Electrical Condition Reports explained

Condition Reports explained

You cannot see electricity. Cables are usually hidden inside our walls, and consumer units are often hidden in cupboards, so it is not surprising that we forget to check the condition of our electrical installation for damage or wear and tear.

Faulty and old wiring is one of the main causes or electrical fires in the home. You can reduce the risk of a fire by checking the condition of your cables, switches, sockets and other accessories regularly.

How old is my electrical installation?

Clear signs that can help you tell the age of equipment in the electrical installation in your home include:

  • Fixed cables coated in black rubber (stopped being used in the 1960s).
  • Fixed cables coated in lead or fabric (used before the 1960s).
  • A fuse box with a wooden back, cast iron switches, or a mixture of fuse boxes (used before the 1960s).
  • Older round pin sockets (or light switches), braided flex hanging from ceiling roses, brown (or black) switches, or sockets mounted in or no skirting boards (used before the 1960s).
  • Light switches on the walls or in bathrooms (used before the 1960s).

However old your electrical installation is, it may get damaged and will suffer from wear and tear. So you should get an electrician to check its condition at least every 10 years or when you move into a new property.

What is the aim of a condition report?

The five main aims of a condition report are:

  1. Record the results of the inspection and testing to make sure the electrical installation is safe to be used until the next inspection (following any work needed to make it safe)
  2. Find any damage and wear and tear that might affect safety, and report it
  3. Find any parts of the electrical installation that do not meet the IET Wiring Regulations
  4. Help find anything that may cause electric shocks and high temperatures
  5. Provide and important record of the installation at the time of the inspection, and for inspection testing in the future.

 Types of condition report

 In general, there are two types of domestic electrical installation condition report:

  • Visual condition report – this does not include testing and is only suitable if the installation has been testing recently.
  • Periodic inspection reports – this is what we would normally recommend, as it tests the installation and would find any hidden damage.


Electrical Safety First

Periodic Inspection Reports Explained

All electrical installations deteriorate with age and use. They should therefore be inspected and tested at regular intervals to check whether they are in a satisfactory condition for continued use. Such safety checks are commonly referred to as ‘periodic inspection and testing’. 

Once completed you will be issued with an Electrical Condition Report (EICR).

A periodic inspection will:

  • Reveal if any of your electrical circuits or equipment are overloaded.
  • Find any potential electric shock risks and fire hazards.
  • Identify any defective electrical work.
  • Highlight any lack of earthing or bonding.

Tests are also carried out on wiring and fixed electrical equipment to check that they are safe. A schedule of circuits is also provided, which is invaluable for a property.

How often is a periodic inspection required?

Your electrics should be inspected and tested every:

  • 10 years for an owner-occupied home.
  • 5 years for a rented home.
  • 3 years for a caravan
  • 1 year for a swimming pool.

Other times when a periodic inspection should be carried out are:

  • When a property is being prepared for letting.
  • Before selling a property or buying a previously-occupied property.

Who should carry out the periodic inspection and what happens?

Periodic inspection and testing should be carried out only by electrically competent persons, such as registered electricians. They will check the condition of the electrics against the UK standard for the safety of electrical installations, BS 7671 – Requirements for Electrical Installations (IET Wiring Regulations).
The inspection takes into account all the relevant circumstances and checks on:

  • The adequacy of earthing and bonding.
  • The suitability of the switchgear and controlgear. For example, an old fusebox with a wooden back, cast-iron switches, or a mixture of both will need replacing.
  • The serviceability of switches, sockets and lighting fittings. Items that  may need replacing include: older round-pin sockets, round light switches, cables with fabric coating hanging from ceiling roses to light fittings, black switches and sockets mounted in skirting boards.
  • The type of wiring system and its condition. For example, cables coated in black rubber were phased out in the 1960s. Likewise cables coated in lead or fabric are even older and may well need replacing (modern cables use longer-lasting pvc insulation).
  • Sockets that may be used to supply portable electrical equipment for use outdoors, making sure they are protected by a suitable residual current device (RCD).
  • The presence of adequate identification and notices.
  • The extent of any wear and tear, damage or other deterioration.
  • Any changes in the use of the premises that have led to, or may lead to, unsafe conditions.

The competent person will then issue an Electrical Installation Condition Report detailing any observed damage, deterioration, defects, dangerous conditions and any non-compliances with the present-day safety standard that might give rise to danger.

If anything dangerous or potentially dangerous is found, the overall condition of the electrical installation will be declared to be ‘unsatisfactory’, meaning that remedial action is required without delay to remove the risks to those in the premises.


