) you’ll want to cut the power immediately. Make sure you know where your mains switch (or switches) are. Some installations, electric storage heaters for example, might have a separate consumer unit.
To avoid accidents around your home or garden, here are some general safety guidelines, which could protect you and your family.
Using electrical equipment inside the house
- DON’T operate equipment or switches with wet hands
- DON’T fill up your steam iron while it is plugged in
- DON’T cover up ventilation holes or slots in electrical equipment
- DO turn off heating and cooking appliances before you leave the house
- DO make sure that power sockets, switches and other electrical appliances can't be splashed with water
- DO keep flammable items well away from light bulbs, heaters, toasters and other appliances
If you notice any of these danger signs – get a qualified electrician to check your wiring
- Constantly blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers
- Feeling a tingle when you touch an electrical appliance
- Discoloration of power sockets or plugs
- A burning or unusual smell coming from an appliance or wiring
- A sizzling sound from light switches, power switches or sockets
- Flickering lights
- Don’t use electrical equipment outdoors when it’s raining or in areas that are being watered
- Buy good quality outdoor lighting equipment from a reputable retailer and ensure fittings are weatherproof
- To be sure, ensure installation by a competent electrician to the manufacturer's instructions and BS 7671 (the national safety standard for electrical installation)
- Regularly check for damaged or dirty fittings, cables or connections
Lawn mowing and hedge trimming
- Be careful with electric lawn mowers and hedge trimmers. They can cut through electric cables, causing a real risk of electric shock.
- When using a lawn mower or hedge trimmer, always:
- Follow manufacturers' instructions
- Wear shoes that give foot protection (not sandals)
- Ensure your extension cable is the size recommended by the manufacturer and designed for outdoor use
- Organize your work so that you start near the power socket, then move outward
- Keep children and pets well away
- Unplug equipment and wait until the blades have stopped moving before cleaning blockages
- Clear the lawn of stones and other obstructions before mowing
- Wear gloves and goggles and keep both hands on the handles, when you use hedge trimmers
Fuses, circuit breakers and RCDs are safety devices designed to stop power coming through your wiring in the event of a fault.
- Rewirable fuses have special fuse wire of a specific thickness (or resistance) running between two screws. When a fault or overload current flows through the wire, it gets hot and melts when the current exceeds an acceptable level, breaking the circuit. This disconnects power from the circuit the faulty appliance or outlet is connected to.
- Fuses should be replaced if they burn out. Replacements must be of the correct rating and type. Never use a higher amp fuse. And NEVER try to use another piece of metal or foil to ‘jump’ a blown fuse – this is very dangerous and could start a fire.
- More modern fuse boxes (usually called Consumer Units) use Circuit breakers. These automatically ‘trip’ if there’s a fault, instantly switching off that circuit if there’s a fault. They give more precise protection than fuses. When they trip, you can simply reset the switch. But if after disconnecting appliances on the circuit, it continues to trip, you should contact a qualified electrician to trace the fault.
- RCDs are special safety switches that disconnect the electricity supply (or part of the supply) under certain conditions, often a potentially dangerous earth fault. If your installation includes one or more RCDs, test them every three months by pressing the button marked ‘T’ or ‘Test’.
- This should switch off the supply. To restore power, simply switch it back on. Contact an electrician if there’s a problem when you test the RCD.
General advice when a fuse blows or circuit breaker trips
- A blown fuse will look blackened or discoloured. Replace it with a new one of the correct rating for the circuit.
- If one of your circuit breakers has tripped, try switching it back to ON.
- Unplug any appliances that are sensitive to power spikes (eg: computers, phones)
- Keep a torch nearby your fusebox or consumer unit. Never change fuses or reset circuit breakers in the dark.
- Don’t work with electrical wiring unless you know what you’re doing. Always switch off the power at the main switch in or near your consumer unit. If you don't have a main switch, turn all circuit breakers to OFF.
- Try to determine what caused the problem and correct it. There’s no point replacing a fuse or resetting your circuit breaker if it will blow/trip again.
Do your fuses or circuit breakers blow or trip often?
- This could mean that you’re overloading your circuit with too many appliances or lights.
- Try unplugging or turning off some appliances or lights, then replace the fuse or reset the breaker. If the problem continues, use the services of a qualified electrician.
Electric heaters and fans are safe if you observe some common sense precautions.
Here are some general safety tips:
- Make sure that they are kept away from flammable furnishings and that their leads won’t be tripped over.
- Keep electric fans away from gas hobs or other open flames.
- Keep heaters clear of papers, bedding, draperies, and other combustible materials.
- Keep any appliance away from water to prevent electric shocks.
- Never leave heaters or fans unattended or with children or pets
- Keep all types of heater clean and free from dust and fluff
- Don’t use aerosol sprays near any heater
- Don’t dry laundry by the fire
- Wall-mounted radiators should be one metre away from furnishings or doors
- Don’t cover up the air grilles of storage heaters, fans or convection heaters
Bathroom heaters and towel rails
All electric heaters and water heaters in bathrooms must be fixed and permanently wired – NEVER with a plug and socket. They must also be at least 60cm away from the bath or shower. Electric heaters should be controlled by a pull-cord or by a switch located outside the bathroom.
