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Last updated: 09/07/2018, 6:17 PM

Londoners warned of potential fire hazard lurking under the stairs

30/06/2014 00:00
Safety warnings

New regulations announced today will help tackle the rising number of house fires started by fuse boards but London Fire Brigade warns more needs to be done.

Around five London house fires a week* are caused by fuse boards (consumer units) which is a fivefold rise in just 5 years. The increase is thought to be because many homes have fuse boards with components which are subject to a product recall. Another major source of these fires are wires that  not being properly secured when the consumer unit is being installed or worked on.
Moreover, manufacturers have shifted to mainly using moulded plastics for the casings of consumer units, instead of metal or rigid plastics like Bakelite which were used previously and which have much more flame retardance.
Worse still, many fuse boards are located under the stairs so a fire starting in faulty wiring could spread  to coats and other household items meaning the fire goes undetected until it’s too late. 
LFB have been working with Electrical Safety First and the manufacturers’ association (BEAMA(opens in a new window)) to get a new regulation  introduced into the wiring regulations  to improve fire safety in the home and to highlight the risk of fire. 
It is expected that the new regulation which will come into force in January 2015 will mean that all fuse boards fitted in UK homes will have to be made of fireproof material or be in a special fireproof box. While the Brigade is pleased with this expected change it is still concerned about the badly installed fuse boxes in London’s homes.  
LFB along with the Electrical Safety First (ESF) are urging people to check their fuse boards for damaged or kinked wires. Home owners and landlords should also check their fuse board brand is not on the ESF’s recall list. 

London Fire Brigade Deputy Commissioner Rita Dexter said:
“We are pleased with the new regulations as the Brigade has long argued that new fuse boards in the home should be more robust. Manufacturers will now be obliged to stop using moulded plastics for the casings which are not especially flame retardant.
“However, the problem remains that in many homes across London, poorly wired or faulty fuse boards pose a significant fire hazard that is often out of sight and out of mind.”
Electrical Safety First’s Head of Electrotechnical, Martyn Allen, said:
“We are really pleased to see that our on-going efforts to help improve fire safety in the home are achieving some success.”
London Fire Brigade and the Electrical Safety First have produced tips for checking the safety of your fuse board.
•             Check your fuse board regularly for signs of physical damage. 
•             Check that any visible cables are in good condition and do not show signs of overheating.
•             Be careful never to touch exposed or damaged wiring in case it is live.
•             If you see scorch marks, damaged wires or signs of overheating, you should get the board inspected by a registered electrician.
•             If your fuse board is under the stairs or next to your front door, make sure coats, shoes and other combustible items you store in those areas are placed well away.

The change will form part of the electrical installation regulations (BS7671) which are reviewed every three years under the BSI committee JPEL64.
*LFB fire records where a consumer unit was identified as the source of ignition.
In 2012/4 253 LFB recorded fires where a consumer unit was identified as the source of ignition.
 Number of fires

  • 2005/06 - 27
  • 2006/07 - 28
  • 2007/08 - 33
  • 2008/09 - 21
  • 2009/10  54
  • 2010/11 - 73
  • 2011/12 - 71
  • 2012/13 - 220
  • 2013/14 - 253