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Homeowners' responsibility to comply with safety standards

The increased use of electrical appliances during winter significantly enhances the risk of an electrical fire occurring in South African residential homes. As a result, homeowners must ensure all electrical appliances, usage and supply comply with safety standards and that all insurance policies are up-to-date to cover possible financial losses before the colder months begin.
This is according to Nazeer Hoosen, executive director of PPS Short-term Insurance, who says besides the enormous personal safety risks that these fires present, homeowners could face the possibility of having their insurance claim repudiated if electrical connectivity is found to be non-compliant with regulations in the event of a claim.

Home seller must supply certificate

The Occupational Health and Safety Act (No 85 of 1993) stipulates that every electrical installation in a residential home must have an Electrical Certificate of Compliance (CoC) that is issued by a registered electrician. "It is the responsibility of the home seller to provide this certificate to the deeds office before transfer and once the certificate is obtained it does not expire; however, if alterations are performed to any electrical installation in the home a new certificate must be issued for that installation."

Any insurance claim resulting from a fire caused directly or indirectly by negligence or non-compliance to the requirements of the Act may be repudiated, says Hoosen. While there are no current local statistics, electrical fires present a real threat to South African homes, highlighting the importance of adequate preventative measures and compliance with industry standards.

Soot can damage whole house

The smoke and soot from a small fire located in one spot in the home can cause extensive damage throughout the entire home, resulting in the need for carpets, curtains and furniture to be replaced. Consider the added costs of accommodation while repairs are performed and homeowners can end up facing a huge financial loss should their insurance policy not cover the claim.

"Compliance with regulations governing electrical installations not only mitigates the chances of an insurance claim being rejected in the event of an electrical fire, but also ensures all electrical appliances are safe for the occupants of the home to use. Thus, it is vital that all homeowners check that the certificate is in place ahead of the cold winter months or they could face severe financial repercussions," concludes Hoosen.

Some tips: mitigate the threat of electrical fires in the home:

Educating all occupants of the home about the importance of practising safe usage of all electrical installations is key to mitigating the risk of electrical fires. Hoosen provides a few useful tips on how to mitigate the risk of electrical fires in the home:
1. Never use water to put out an electrical fire as water conducts electricity and can cause the fire to get larger. Rather use a CO2 fire extinguisher, every house should have one.
2. Always use a registered electrical contractor to work on electrical installations.
3. Avoid using several high-amperage appliances (such as irons or heat-producing appliances) on the same circuit.
4. Dimmed lights, reduced output from heaters, and poor television pictures can be symptoms of an overloaded circuit.
5. Avoid plugging two appliances in the same outlet or circuit if together they exceed 1000W. Examples of such appliances include: refrigerators, air conditioners, hot plates, irons, microwave ovens, dishwashers etc.
6. Clean the tumble dryer thoroughly as a blocked or dirty lint filter can catch fire or set fire to clothes inside the drum.
7. Be cautious when drilling holes or driving nails into walls, hitting or damaging electrical wires can cause a fire hazard.
8. When using an extension cord, be sure the extension cord's capacity matches or exceeds the appliance or device plugged into it. Feel the extension cord while it's in use; if it is warm or hot, replace it with a cord of greater capacity. [Editor: It is also a good idea to unreel the cord completely during its use.]
9. Do not use extension cords that are frayed or cracked or coiled up and never run extension cords under rugs or carpets.
10. Install light bulbs with wattages that are equal to or below any fixture's maximum wattage.
11. Dispose of or repair appliances or devices that blow fuses or trip circuit breakers.
12. Never leave a pan cooking on an electric stove unattended.

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