Flooding and electricity
If flood water does enter your property our advice is to switch off the electricity at the mains, if it’s safe to do so. Do not touch any electrical equipment, switches or sockets when standing in water or if the electrical equipment is wet, damp or has been flooded and the electricity is on.
Flood water may damage our electrical equipment as well as the internal wiring in the property. Once the water has cleared, please call our emergency numbers on the right of this screen. Read here to help you identify our equipment and your electricity suppliers equipment.
Please visit the Environment Agency website or here for more flood advice.
Restoring electricity following a flood
Following the electrical damage caused by flooding we will be helping your local council and your electricity supplier to return your electricity supplies to normal. We want to inform you of the role we will play in the restoration of your supply and advise you about the next steps which you will need to take to ensure your power is reconnected at the earliest opportunity.
Our engineers will begin by checking your equipment up to the point where it joins up with your internal electrical wiring, known as the ‘cut out’, this is to ensure it is dry and safe to reconnect.
If we identify water damage to this item of equipment we will work with those affected to replace the cut outs where necessary. We will ask you to arrange a certificate from a qualified electrician to show your property is safe to have the power switched back on. If your electrical installations were not damaged we will ask you to organise a safety test via your own or your electrician. Please note that we cannot carry out any repairs to your internal electrical wiring. This will need to be rectified by a qualified electrician before we can reconnect your power supply.
Please note, any damaged electricity meters need to be changed before we can switch on your power and these need to be replaced by your electricity supplier (the company which you pay your electricity bills to). Read here to help you identify our equipment and your electricity suppliers equipment.
Once you have this assurance from an electrician and the necessary certificate please call us on the numbers on the right of this screen so we can turn your power back on as soon as possible.
Make sure all appliance power leads and plugs are in good condition and kept well away from moisture, heat, and metal pipes. Never cover them with a rug or furniture or expose them to corrosive materials. Don’t use an appliance if any part of the cable is worn, split or frayed. Check that the lead is securely attached to both the appliance and the plug.
Check your plugs
- Check for signs of damage or discolouration on the casing
- Check that it’s marked as conforming to British Standard BS 1363
- Make sure the lead is firmly clamped in the plug and that no coloured wires are showing
- Check the plug is wired properly
In the UK, all modern appliances use a square pin 13 amp plug. Unless the plug is moulded, use a screwdriver to remove the cover and check the:
- BROWN wire goes to live (L)
- BLUE wire goes to neutral (N)
- GREEN AND YELLOW wire goes to earth (E)
- SCREWS holding the three wires are tight
- FUSE is the correct size and meets British Standard BS 1362 and that it is securely in its holder
- Avoid using extension leads if you can reach a power socket with the appliance’s own lead, without overstretching it.
- Don’t use leads that are more than 15 m long unless the extension is fitted with an RCD.
- Only use extension leads fitted with properly-insulated connectors and plugs.
- If using outside, make sure plugs are rubber or otherwise waterproofed.
- If the lead has to cross a pathway temporarily, cover it with a rubber protector strip
- Check that the extension lead plug contains the right fuse for the equipment you’re using.
- When using a cable drum extension lead, completely unwind the cable from the drum to avoid it overheating.
If you live in a rural or farming area or on a campsite or caravan site, here are some safety tips to protect you.
Think before you pitch
- In recent years, several people have been injured or killed when putting up tents or moving long objects around caravan sites, because they came into contact with live overhead electricity lines.
- If this should happen, dial 999 and tell them that electricity is involved.
- Avoid, pitching your tent or caravan directly under or close to overhead power lines.
- Be particularly aware when putting up TV aerials or radio masts next to mobile homes or fixed caravans.
- Stay well away from any power lines close to the campsite you are intending to use.
- If you’re walking below overhead power lines, carrying long objects such as metal poles, fishing rods or yacht masts, always carry them parallel to the ground.
Living in a rural environment
In the countryside, electricity is often carried on overhead power lines attached to wood poles or metal pylons. These power lines can sometimes be hidden by trees or hedges. Note also that there will also be cables under the ground, so be aware before digging.
Take special care if:
- Tall vehicles, such as delivery lorries are likely to visit your premises.
- If you’re planning any new building work (extensions, barns or stables) which could be close to the overhead power lines.
- If you are positioning scaffolding or carrying ladders close to the overhead power lines. Carry long objects parallel to the ground and remember electricity can jump gaps so you do not need to touch a power line to receive a shock.
Be aware if:
- You’re storing building materials, stacks of hay or straw, or anything else underneath the overhead power lines that may decrease the clearance space from the line.
- A power line is lying on the ground. Overhead power lines can sometimes be brought down by strong winds, a high vehicle, or by trees or branches falling on them. Do not assume that it is dead.
In an emergency:
- Call the emergency services and tell them that electricity is involved. They will know how to contact us.
