Record low for faulty electric blankets.

A recent series of free tests offered by Oxfordshire County Council's Fire and Rescue Service and its Trading Standards team found that 162 out of 737 electric blankets tested failed electrical safety checks– the lowest failure rate ever.

This meant that 22% of blankets were deemed unsafe - the smallest amount in the 17 years that the electric blanket testing campaign has been in operation in the county.

However, despite the positive results, people are still being urged to follow electric blanket safety advice.

The most common cause of failure was age. The government recommendations regarding electric blankets are for replacement after 10 years yet the team are still seeing blankets in use that are in excess of 40 years old.

One person brought a blanket that was a year old along for testing. When it was checked, the team found that some of the heating elements had moved around inside the blanket and had actually crossed over each other. This can lead to a possible short circuit, hot spot and subsequent fire. This reinforces the messages that electric blankets should be checked annually, even if they are a year old.

Simon Sumners, Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service Home & Community Safety Officer 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 vitally important to check your blanket and make sure it is safe to use.”

“If the condition of your 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 blankets that can be identified and removed from use, 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 10 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.

Why do electric blankets fail their test?

  • the elements were able to move around inside the blanket with the potential to rub together and cause an electrical short circuit
  • elements were not secured within the blanket and exposed to the surface
  • power lead fasteners were broken
  • the surface of the blanket was worn, exposing the elements.

Safety tips

  • make sure that your underblanket is secured to the bed using the supplied safety ties as 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.

do not use a hot water bottle at the same time and don’t use the blanket if it is wet or damp.

Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service and Trading Standards work in partnership with, Cherwell District Council, West Oxfordshire District Council, Oxford City Council, Couth Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council, Age UK Oxfordshire, Witney Rotary Club and Waitrose in Wantage to provide free electric blanket testing over a two week programme across the county in October.