Using Electricity Safely While Abroad(1) – Simple electrical safety rules for your holiday abroad!

It’s summer: it is holiday time! During the summer, many people go abroad to visit “warmer and nicer countries”, and especially the month of August is famous for being “the holiday season“. But there are some major differences between the way things work in the UK and abroad, and more so when it comes to the electricity and the electrical appliances abroad. We need to know some of the basic yet important things related to the Electrical Safety Abroad. This guide is put together by ESC(Electrical Safety Council) and entitled: Using Electricity Safely While Abroad(download the PDF file) and is composed of two parts:

  1. Simple rules for Electrical Safety Abroad while visiting other countries than the UK;
  2. Questions and answers related to using the electrical appliances abroad.

Using electricity safely while abroad
A brief guide for the safe use of the electricity in countries outside of the UK

What are the dangers of using electricity abroad?

This guide is to help you understand the possible dangers of using electricity abroad and how to keep safe even while using the electrical appliances outside of the UK. The electrical installation safety standards in the UK are relatively high compared to some other countries in the world so it would be a mistake to assume you are as protected abroad as you are at home. Apart from some of the obvious differences, such as the plugs and sockets, there are other aspects of the electrical systems used abroad that are important to be aware of. For example, electricity supplies worldwide can vary from anything between 100 volts and 240 volts and it may not always be safe to use an electrical appliance that is rated at a voltage different from the supply. The normal voltage and frequency of the electricity supply to homes in the UK is 230 v 50 Hz.

Keeping yourself safe is not difficult if you follow a few simple rules:

  1. Never touch electrical equipment with wet hands.
  2. Never touch light switches if they are cracked or show signs of damage.
  3. Never plug equipment into a socket which looks damaged/cracked or has part or all of the cover missing.
  4. Never use mains powered electrical appliances in a bathroom.
  5. Always check that cables are securely attached to electrical equipment and are not cut, nicked or damaged in anyway. There should be no joints in the cable and certainly no repairs with insulating tape. Cables should also be checked for signs of overheating, such as discoloration.
  6. Always check that the travel adaptor you are using is the correct type for the country in which you are travelling and never force it into a socket if it does not easily fit.

Reporting the electrical dangers: Electrical dangers should be reported to the person responsible for example your tour operator or the hotel manager. If the danger is not removed immediately, insist on being moved.

Electrical Safety Rules Before You Go:

  • Find out about the type of sockets and the voltage used in the country you are visiting.
  • Think about the appliances you intend to take and whether you will need to use travel adaptors/voltage converters and their power rating.
  • Consider buying travel adaptors and voltage converters from the UK as not all products available abroad will meet British safety standards.
  • On cruise ships, the voltage and type of sockets provided in cabins can vary (even with the same cruise operator) and may not be the same as that used in the country the ship departs from. Check with the cruise operator or your travel agent.

On Arrival, a few visual checks for electrical safety:

  • In the Hotel room – check that:
    # there are no bare wires that can be touched where electrical accessories have been removed or damaged;
    # sockets and light switches are not damaged or have their covers missing;
    # light bulbs are properly inserted into all light fittings and are not broken or cracked;
    # there are no trailing extension leads or overloaded sockets and never ignore the warning signs of burning smells, sounds of arcing (buzzing and crackling), fuses blowing or scorch marks on plugs and sockets.
  • In the Bathroom – check that:
    # electrical accessories cannot be touched whilst in the bath or shower.
  • By the pool – check that:
    # electrical appliances are kept away from the water.
  • On camp sites – check that:
    # there is Residual Current Device (RCD) protection or a similar device that will cut off the supply if there is an electrical problem;
    # flexible cables are positioned appropriately to prevent them being damaged;
    # electrical appliances are stored in a dry place.

This is the first part of the ESC guidelines to Using Electricity Safely While Abroad (download the whole guide as a PDF file from the ESC website) – continue reading part 2 that answers the most common questions related to using the electrical appliances while abroad from the UK.

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