Homeowners and Electrical Safety
In November 2004, the NICEIC carried out telephone interviews with a total of 500 householders, to find out their views and practices regarding electrical work and safety around the home.
The sample was taken equally from five geographical regions around the UK – Scotland, Wales, Northern England, The Midlands and Southern England, with a mixture of male and females being interviewed.
Home DIY Tasks to be Tackled
Initially each interviewee was questioned as to the home DIY tasks that he/she would tackle.
Of the tasks listed, painting a room was the most popular (59%), followed by wallpapering a room (48%).
Looking at the electrical tasks listed, the most popular was changing a plug (45%), followed by changing a fuse in the fuse box (25%).
Again focussing on electrical tasks, 3% stated that they would be prepared to tackle the re-wiring of the whole house and 7% would consider installing a burglar alarm system themselves.
A total of 144 people interviewed (29% of the sample) were not prepared to tackle any of the suggested home DIY tasks, possibly because they did not feel confident or educated enough to do so.
Each contact was then asked to select from the same list those tasks that they felt their partner would be prepared to tackle and the results were virtually identical. Wallpapering and painting a room were the top two non-electrical choices, and changing a plug and a fuse in the fuse box were the top two electrical choices. The least popular electrical tasks were also the same choices.
Electric Shocks whilst doing DIY
Worryingly, 12% of those interviewed stated that they had received an electrical shock whilst conducting DIY work. 48% of those who had received a shock, had done so on more than one occasion, perhaps indicating that they had not learned from their original mistake (i.e. shock). 61% of the sample had never received a shock and a further 27% never had the opportunity as they admitted that they did not do the DIY.
Drilling / Nailing through a Hidden Mains Electric Cable
Just over 12% of the sample interviewed admitted to drilling or nailing through a hidden mains electric cable either themselves or by their partner.
Opinions Towards Dangerous Home DIY
Each respondent was asked to highlight the three most dangerous types of DIY work in their opinion, from a pre-agreed list. There were obvious trends here with 87% of the sample mentioning electrical work as the most dangerous.
The next most commonly indicated dangerous task was working with gas (76%) followed by working up ladders (42%). At the bottom of the list, only 3% felt tiling and plastering were dangerous, followed by 4% wallpapering.
Feelings Towards Home DIY
30% of the sample interviewed stated that they felt that they lacked knowledge when doing DIY work around the home. 16% often wished they hadn’t started and 14% felt out of their depth. Although it may not seem a high percentage, a worrying 6% stated that, whilst completing home DIY tasks, they were worried that they may hurt or kill someone else.
Also 7% were worried that they might have an accident or even kill themselves. A total of 50 people (10%) mentioned one or more of the above two worries (hurt/kill themselves or others)
Feelings towards the Partner regarding DIY skills 10% of the respondents interviews stated that they felt stressed by their partner’s over-expectations of their DIY skills.
However, breaking down this statistic further, and eliminating those who never do any DIY or have no partner, it is actually 16% that feel stressed (looking only at those who actively do DIY and who have a partner).
Each interviewee was then questioned as to whether they ever worried about the possible consequences when their partner was attempting to do DIY. Again, removing those from the sample to whom the question was not applicable, 15% stated that they did worry.
Electrical Safety Awareness
Issues Discovered on Moving into a House
The sample was questioned as to whether they had discovered any house issues on moving into a property (read from a prompted list).
The most common house ailment was rotting windows (26%, followed by leaking pipes (26%) and rising damp (22%). Looking at the electrical issues listed, 16% had discovered bare wires and 15% cracked light fittings, switches or main sockets.
Electrical House Wiring
A worryingly high 40% of the sample claimed to have no idea as to the age of the wiring within their house. Of the remainder, 38% stated it to be 10 years old or under, 19% 10-30 years old and a final 3% over 30 years old.
When asked whether they knew how often house wiring should be checked by a qualified person, over 52% stated that they did not know.
