A fifty year old electric blanket was still in use as Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Service find 1 in 5 blankets fail test

People are being urged to follow electric blanket safety advice this winter after 1 in 5 blankets tested as part of a county-wide awareness campaign were found to be unfit for use.

A fifty-year-old electric blanket that was still in use was one of 177 electric blankets that failed free electrical safety tests carried out by Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service and Trading Standards team.

Trading Standards Officers tested 831 electric blankets belonging to people living across Oxfordshire and found that 177 or 21 per cent failed the test which is the lowest failure rate since the electric blanket testing campaign began eighteen years ago. However, this year there was an increase in the number of newer blankets that failed the test which highlights the need to regularly check your electric blanket no matter how old it is.

Chris Barber, Station Manager, Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service said: “Whilst it is really good news that we have seen the lowest failure rate in the history of the electric blanket testing campaign, it is still worrying that 1 in 5 blankets are failing the test.

“If the condition of your electric blanket is allowed to deteriorate there is the possibility of electric shocks or electrical burns, which can cause permanent damage or fires.

“The more faulty electric blankets that can be identified and removed from use, then the greater the number of potential house fires we can prevent. I would like to encourage anyone who did not manage to get their electric blanket tested this year to check for wear and tear and frayed wires before using it this winter. If it is over ten years old I strongly recommend that you replace the blanket.”

How safe is your electric blanket?

Electric blankets can be perfectly safe to use provided they are in good condition and have the necessary overheating safeguards incorporated into the design.

Look out for wear and tear, scorch marks, loose connections or any damage to the flex. Also check that the elements are not loose within the blanket, touching or crossing over.

Always buy blankets new, not secondhand and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Signs that electric blankets are hazardous

  • If they are over ten years old and don't have safety features built into the controller.
  • Leakage of voltage to the surface of the blanket.
  • The elements are able to move around inside the blanket with the potential to rub together and cause a short circuit.
  • Elements are not secured within the blanket and are exposed to the surface.
  • Power lead fasteners are broken and unable to be secured.
  • The surface of the blanket is worn, exposing the elements.

Top tips

  • When fitting your under-blanket, ensure it is secured to the bed using the supplied safety ties. This will ensure that the blanket doesn’t move and damage the elements.
  • When the blanket is not in use, store it flat or, if it must be folded, ensure that it is not folded too tightly.
  • Don’t use a hot water bottle at the same time and never use the blanket if it is wet or damp.

Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire & Rescue Service and Trading Standards team worked in partnership with Cherwell District Council, West Oxfordshire District Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council, Age UK and Witney Rotary Club to deliver free electric blanket testing over a two week programme across the county in October 2016.