Belfast Telegraph

Revealed... the shocking way we take our lives in our hands around the home

By Noel McAdam

Householders in Northern Ireland are taking unnecessary and potentially deadly risks — even when doing the gardening.

A safety body has warned people planning to cut the grass following the recent spate of summer wet spells: “You could be taking your life in your hands.”

A survey it conducted found that less than half of gardeners in the greater Belfast area use power cut-off devices, despite damp ground and increased surface water.

The research by the Electrical Safety Council showed just 42% use the safety devices that cost around £10 in hardware and electrical stores and prevent the significant danger of potentially fatal electricity surges.

But the shock statistics from the independent group funded by central and local Government also revealed:

  • 10% of people in Belfast have knowingly used faulty plugs or sockets — one of the three worst areas in the UK.
  • Only 6% of people in Belfast are concerned about having an electrical accident, compared to 8% who are worried about having a plane crash.
  • More than one in three (36%) have never checked that their sockets are not overloaded.

Most worryingly, the last figure is the highest level in the UK, the council disclosed.

A spokesman said: “Overloaded sockets can lead to accidents with electricity and fires. Overloading a socket can lead to overheating and the possibility of house fires.

“The message is that people are being careless and should be aware of risks, especially when using tools outdoors.

The ESC said its findings come from Ipsos MORI’s weekly face-to-face omnibus survey Capibus, in which a total of 1,997 interviews were conducted.

The ESC found that the risk of injury from power tools such as mowers is exacerbated by a complacency towards electrical safety outdoors, with almost a third of people (32%) storing mains-powered tools uncovered and a quarter (28%) not checking leads or plugs for damage before use — both of which are important during a spell of damp weather.

ESC spokesman Anneke Rousseau said: “The prospect of some sunshine will be welcome news to many gardeners.

“However, there are too many who don’t think about electrical safety and are putting themselves at serious risk. Everybody knows that electricity and water are a lethal combination and we urge gardeners to have adequate RCD (residual current device) protection before using power tools outside.

“If you don’t have RCD protection in your fusebox, a plug-in device only costs £10 and it could save your life.”

The comments came as gardeners are expected to hit the outdoors with the anticipated dry spell ahead.

Light winds and spells of sunshine with a maximum temperature around 19C are expected to predominate — ideal gardening weather. But the ESC is urging frustrated gardeners to “think safety” before hurrying out to mow lawns and trim hedges with electrical equipment at the first sight of the sun.

Factfile

  • Only 42% of people in Belfast use devices preventing potentially fatal electric shocks when using outdoor tools.
  • 10% of people in Belfast have knowingly used faulty plugs or socket.
  • Only 6% of Belfast people fear an electrical accident, whereas 8% fear a plane crash.
  • 36% of people have never checked that their sockets are not overloaded.

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