Interestingly, taking those 26 individuals who claimed their house wiring was 30 years old or more, 50% had no idea as to how often their wiring should be checked.
Five reasons were read out as to why it is important to have house wiring regularly checked. Each respondent was asked to indicate as many reasons as they wanted. 68% said that faulty wiring may start a fire, followed by 33% who said insulation materials break down over time.
Interestingly 14% stated that none of the listed were reasons to have house wiring regularly checked.
Electrical Hazards within the Home
All 500 respondents sampled stated that they had one of five listed electrical hazards within their house.
Not one person stated that they had none from the list (list consisted of exposed bare wires, taped up bare wires, loose electrical cables, electrical extension cables with damaged insulation, electrical extension cables joined together). This is an extremely interesting statistic.
The most common electrical hazard admitted as being in their house was electrical extension cables joined together and covered by insulation tape (25%, closely followed by exposed bare wires (22%).
272 of the interviewees had children under 9 years old in the house. Of this sample, only 35% stated that they had a plug socket cover on unused plug sockets. 12% of the total sampled admitted to putting drinks on top of the microwave, 11% found themselves using a knife to get toast out of the toaster whilst it was still switched on, 11% put drinks on top of the television and 9% put a vase of flowers on top of the television.
Of the 157 who admitted to one of the four electrical “sins” above, 21 (13%) actually admitted to conducting 2 or more.
Multi-socket Extensions within the House
Within the kitchen, 63% admitted to using multi-extensions, with 38% of these using 3 or more extensions. Very interestingly one person admitted to have 13 multiextensions and a further person stated he/she had 18.
Within their bedroom, 71% admitted to using multi-extensions, with 16% of these using 3 or more extensions. 8 was the highest amount that was admitted to be used.
In the living room, a large 82% admitted to using them, with 23% of these using 3 or more extensions. 1 person stated that they had 16 multi-extensions within their living room.
In the children’s bedroom, only 28% stated that they used them, with 15% of these using 3 or more extensions. 1 person stated that they had 9 multi-extensions within their child’s bedroom. Lastly, an extremely worrying 117 people interviewed (23%) admitted to having one or more multi-extensions within their bathroom.
It is evident that a large number of people interviewed were happy to plug electrical heaters into the multi-extensions with 38% in the living room, 32% in their bedroom, 20% in the kitchen and a worrying 15% in the bathroom.
Other Hazardous Household Electrical Practices 49% of those questioned admitted to leaving plug sockets switched on in the kitchen when not in use and 29% stated that they pulled plugs out without switching off at the socket.
20% left unconnected cables plugged in and switched on whilst 14% added water to their steam iron whilst it was plugged in and switched on. 11% changed light bulbs without switching off at the socket and a further 11% admitted to taking mains electrical appliances into the bathroom. 7% used an electric lawnmower without an RCD and 5% left plug switches on in their children’s bedrooms whilst not in use. Not one of the 500 people interviewed stated that they did none of the above 8 hazardous practices. This is a very important statistic.
Knowledge of Electrics around the House
94% were aware of the location of their household fuse box and 92% knew how to switch off the power to it. 8% stated that they did not have a smoke detector however.
Household Gas Supply
Open ended questions were then asked relating to the household gas supply. In order to check whether their gas supply was safe, 297 (59%) respondents gave a suggested response such as calling a professional, phoning the gas board, turn off gas, etc. (for full list of responses, refer to statistical breakdown).
A fairly high 16% stated that they did not know how to check whether their gas supply was safe. If they were to suspect a leak, 302 (60%) of the sample made a suggestion as to how they would check whether there was one or not. 12% stated that they did not know how they would check the safety of their gas supply.
Treatment of Electric Shocks and Electrical Safety of the Home
Only 49% of the people interviewed state that they knew how to treat someone who had had an electrical shock. 89% of the sample were sure that their home was completely electrically safe, leaving 11% unsure.