Working for a company that sells PAT Testers and runs training courses; is extremely knowledgeable on all aspects relating to electrical safety in the workplace. You would think; as employees; our own homes would be as safe as houses and appliance safety would be paramount. Wrong! We have just been reminded of the importance of checking all of your portable  electrical appliances in the home.

My dishwasher stopped working. A complete pain, but in fairness it is 12 years old. So I decided to bite the bullet and replace it rather than have it repaired. On removing the dishwasher I was horrified to see the plug had burnt. It had actually burned into the back of the dishwasher. Thankfully there was no fire. As the dishwasher was installed so long ago, there is no one I can really complain to; but it really shook me – We all have old appliances that we rely on at home; this just shows how  important it is to carry out regular inspections around the home to look for signs of possible damage.

Steps to improve appliance safety

Check for the following:
  • Non-moulded plugs will be marked 13A. This means that any fuse up to a rating of 13 amps can be used in the plug. It does not mean that you should use a 13 amp fuse.
  • The fuse to be used is dependent on the manufacturer’s recommendation or the wattage.
  • Moulded plugs will be marked with the actual fuse rating to be used. If detachable leads are swapped make sure the fuse rating is correct for both the appliance and the moulded plug.
  • Check the plug is suitable for the job. Plugs should meet the BS 1363 as a minimum.
  • Damaged plugs should be replaced. Check for cracks. dents or rattles.
  • Overheating; brown burn marks are an indication that either; the socket is faulty, the plug has been wired incorrectly/loose or the incorrect fuse is being used. Regardless of the cause, all will need to be replaced including the socket, which would need to be replaced by an electrician.
  • Check the flexible cable is properly secured to the plug with no strain, but securely anchored to the plug. None of the internal wires should be visible.
  • A moulded plug should be checked thoroughly, you can give the cable a tug and twist to check for movement. If there is any, the plug should be replaced.
  • Tape of any kind should never be used to repair a wire/cord or socket. You must get an electrician to carry out a repair.
  • For non moulded plugs, check the plug is correctly wired.
    • –Brown is Live and need to be securely connected to the Live (right) pin
    • –Blue is neutral and should be securely connected to the neutral (left) pin
    • –In Class I (earthed) appliances, the earth is green and yellow and should be securely connected to the earth (middle or top) pin
  • Using a screwdriver check that the terminal screws are fastened securely.
  • Excessive insulation should not have been removed resulting in visible copper wires.
  • No loose strands should be visible as this could result in a poor connection and a short circuit.
  • Check all the cables in the plug are not strained or twisted.
  • Fuses should be securely gripped with no signs of overheating.
  • No alternative to a fuse should ever be used as this offers NO protection. E.g. foil or bolt/screw
  • A loose or disconnected earth wire means that a Class I appliance is not earthed and the appliance has no protection meaning that you are at risk of electrocution.
  • Where plugs have a cardboard guide over the plugs (in the case of new appliances) These should be removed as it may result in overheating due to a poor connection.
  • All standard 13amp plugs are required (by law) to conform to BS1363, which requires pins to be sleeved. As this legislation is not retrospective (i.e. Does not apply to any old plugs already in use, these may be left in place. However they should not be reused.
  • Ensure that the plug cover fits properly and will not come loose during use.appliance safety

You will see from the photographs that this appliance was hard wired into the socket, meaning that I could not check the plug. However, you will see from the use of tape, which has melted that there is a problem. Had I checked the socket from time to time, I would have been able to see that there was a problem and get an electrician in to sort it out. I was so lucky I didn’t have a fire as a result. Make appliance safety a priority in your home to avoid unnecessary risk.

If you need help finding an electrician, the charity Electrical safety first can help