Electrical Safety First

Extensions and Leads

Extensions and Leads

The more wall sockets you have in your home the less you will need an extension cable or adapter. However, many portable electrical items like lamps and radios are supplied with relatively short cables. So sometimes it is unavoidable not to have to use one, but beware of the following dangers.

  • Damaged cable, due to leads being walked over, continually bent at the same point or stored badly.
  • You can trip or fall over taut, over-stretched cable.
  • Leads on power tools frequently become tangled, leading to one of the conductors eventually failing – this could cause danger.
  • Overuse of multi-way adapters or adapter blocks, which increases the risk of fire

An extension lead should only be used when it is not possible to reach a wall socket with the equipment cable. When the use of an extension cable is unavoidable – follow these simple suggestions:

  • Only use an extension lead which was bought ready-assembled.
  • We recommend that no extension lead be more than 15 metres long.
  • Only use extension leads fitted with suitably insulated connectors and plugs. (Never join two lengths of flexible cable by twisting the bare ends of wires together.)
  • Position an extension lead carefully to prevent any risk of damage.
  • If the cable has to cross a pathway, cover it with a rubber protector strip.
  • Always check that leads, plugs and sockets are undamaged.
  • Always check the extension lead plug contains the correctly rated fuse for the equipment being used.
  • If using a cable drum extension lead, it should be completely unwound to avoid overheating.
  • For general use, 2-core extension leads should not be used.

Get rid of and replace damaged extension leads – never repair them. Sticky tape isn’t enough. It’s not strong enough and won’t provide enough protection from electric shock.

Safety First

Safety First: Frequently Asked Questions


Overloading sockets

Most people have extension leads in their homes, using 4-way bar adaptors to increase the number of appliances that they can plug into a wall socket.
However, although there is space to plug in four appliances, this does not mean it is always safe to do so.

You can avoid overloading sockets and risk of fire by following this simple advice:

  1. Never overload an extension lead by plugging in appliances that together will exceed the maximum current rating stated for the extension lead. This could cause the plug in the wall socket to overheat and possibly cause a fire.
  2. Check the current rating of the extension lead before plugging appliances into it. Most are rated at 13 A, but some are rated at only 10 A or less – the rating should be clearly marked on the back or underside of the extension lead. If not, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions
  3. Use our overload calculator (below) to check if you’re exceeding the maximum load
  4. For an indication only of the current ratings of commonly-used domestic appliances – check out our information about Amps and Watts
  5. Only use one socket extension lead per socket and never plug an extension lead into another extension lead
  6. Use a multi-way bar extension lead rather than a block adaptor, as this will put less strain on the wall socket. Some block adaptors do not have a fuse, which increases the risk of overloading and fire
  7. Consider having additional sockets installed if you regularly rely on extension leads and adaptors – and use a registered electrician to carry out the installation work
  8. Check regularly for the following danger signs:
    – a smell of hot plastic or burning near an appliance or socket
    – sparks or smoke coming from a plug or appliance
    – blackness or scorch marks around a socket or plug, or on an appliance
    – damaged or frayed leads
    – coloured wire inside leads showing at the plug or anywhere else
    – melted plastic on appliance casings or leads
    – fuses that blow or circuit-breakers that operate for no obvious reason
Socket overload calculator
Electrical DIY

If you’re not sure …
Don’t DIY! Did you know that DIY errors cause half of all serious electric shocks in UK homes?

Too many Brits are now using Google to search for tips or YouTube videos to help them carry out major DIY work, with almost half of all men admitting they feel a responsibility to try and tackle jobs themselves or ask a mate before calling a professional.
In the survey conducted by Electrical Safety First it was found that almost half of all severe electric shocks are caused by DIY attempts, with the main errors including cutting through power leads, drilling into wiring in walls and repairing electrical items that are still switched on.
In a survey of registered electricians, a third said they had seen or been involved with fixing DIY that had resulted in fires, serious electric shock or serious financial cost to repair.

Handy Andy top five tips for DIY

The best way to avoid any electrical problems in the home is to seek the advice of a registered electrician.
TV’s Changing Rooms star Handy Andy has been doing DIY on and off screen for more than 15 years. Here he gives his top tips on how to stay safe when doing DIY:

