Don’t be shocked
- JustHere Qatar
- On March 28, 2013
In 2011, more than 1,000 incidents of fire were reported in Doha, according to figures from Qatar Statistical Authority. And from the cases that were solved, it was learnt that the leading cause of most of these fires was related to electrical faults. One of the biggest tragedies to strike Doha—the Villagio Mall fire—was again caused due to faulty electrical wiring.
Not all of us are electricians or understand electricity. What can we do to keep our homes safe?
JustHere sits down with John Skelhorn, the Maintenance Supervisor at Sidra Medical and Research Center for a lesson on electrical safety.
Here are John’s top 9 ways to save you from the shock:
1. Check your distribution board.
All distribution boards should be fitted with a safety protection device called residual current device (pictured) for each of the socket outlet circuits. This device trips in 30 milliseconds, drastically reducing the chance of an electrical shock and injury. To test if it’s functioning well, press the ‘T’ button, and it should trip. It’s advisable to test the device regularly.
2. Get your distribution board labelled.
It is important to know which Circuit Breaker (these usually have a label of MCB/RCD/RCBO) on the board powers which circuit (lighting/sockets/air conditioners, etc). “If switches are not labelled, you end up switching off all the buttons on the board to find out which circuit is at fault. This could disrupt the settings of devices such as air conditioners that may have to be reset again.”
3. Be gentle with adaptors.
If you have a single socket on the wall, and you want to use a kettle, food mixer and microwave at the same time, the easiest way round is to plug all three appliances in one adaptor. This is not advisable because the adaptors tend to be of poor quality which will melt (pictured) with this excessive load.
The best alternative for adaptors are to dispose of them and use double sockets as they can hold two high load devices, if you must use more than two devices at once then a good quality adaptor/extension lead is preferable. Ask your electrician to change single sockets at home into good quality double sockets.
4. Don’t overload extension leads.
One extension lead can hold a maximum of 13amps. Connecting too many high power devices to one extension lead can lead to the extension lead’s “Fuse” blowing cutting power off to all attached devices. This does not mean there is a fault but that you have overloaded the circuit. Poor quality devices have a tendency to become hot, melt and there is a real possibility of a fire occurring. Always connect the device with the highest power such as the TV to the socket on the wall, while the lesser power devices can be connected to the extension lead.
Also, never plug another extension lead into an extension lead, or use adaptors, The best practice is to cut that plug off and replace it with a good quality 3 pin type that can be inserted directly into the extension lead. Ask a qualified electrician for assistance if there is any doubt
5. When the appliance is fitted with a two-pin or a 3-round pin plug.
Never force fit a two-pin plug into a three-pin socket. “Most people would take a pencil or screwdriver to fit the plug in. This should be avoided as children might try doing the same thing and get injured. Preferably change this for a good quality three-(square) pin plug, again if in doubt ask a qualified electrician for assistance.
6. Power plugs.
There are two guidelines that will tell you if a plug is of good quality:
- Plugs having a British Standard (BS) code on them are recommended. It preferably should be rubberised, so even if you drop them on the floor, it won’t crack.
- All three pin plugs are fused, usually with a 13A fuse (pictured), if you can derate the fuse to the correct rating (as previously discussed). Also remembering that your RCD on your distribution board is your main source of circuit protection.
7. Question your electrician.
According to John, one of the biggest issues in Qatar is competency of the electricians. “Many of the blue-collared workers who land in Qatar May not have received adequate training. They could be an electrician one day, and something else the next. Companies don’t want to spend on training these workers for the right job.”
One way of judging a competent electrician is by asking him for how long has he been working as an electrician, they will be confident with their answers and then watch the way he works and uses his tools. If you are in doubt or feel they are not working in a safe manner you are quite within your rights to ask him to stop and request his manager/supervisor be present. Your families safety should always come first.
8. Stretch your budget.
“Safety is not something that should be compromised. People/children have been burned, disfigured or worst die due to incidents caused by electrical faults/fires.” Please always use good quality electrical appliances, yes they are more expensive, but what price is your families safety.
“The ones that you find in local hypermarkets in Qatar are usually not of good quality. Preferably appliances from European countries or North American are recommended as they have stricter safety/quality regulations.”
A basic guideline regardless of the shop is to look for the appliance/equipment to have a countries standard printed/etched for you to inquire or investigate further if in doubt.
9. Fit smoke detectors.
It’s the best way to be aware of any electrical faults at home, and check them regularly.
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