New report by Swansea University and Electrical Safety First states older people in Wales are more at risk of electrical fires and accidents

A joint report from Swansea University and charity Electrical Safety First has found that older people in Wales are disproportionately at risk of experiencing an electrical fire in their homes, with people aged 80 and over at least four times more likely than any other age group to be a casualty in an electrical fire.

‌How Can We Keep Older People in Wales Safe? was prepared by Associate Professor Dr Sarah Hillcoat‚ÄźNallétamby and Dr. Alexandra Sardani, Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research(CADR)/Centre for Innovative Ageing (CIA) at Swansea University, in association with Electrical Safety First. The report found more than half of accidental house fires in Wales are caused by electricity, with faulty or misused appliances a major cause. Its ageing society means that the number of people aged 80 or more is projected to double by 2035 and an estimated 50,000 people aged 65 or over could be living with dementia in Wales by 2025, with problems of memory loss associated with the condition increasing the risk of electrical accidents in the home.

Older people understandably want to stay living independently in their own homes for as long as possible. However, concerns about the cost of repairs and a lack of awareness of electrical risks can lead to people living in homes that have major electrical safety hazards.

Around 80% of older people in Wales own their own homes, most of which are older properties that have never had an electrical safety check. Older people are also likely to use older electrical appliances and rely on electric heaters and blankets, particularly in the winter, without having any fire safety equipment.

Dr Sarah Hillcoat-Nalletamby, Associate Professor of Public Health, Policy and Social Sciences at Swansea University, said, “Our research contribution to the ESF report has been important for several reasons, but for me, what it shows yet again is that older people are not a homogenous group and so have very different requirements regarding electrical safety depending on their age. It's good to see that our research contribution has gone directly to Welsh Government."

There is an inequality in the way that electrical safety is legislated, depending on the tenure of a property. Whilst the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) specifies minimum requirements for safe housing in the social sector, there is no legal obligation for owner occupiers to maintain their installations or check electrical appliances, and only a recommendation for five-yearly electrical checks in privately rented properties.

The new report recommends that:

  • Local authorities work with care providers to carry out additional home visits to people aged over 80 in order to identify risks and prevent electrical fires and accidents
  • Current initiatives undertaken by fire and rescue services for free home fire safety checks in Wales must be expanded with a focus on electrical hazards
  • Regulations for five-yearly electrical safety checks must be introduced in the private and social rented sectors in Wales
  • The Welsh Government considers funding a scheme to provide free five-yearly home electrical safety checks for people aged over 80, regardless of the tenure of their property. This would cost a maximum of £5million each year.

Elderly HandsRobert Jervis-Gibbons, Public Affairs Manager at Electrical Safety First, said, “With an ageing population in Wales, we have found that older people are significantly more at risk than other age groups when it comes to electrical fires in the home. Older people in Wales represent over a third of electrical fire casualties, with people aged over 80 at least four times more likely than other age groups to have been a casualty in these fires.  We are calling on the Welsh Government to do more to protect older people in Wales, to enable them to stay living safely in their own homes for as long as possible”.‌

The report was launched at the Safer Homes Wales event at the Welsh Assembly this afternoon, and promoted electrical safety within older people's homes in Wales.

Click here to find out more about electrical safety for older people.

Download the full report here