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3 essential electrical safety tips for new students

Living away from home for the first time is an exciting, invigorating, and pretty daunting experience. While your first days at uni will be the time of your life, living away from your parents also comes with a new set of challenges.

Aside from cooking and cleaning, one thing we take for granted is our parents’ knowledge of how to keep us safe. Electrical safety, in particular, is something not many first-time students know a lot about, but electrical accidents are extremely common in the UK.

From minor shocks, to serious injuries, and even fires, there are big risks associated with mismanaging electricity. Despite this, the majority of electrical accidents can be easily prevented, and following these three essential tips will be a big help in keeping you safe in your first few years away from home.

1. Avoid overloading your plug sockets

Squeezing all of your belongings into the back of your parents’ car is a big first step on your uni journey - it’s amazing just how much stuff you have! Once you unpack and start setting up your new room, you’ll find that a lot of your belonging have a power source.

Games consoles, TVs, phones, computers, tablets - all of these electrical gadgets need to be plugged in. It’s vital, however, that you don’t overload plug sockets, with this common mistake leading to a huge number of household fires every year.

It’s easy to avoid this risk by checking the limitations of both your appliances and extension leads. When buying an extension lead, be sure to check its current rating, and make sure the various appliances running through it do not exceed this capacity.

Also try to avoid using block adaptors (the big square ones), which are cheap, but not very safe. Longer, multiway extension leads are a better option, and there are plenty of affordable ones on the market.

2. Use branded chargers

In addition to your bigger devices, you will no doubt bring a few portable ones to uni with you, and probably a few different chargers as well.

The huge numbers of mobile devices on the market now means that more and more replacement chargers are needed. In fact, 30 million mobile phone chargers are bought every year, with 1.8 million of these purchased online.

Particularly for students, while replacing broken chargers with cheap online alternatives makes financial sense, this should be avoided as many of these are poorly made and potentially dangerous.

During rigorous testing of various chargers purchased online, the charity Electrical Safety First found that none met government approved safety requirements.

To ensure your chargers are safe, only use branded ones that carry a CE mark, which means that the product meets EU safety regulations. Checking that the output voltage for the charger matches the device will also reduce the risk of overheating and fire.

3. Check your plugs

Over time, electrical equipment picks up wear and tear, and so it’s extremely important to regularly check that your plugs are in good working order.

Fortunately, this is not a complicated task, and may potentially save lives - particularly in crowded halls. Check your plugs for obvious problems, such as scorch marks on the plug socket or sparks, which indicate that an appliance is overheating.

If you find any of these warning signs then you should check the wiring. The diagram below shows the different wires within plug cables:

image description

Image courtesy of

If you see any damage to these internal wires, then it’s important to unplug the device immediately and ask your halls for professional help. These are all straight-forward steps, but following them will ensure you can enjoy your first year at uni safe from electrical accidents.

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