- Keep everyone (including animals if possible) well away
- If a vehicle is caught in the overhead power lines tell the occupant(s) to stay inside. If this is not possible (e.g. if the vehicle catches fire) then they must jump clear of the vehicle without touching it & quickly move away.
- If you would like further help or advice, contact your local electricity company.
First, check your trip switch. This is found in your consumer unit. If it’s still on, call us on the numbers to the left. Or click here to see if we are aware of a power cut at your address.
If the trip switch is off, try switching it back on. If it switches off again, one of your appliances may be faulty, so unplug all appliances and then reset the trip switch.
You can also check whether your neighbours have also lost their electricity supply. If your neighbours don't have power then call us on the numbers to the left.
If your neighbours do have power
- First, check your trip switch. (In your Consumer Unit.) If it’s still on, call the emergency line.
- If the trip switch is off, try switching it back on. If it switches off again, one of your appliances may be faulty, so unplug all appliances and then reset the trip switch.
Do you use a token card meter?
- If so, check that you still have credit on your card.
Has only part of your supply failed?
- If you have a partial power cut, and the trip won’t reset, there may be a fault with your wiring. You should contact a registered electrician. Please note: the wiring within your property is your responsibility and we are unable to repair it or contribute to the cost of repair.
Reporting damaged power lines or equipment
Call your area’s emergency number immediately, if you:
- Spot any damaged or sparking power lines or equipment or overhead lines that are on the ground or low enough for people or vehicles to touch.
- See broken substation fences, damaged electricity manholes or live electricity meters and equipment that are not secure or waterproof.
Take care around cables
Keep clear of cables on or near the ground. They might be live and able to conduct electricity through damp ground or metallic objects. If they are in roads or on footpaths dial 999, tell the police and help keep passers-by clear of them.
Turning off the power in an emergency
In an emergency (an electrical fire, for example) you’ll want to cut the power immediately. Make sure you know where your mains switch (or switches) are. Some installations, electric storage heaters for example, might have a separate consumer unit.
Dos and Don’ts in an emergency
- DO check your trip switch/es (You’ll find them in the consumer unit/fuse box)
- DO report any damaged power lines or other equipment
- DO use a specialist for all electrical servicing and repairs
- DO remember to unplug electrical appliances before cleaning or inspecting them
- DO NOT let things get critical before seeking help
- DO NOT open your fridge and freezer, unless absolutely necessary
- DO NOT neglect naked flames, such as candles; ideally, have a battery-operated lamp or standing electric torch
- DO NOT use your car as a place to stay warm or to sleep, especially inside a garage
- DO NOT use Calor gas heaters in a closed room; ensure good ventilation
- DO NOT let children near open flame, heaters, or lead acid batteries.
Information and tips to ensure you stay as safe and comfortable during a power cut.
Protecting your electrical equipment from surges
Some electrical equipment – computers, for example – can be affected by voltage variations during or after a power cut. Here are some simple measures that can minimise the risk of damage.
- Low-cost ‘anti-spike’ leads or adaptors (sometimes called ‘surge protectors’) are available from electrical and DIY shops.
- If you’re at home when there’s a power cut, unplug your equipment or switch it off at the socket.
Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS)
You should consider using an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) if you:
- Regularly work from home with a PC
- Run a small business which depends on computers
- Use other electronic equipment, such as a till or fax machine
The UPS uses its internal battery to keep your computer or other equipment working through short power cuts, or shut down your system safely. For a typical PC, a UPS costs between £80 and £120 from a computer supplier or computer supermarket.
Mobility aids like Bath Hoists
Modern bath hoists are powered by a fully-sealed rechargeable battery pack. Battery-charging takes place outside the bathroom. Fully-charged hoist batteries will usually power up to 10 lifts of someone weighing 100kg, so a power cut should cause no problem. (Check with the manufacturer for more information.)
Many modern phones, particularly cordless ones, won't work during a power cut. To ensure you'll always be able to call someone for help, keep an ordinary telephone on each floor of your home.
Protecting your tropical fish
During a power cut, the temperature of the water in your tank will fall. You can be prepared by:
- Keeping a battery-powered heater and filter handy
- Wrapping the tank in blankets for insulation
- Filling some hot water bottles with warm water and placing them around the outside of the tank
- Using an ordinary bicycle pump to aerate the water while the power is off
Our dedicated Public Safety team operate in our local communities with responsibility, integrity and respect, building positive relationships and a safe working environment and community for all. We have a broad range of proactive measures in place which help raise awareness of the potential dangers of coming into contact with our electricity network.
We support and attend community initiatives such as attending summer County Shows, Safety, Health and Awareness Days, demonstrations at events with outdoor leisure communities, as well as provide tool box talks, coaching for Contractors and advice for external companies such as construction, scaffolding and demolition.
All of us who are responsible for young people - whether parents, teachers or others, want to help them to keep safe.
Our interactive website, called Power Up! is packed full of useful information about electricity and keeping safe for 7 – 14 year olds, teachers and parents. With games, quizzes and interesting facts about electricity, it’s designed to support the Key Stages 2 and 3 electricity curriculum in an engaging and exciting way. Visit the Power Up! website.