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Parents are endangering children’s lives with a lack of electrical safety

‘Nesting’ parents are putting their families’ lives at risk when preparing the home for children through a misplaced reliance on socket covers and a worrying lack of other electrical safety protection, according to the Electrical Safety Council (ESC). Naturally, the study found that electrical safety is of paramount concern to parents. Of all child safety measures taken by parents, socket covers are the most common with 62% of parents[i] using them.

Parents are endangering children’s lives with a lack of electrical safety action

However, regular sockets are generally safe and socket covers will not prevent electric shock if the installation is not safe.

The only way to be safe from a fatal electric shock and reduce the risk of fire is to ensure an installation is safe and that there is an RCD in the fusebox that prevents fatal electric shocks and minimises the risk of fire. Worryingly, only 38% of new parents’ homes are adequately protected by this device; well below the national average for homes with RCD protection (50%). This is a particular cause for concern as around three quarters (74%) of parents feel that they have taken appropriate steps to ensure the safety of their children in the home.

Electrical safety is a serious problem in the UK. At least one person dies each week in their own home, while 350,000 people are seriously injured annually[ii]. Electrical accidents also cause almost half of all house fires. [iii]

The absence of RCD protection increases the likelihood of injury or death, compounded by the fact that 67% of new parents undertake DIY in preparation for their child, with 45% drilling into walls or using power tools. Almost a fifth of young parents (17%) admitted to attempting DIY without being confident of safety.

Kristine, 30, from London, was lucky to survive her electrical accident when she was doing DIY to prepare her home for her first child. She said: “I was re-plastering the wall and didn’t realise the mains were still on, the wet plaster gave me a shock that could have killed me. I just didn’t realise how important RCD protection was until the accident, not only for protecting my daughter once she was crawling and sticking her finger where she shouldn’t, but also to protect myself for her sake.”

Almost half of young parents (45%) said they felt overwhelmed when it comes to ensuring the safety of their children. Their predominant focus on socket covers could stem from pressure from the parenting community to buy these devices, which is leading them to misguided and simplistic decisions. The research found that 28% of new parents felt that pressure from retailers led to buying safety products, while 25% said that parent peer pressure was a factor. The ESC is appealing to the parenting community to take responsibility for educating new parents about real electrical dangers and the importance of an RCD.

Phil Buckle, Director General of the Electrical Safety Council, said: “We have found that new parents have a worrying lack of knowledge about electrical safety issues. We aim to raise awareness of the hazards in the home and the simple steps that parents can take to both ensure the safety of their family and pass on this knowledge to their children as they grow up.

We are also challenging product manufacturers and parenting media to offer parents key electrical safety advice, instead of offering socket covers as a ‘one stop’ solution. We are not saying parents shouldn’t have socket covers, but they must do more than that as inquisitive children could remove these products. The only way to be sure of protecting your children from the range of electrical dangers in the home is with RCD protection.”

[i] Parents of children aged 0-10
[ii] Data supplied by the Department of Communities and Local Government, 11/02/10.
[ii] Compilation of government statistics. See:

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