With 78 per cent of their homes in disrepair (and 58 per cent requiring a critical repair), Scotland’s ageing population is at increasing electrical danger, according to a new report – Age Safe Scotland: Electrical Safety in an Ageing Population – by the charity, Electrical Safety First.
Around two thirds of domestic fires in Scotland arise from electricity – with many caused by electrical products – and older people are much more vulnerable to injury from electrical fires than other age groups.
Older people also tend to be owner-occupiers (72 per cent), living in homes built before 1982 that often lack important electrical safety features. Critically, Scotland’s quality standards for social housing and the private rented sector don’t apply to people who own the home that they live in.
The personal cost of electrical accidents cannot be calculated but Electrical Safety First found that injuries caused by an electrical fault costs Scottish taxpayers around £8.9 million each year. However, a third of this (£3 million) is spent on older adults – who only represent 18 per cent of the total population.
Director General of Electrical Safety First Phil Buckle said: “Over the last six years we have made over £90,000 available to care and repair agencies in Scotland, to improve electrical safety in older people’s homes. But as this report makes clear, there is much more that needs to be done to protect Scotland’s ageing population. We hope the Scottish Government will take note and act on its recommendations.”
Research from the charity has found that electrical safety is a key issue for families and carers when leaving a person with dementia on their own. However, electrical risk is not limited to those who live out their later years under their own roof. Scottish care homes are not legally required to carry out mandatory electrical safety checks.
In 2014-2015, there were 81 fires with an electrical source in Scottish care homes and the number of fires in the sector has increased over the last five years. Electrical Safety First’s report makes a series of recommendations to the Scottish Government, including a call for free, five-yearly electrical safety checks for all households with one person of pensionable age. It has also recommended mandatory checks in the social rented and care sectors and that Residual Current Devices (RCDs) – which rapidly cut the current to reduce the risk of electric shock – should be fitted to all PRS homes.
The call is supported by Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland: “We welcome this timely report as an opportunity to publicise the benefits of electrical safety checks for all. The personal and financial costs to domestic fires as a result of electrical dangers in the home cannot be allowed to continue to rise. We therefore urge the Scottish Government to take action now so that Scotland’s older people can enjoy safer, healthier and happier lives.”
To download a copy of the report, visit: www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/agesafescotland