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More than half of the UK public do not know what RCD protection is, research shows

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In recent weeks, the UK has basked in some glorious weather, with the public finally able to enjoy it as Covid-19 restrictions ease. That means people have been spending their time outdoors, relishing in the sun with family and friends, tidying up their gardens and relaxing in hot tubs. However, due to this, more people tend to bring electrical equipment outside, creating a risk for electrical accidents. 

To find out more, Technique Learning Solutions surveyed the UK public – the research looked into what items are brought outside, how they are powered and also the public’s knowledge of RCD protection.

This research revealed that more than 85% of respondents use electrical equipment outdoors, with almost 30% claiming they always do. The most popular way to power these items was by plugging a normal extension lead into a socket inside the house, bringing it outside. Shockingly, more than 11% of the public plugged electrical items into indoor sockets and trailed wires outside via doors and windows – this can be extremely dangerous as there is a possibility of wires becoming trapped and damaged or cut, resulting in an exposed live wire and increasing the risk of electric shock.

As for which items were used outdoors, the most popular according to the survey was extension leads, followed by garden tools and speakers. Some people even admitted to bringing TVs and irons outside. There are a wide range of electrical items used outdoors during summer, all of which come with their own risks – some of these include:

  • Lawnmowers and hedge trimmers are possibly the most common electric garden tools. People tend to begin fixing up their gardens as early as April when the weather is still uncertain. Lawnmowers cause 6,500 accidents per year in the UK, making them the most dangerous gardening tool. Cutting live wires is a huge cause of electric shock, damages wires and can even cause death in some extreme cases.
  • Hot tubs, Jacuzzis and heated pools are a luxury that some of the UK public have started to enjoy – hot tub sales were massively up during the UK lockdown. Although most of these items tend to be wired up by experts, they still bring risks that homeowners may miss or not be aware of.
  • The garden often becomes a secondary living space in Summer, tempting Brits to bring mains-powered entertainment equipment outside, such as TVs and speakers. It can be extremely dangerous to bring any mains powered items outdoors – especially with how unpredictable the British weather can be.

The most common hazard associated with using electrical equipment outdoors is electric shock. One way to protect against this, and other electrical accidents, is with RCD protection. Whilst the majority, if not all, of the electrical industry are aware of RCD protection and the importance of it, many of the public aren’t and therefore may be unknowingly risking their safety when using electricals, indoors and outdoors.

Technique’s survey revealed that just under half of respondents had no idea if their plugs were RCD protected, whilst 17% said their plugs were not protected. As shocking as it may be to see that so many people don’t know if they have RCD protection, the survey also revealed that more than half don’t even know what RCD protection is, explaining why so many aren’t sure if they have it.

RCD protection is extremely important to have in all outlets and sockets, it protects against situations where earthing faults can cause fire or electrocution as they automatically shut down power if any fault is present. Electric shock can happen if the casing is broken, supply flex to the appliance is cut or damaged, liquid has come into contact with the appliance etc. To provide additional protection against shock, the RCD must be rated 30mA or less, higher-rated will not provide additional protection. RCD protection can also be fitted onto a fuse board which will protect one or more sockets on a circuit, you can also fit individual sockets with integral RCD protection.

To protect the public’s safety in their home and workplace, the industry needs to educate them on a range of electrical topics, specifically RCD protection, warning signs, prevention and risks. Those already in the industry are competent and knowledgeable enough to advise the public, however, electricians should continue to train and upskill throughout their career to stay up to date with any new regulations or qualifications and provide the best possible advice.

An easy way to provide information and advice is to simply speak to customers whilst working on current jobs. Keep an eye out for any risks in the home, ask clients questions and make recommendations. For example, if it’s a sunny day and you see they have speakers outside, ask how they power them and recommend an outdoor socket, or an outdoor extension lead, explaining how this can benefit them and keep risks low. It’s also important to explain risks to ensure they understand just how serious it can be if electrical items are not used safely and correctly or are without RCD protection.

Social media is a great way to reach new customers, as well as existing ones. There are a range of benefits to the electrical industry using social media, the main ones being able to share services and gain new work, but it is also a great way to spread information quickly to a wide audience. A few ideas on how to share information regarding outdoor safety, and electrical safety, in general, could be:

  • A written status reminding people to be careful with their electrical equipment during the warmer months. This could include tips such as purchasing outdoor extension leads, checking all sockets are RCD protected, what items to NEVER bring outdoors etc. 
  • Share images that showcase risks and warning signs. This could be an image of a wire trailing through a window, damaged sockets and plugs, a lawn mower wire being dangerously close to being cut.
  • Share articles and statistics regarding electrical accidents and how they were caused – people may not realise something as simple as using a lawnmower can come with such big risks if not careful, sharing the dangers and showing how often they happen may help people be more aware and think twice.
  • Sharing anything visual tends to catch people’s attention and encourage them to engage – creating or sharing an infographic with information, tips, or warnings is a great way to inform the public.

If you have a website, you could write a blog post sharing information and advice for website visitors to read – the blog could also be shared on social media to reach a wider audience. If you haven’t got a dedicated person to write blogs for you, or create infographics, you could always ask a relevant company to work with you on this – this could involve them writing a blog for your website, including a link back to them to give credit, there are also existing infographics around that are usually fine to use on your website as long as credit is given.

If the industry shares important information such as risks, advice, and protection tips, it can help the public be more careful, spot dangers and hire electricians to install any possible safety precautions (outdoor sockets, RCD etc.) It also shows existing and potential customers that you are knowledgeable, competent, reliable and care. However, whilst the electrical industry can try and speak to customers regarding sockets and outlets, in particular, a lot of the time these are bought by the customer from certain DIY stores, so it can be argued that providing information and safety advice is down to these companies too.

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