Although European countries have advanced standards to ensure the safety of domestic electrical installations, their application is generally reserved for new electrical installations. In order to improve the safety of old electrical installations, the solutions observed so far are to establish reference guides and methods for safety and to carry out periodic inspections, pushing for building renovation and informing occupants about the risks of their old electrical installations.
European Union countries therefore face a major challenge in regard to domestic electrical safety, especially as the number of hazardous installations is expected to rise if nothing is done. In response to this, models of cooperation have emerged in some countries. The effectiveness of the resulting solutions is still subject to an important preliminary step: to improve the statistical knowledge on the state of the old domestic electrical installations and their consequences, particularly in terms of fires.
In this context, the Forum for European Electrical Domestic Safety (FEEDS), to which EuropeOn is a contributor, along with FISUEL, the copper institute, the European Fire Safety Alliance (EFSA), ANEC and many more, has released a comprehensive report titled “Residential Electrical safety – How to ensure progress”. This report has been updated and made more comprehensive, after the first version from 2017.
Statistics from a number of European countries reveal that electrical fires account for 25 – 30% of all domestic fires, an increase of 5 – 10% in the last 10 years. The total number of fires of electrical origin in the EU is estimated to be 273,000 per year. Their consequences are dramatic in terms of fatalities, injuries and the economic cost to society. These figures could rise in the coming years because of ageing buildings.
The European Commission sent a strong signal to the Member States with its revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive in2018. It advocates the development of national policies for safety inspections and upgrading domestic electrical installations as part of more extensive programs to renovate old buildings.
Furthermore, the upcoming Renovation Wave strategy should encourage a higher rate of maintenance on electrical installations.
This new report makes a series of recommendations, among which are:
- mandatory technical requirements for domestic electrical installations at national level (“wiring rules”)
- regular check on whether European standards pertaining to electrical installations have been updated, and to update national rules accordingly
- initial safety inspections at every new installation, carried out by qualified persons.
- periodic inspections of existing installations, ideally at least every 10 years, or triggered by a change in owners or tenants, or by insurance companies. Inspections should be carried out according to a reference checklist and carried out by qualified persons.
- Inspection reports to be provided to the owner identifying any unsafe parts of an installation. Reports should remain on the premises as official documents.
- Awareness and prevention campaigns to disseminate facts and statistics on electric shocks and electrically induced fires
- Awareness and prevention campaigns to provide information on the risks of an unsafe electrical installation
- Awareness and prevention campaigns to promote qualified electrical installers
The first positive results regarding the improvement in rate of renovation or safety of old electrical installations appear in the countries where the statistical quantification of the phenomenon has been carried out. In those countries, measures have been taken to generalise the assessment of the old electrical installations and to inform their owner about this condition. Where public policies in that direction have been the subject of a cost-benefit assessment, they have in any case proved positive, both for the parties concerned and for the community as a whole.
In parallel, the Forum for European Electrical Domestic Safety (FEEDS) has launched an online communication campaign with 10 key recommendations to keep you safe at home during the COVID-19 lockdown. These tips are, for example: “don’t charge electrical devices on sofas and beds, but only on hard, flat surface”, “don’t leave hobs and oven unattended”, “electricity and liquid don’t mix!”, “don’t buy fake products, only CE marked products”.
To read FEEDS comprehensive report on Residential electrical safety: HERE