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Cheap chargers could be a fire risk


Gloucestershire's Trading Standards and Fire & Rescue Services are warning people of the dangers of using cheap electrical chargers following recent incidents.

Batteries or chargers without overload protection can overheat, leading not only to electrocution and burns, but they can explode causing serious house fires, with tragic circumstances.

Many of these chargers are bought online and come direct from China. Often they are made with poor quality components and fail to meet UK safety regulations.

In a past survey carried out by trading standards, with funding from the Electrical Safety Council, 25 electrical items supplied from China were subjected to basic electrical safety checks by an engineer. None of the 25 appliances passed the tests applied and while some were minor failures due to labelling and markings, 22 of the items failed on issues that could be serious and were considered unsafe.

Since then the amount of technology people own has vastly increased with 1.8 million mobile phone chargers bought online in the UK each year and an estimated 2.1 million people now using e-cigarettes in Great Britain.

Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure said, "A Stroud resident recently had a lucky escape when an e-cigarette battery exploded in the kitchen while being charged, setting fire to a nearby roll of kitchen paper.

"By remarkable co-incidence Gloucestershire Fire & Rescue Service was  carrying out a 'Safe & Well' visit at an adjacent property and a firefighter was on hand to quickly put the fire out before it had a chance to spread."

Andy Hermiston, deputy chief fire officer and head of trading standards said, "Consumers need to be aware that they can be put at risk of injury when electrical devices are purchased from a seller outside of the UK and European Union.

"We urge people to buy electrical items from a reputable source and check that they have a British or European safety mark.

"Remember, if things go wrong, a trader outside the UK is unlikely to be held to account or face legal action."

Gloucestershire's Trading Standards and Fire and Rescue Service offer the following advice:

  • Only use reputable or original manufacturer devices and electrical cables.
  • Use the correct charger supplied with the device not a USB port on a computer. There is always the risk that part of the battery management system is included in the main charger, and this will not be present in a generic USB socket.
  • Never leave the device charging unattended - especially overnight.
  • Don't leave appliances charging for long periods of time, devices do not take long to charge and should be removed from the power source once charged.
  • Don't charge a battery that looks like it could have been damaged or dropped.
  • Don't cover items when you are charging them as they emit heat.
  • Don't overload extension cables with multiple appliances, it's advised to use one plug per socket.
  • Make sure you have a smoke alarm fitted in the home and regularly test it.

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