Electrical safety ignorance 'puts millions at risk'
Millions of people in the UK risk death or injury because of their ignorance about household electricity, the Electrical Safety Council has said.
A survey of more than 2,000 people for the charity highlighted common risks.
It suggested people used faulty plugs or sockets and tried to mend devices which were still plugged in.
Each week on average, at least one person dies from household electrical accidents, and annually 350,000 people are injured, the ESC said.
The warning comes as the ESC launches a free smartphone app to raise awareness.
"Even though we are using more electrical products than ever before, there is a worrying gap between the public's perception of electrical danger and the reality, with people making simple yet potentially fatal errors that can be easily prevented," said ESC director general Phil Buckle.
Kent householder Ryan Bennett awoke one night to find his house full of smoke from an electrical fire:
"I couldn't find anything burning but when I went to the fusebox under the stairs that's where the smoke was coming from, so I told the family to get out.
"The fire brigade said we were lucky to be alive as the gas pipes were underneath our electrical box.
"When I looked the stairs, that caused a backdraught which put the flames out; otherwise we could have died.
"It's the most terrifying thing you can go through. My kids slept with their lights on for the next month, they were so scared, and it still scares us to go under the stairs.
"It was a year ago and I've still got to build up courage to get things out of there and redecorate it."
ESC research shows that 49% of accidental house fires are caused by electricity, despite 88% of the population owning smoke alarms.
On the basis of the survey's findings, the ESC estimates that more 12 million people a year in the UK could be knowingly using faulty plugs or sockets, and 1.5 million may ignore burning smells coming from an appliance or socket.
The new ESC app "can be used any time in your home," said Mr Buckle.
"It can also be used as a basic tool when viewing accommodation, whether you are planning to buy or rent. Landlords too, should find it useful, as it will allow them to review their properties to ensure tenant safety."
The app for iPhone and Android phones allows people to do a quick, visual check on a home's electrical safety. It highlights potential dangers in each room and explains how to resolve simple, non-technical problems.
Where more serious issues are flagged, people are advised to use a registered electrician.