We often hear about product recalls for the electrical items we use at home but have you considered electrical items in the workplace or even office furniture being a fire hazard? It wouldn’t seem like there would be much danger in the day-to-day life at your workplace as normally we don’t sit at our desk with a few candles going or try to cook a full roast in the workplace kitchen but there are risks that we need to consider.
What Can Be Affected?
All offices and workplaces are different although the electrical items you will use and see will tend to be very similar. From your computers, laptops, monitors, CPU’s, printers, photocopiers, lamps and lights, extension leads to even your modest kettle and other kitchen appliances – all these could develop a fault and pose a fire risk. A fire in the workplace can have an overwhelming impact on business with loss of stock, data and even lives and some companies never recover from a serious blaze.
Electrical Safety Council Statistics
The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) has found that the average success rate of a recall is just 10% – 20%. Many people ignore the recall as they deem it too inconvenient and decide that they can’t be without the faulty product for any length of time. However, if you are in a workplace, you cannot afford to take these risks as there are other employees and customers who could be affected if anything were to go wrong. ESC also confirms that 40% of adults don’t know where to find information on recalled products and 28% don’t know how to return a recalled product.
So, are you one of those people who don’t know where to find out such information and would you know if any of the items listed you use at work have been recalled by the manufacturer? Within the last 6 years, there has been 266 electrical product recalls and as manufacturers often produce hundreds of thousands of units, it is likely that there are millions of products still being used that threaten our safety every day.
The government provides guidance and product safety for manufacturers and state under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, all products must be ‘fit for purpose’, be of satisfactory quality and fits its description. There is a wide list of products which must bear the CE marking if sold in either the EU or European Economic area (EEA). This includes but is not limited to the following – many of which can be found in the workplace: –
• Electrical products
• Construction products
• Telecommunications equipment
• Machinery, equipment and safety components
• Personal protective equipment (PPE)
The letters ‘CE’ are the abbreviation of the French phrase ‘Conformite Europeene’ which literally means ’European Conformity’. The CE mark is a manufacturers’ claim that its product meets with specified essential safety requirements set out in relevant European directives. Although items are sold with the CE Marking, it is possible for the product to develop a fault after being sold. Products are recalled for several reasons but when it comes to electrical items, it would be due to the risk of electric shock or electrical fire.
Companies who identify a product that has a problem which could affect the safety of the user will need to recall the item. This means that the user should stop using the item immediately and returned to either the place where the item was purchased from or the original manufacturer.
The Recall Process
To check the status of any electrical products (or other potential fire hazards such as soft furnishings in the workplace), there are many different sources that can be used.
The Electrical Safety Council have a simple search function that you can check here – www.esc.org.uk/recall. If your items are not listed then it is not posed a risk. Alternatively, Trading Standard’s (LINKwww.tradingstandards.uk/consumers/product-recalls) have a list of all the items that the manufacturers have recalled over the past 10 years. Or many of the manufacturers will have this information on their own websites.
Early in 2017, HP recalled over 100,000 laptop batteries due to overheating issues which could cause computer damage or even a fire risk. This isn’t the first-time HP has been affected by fire-related recalls. HP was forced to recall six million laptop cords back in 2014, due to reports of overheating.
Prevention – Registering your Product
A simple way of monitoring all the electrical products being used within the workplace is to register them when purchased brand new. This will let the manufacturer know their whereabouts should an issue arise in the future and it turns out the item is faulty or dangerous. You should normally find details of how to register your product with the instructions.
If you have had the item for a while, it may still be possible to register the product without the original paperwork and/or receipt. To register the product, you will usually need the following information: –
The brand name
The model of the item
Any serial numbers
The date of purchase (or as near as possible)
Most major manufacturers will have an area on their main website where you can register products. You can go online and use the search engine to locate the registration form or alternatively, you can go to www.registermyappliance.org.uk which give links to several domestic appliances manufacturers.
In summary, it is worth reminding yourself and your colleagues to check out the everyday items you use. You want to be sure that the laptop you are currently using doesn’t overheat whilst charging on that meeting room chair or that funky desk lamp doesn’t self-combust and set alight the mass of paperwork on your desk. Now that wouldn’t be a good day at the office!