This year’s ERT Turning Point Live! conference, sponsored by Electrical Safety First and hosted by ERT magazine Editor, Jack Cheeseman, was an invaluable source of information on how to meet the opportunities and challenges facing the electrical retail industry.
This is part three of our exclusive full review of the sessions from the day…
Electrical safety: “Retailers are at the coalface”
Next to the stage was Martyn Allen, Technical Director at Electrical Safety First, who spoke about the work the organisation does and increase responsibility and interoperability in electrical safety…
“The consumer is at the heart of everything we do,” Mr Allen began. “We believe their voice doesn’t get represented enough, so we have a two-stage approach with our work – direct intervention and indirect.
“Safety is quite dull and boring, so we try to get our messages across to people using humour and our quirky campaigns but with a serious safety undertone. If you go in hard with safety, it often gets no reaction at all.”
Mr Allen (pictured above) told the conference about the key areas Electrical Safety First has identified where it is working to better inform consumers, such as product misuse.
“About half of all domestic fires in the UK are of an electrical origin, but many are consumer behaviour related issues, so we try to tackle that,” he said. “Two big issues for us have been around product recall and registration. Retailers are really at the coalface – you are the first people they’ll come to to complain about a product and it’s important to investigate thoroughly.
“Registration is particularly important because only one in three of us actually register our products, so a conversation about that needs to be had at the point of sale,” Mr Allen added.
Electrical Safety First provides a lot of education and guidance to both consumers and retailers, which is all freely available.
One of its main messages to consumers is to always buy from a reputable retailer and use product instructions. “When they shop on unrecognised websites they get themselves into a whole heap of trouble,” said Mr Allen.
“We’re also lobbying on getting tighter controls around online sales and second-hand goods. Many people are buying those goods thinking they’re getting a bargain, but all too often they’re not.”
There is information available on subjects including ‘How safe is your home?’ and ‘How to buy safely’ and there is also a dedicated home appliances safety website – www.whitegoodssafety.com – with advice on using products safely and the importance of registration.
As part of the organisation’s indirect activity, which consumers are sometimes unaware of, Electrical Safety First does a lot of lobbying, predominantly in the pro-legal space, and it has recently been putting pressure on the Government to do something about the inadequacy of product recalls.
Mr Allen reported that typically only around 10-20 per cent of products are recalled when necessary, meaning 80-90 per cent of recalled items remain in consumers’ homes.
“These figures are truly shambolic,” he continued, using the recent Whirlpool tumble dryer product recall as an example. “The reason why everything took so long and there was so much damage in the process is not just because it’s an 11-year-old issue, but it’s the fact that the firm doesn’t know where these dangerous products are. Using product registration data is absolutely vital.
“We also do a lot of work in product standards – one around fridge freezers, for example, and the backing materials on these products, whether they ought to be plastic or metal.
“It’s amazing how long it takes to get these standards changed, particular with fridge-freezer appliances,” added Mr Allen.
“So we push the boundaries on standards where we plan to make sure consumers are represented in all areas.”