  1. Check power tools and watch out for the lead. Before using any power tools, check the lead and plug are in good condition. If you can see signs of damage, such as frayed wires, get the equipment repaired before using it. Watch out for the power lead at all times so you don’t accidentally cut through or trip over it.
  2. Use an RCD (residual current device). An RCD can save your life by cutting off the power in the event of an electrical fault caused by a DIY blunder. Make sure you have one fitted in your fusebox (consumer unit), and where necessary use a plug-in RCD.
  3. Locate cables in your wall. A common DIY error is accidentally drilling, nailing or screwing things into cables hidden inside your walls. A quality cable detector can help you to track buried cables before you start work and so help to avoid the risk of an electric shock.
  4. Shut off the power. If you’re doing any work near electrical wiring or power supplies, where possible, shut off the power in your fusebox and use battery powered tools. To confirm that all the power is off before beginning DIY plug an appliance into sockets and operate the lights.
  5. If you don’t know, Don’t DIY.
Visual Checks

Millions of people in the UK expose themselves and their families to potentially fatal electrical accidents in the home by making simple blunders, down to a lack of knowledge about the dangers of electricity.
It is important to make sure that the electrical installation in your property is well maintained, and we recommend that you use a registered electrician to check that it is safe.

However, there are a number of simple, visual checks that you can carry out yourself:

  1. Check that you have RCD protection in your fusebox
  2. Make sure that your plug sockets are not overloaded. Electrical Safety First has developed an online “socket calculator” to help you to check that yours are safe
  3. Ensure that plugs and sockets are not damaged
  4. Check that visible cables and leads are in good condition
  5. Check that your light fittings are not visibly damaged and that downlighters are in good working condition
  6. Check that you are not storing combustible materials around your fusebox, electricity meter or electrical instake
  7. Don’t use the top of the microwave for extra storage
  8. Never trail cables under carpets or rugs
  9. Never take mains-powered electrical items into the  bathroom
  10. Always switch off your electrical items when they are not in use

We have developed a free smartphone app that allows anyone to do a quick, visual check, to ensure their home is electrically safe. Designed to be as easy-to-use as possible, the app highlights potential dangers in each room and explains how to resolve simple, non-technical problems. Where more serious issues are flagged, people are advised to use a registered electrician.

Kitchen Safety

More than half of all accidental house fires start in the kitchen. Government statistics show that the largest number of accidental reported fires caused by electricity in the home is due to people misusing electrical cooking appliances, including microwaves.
So it’s important that you take special care when using electrical appliances. The mixture of water, hot surfaces, flexible cables and electricity can be very dangerous. Follow our tips to stay safe.

Sockets and switches

To avoid water coming into contact with electricity, make sure that your sockets or switches are fitted at a safe distance (at least 30cm horizontally) from the sink
If appliances such as fridges, dishwashers and washing machines are fitted under worktops, getting to sockets may be difficult. Ideally, these appliances should be controlled by a switched fuse connection unit mounted above the worktop where you can reach it easily.
If a socket in the kitchen, or anywhere else in the house is likely to be used to supply portable equipment outdoors, it should be protected by an RCD.
Never use switches or any electrical equipment when your hands are wet

Simple tips for kitchen safety

  • Don’t leave electrical appliances like dishwashers or washing machines running unattended
  • Don’t wrap flexible cables around any equipment when it is still warm
  • Check that flexible leads and appliances such as kettles and toasters are in good condition
  • Don’t try to repair an appliance when it is still plugged in
  • Never try to get toast that is stuck out of a toaster while it is plugged in, and especially not with a metal knife as there are often live parts inside
  • Make sure you thoroughly clean your oven and grill– a build up of fat and grease is a major cause of fires
  • Check your plug sockets are not overloaded with too many electrical appliances as this can lead to overheating
  • Avoid storing objects on top of appliances like the microwave, which can block ventilation
  • Defrost your fridge and freezer at least once a year to ensure these appliances continue to work properly
  • Make sure you have a working smoke detector in case something does go wrong
Bathroom Safety

Water carries electricity efficiently. But, if the two mix, the result can be deadly. So, the bathroom is possibly the most dangerous room in the house when it comes to electrical safety. The consequences of an electric shock are far more severe in a bathroom or shower room as wet skin reduces the body’s resistance.
There are special requirements for electrical installations in bathrooms as most electrical work must comply with Part P of the Building Regulations.
We strongly recommend that you use an electrican registered with one of the government-approved schemes to carry out any electrical installation work that you need. Find out more by visiting our Find an Electrician pages.

Our advice will help you to stay safe.


Sockets are not allowed in bathrooms or shower rooms (apart from shaver-supply units) unless they can be fitted at least three metres from the bath or shower.
Electrical shaver points must be a safe distance (in meters) from the bath or shower to avoid splashes


Enclosed ceiling lights are preferable to the ones that hang down.
All light fittings, that are not enclosed, should be out of reach of someone using, or still wet from using, the bath or shower.
Everyday light switches are a danger because of dampness and wet hands. A ceiling-mounted pull-cord switch is the safest option.

Heaters and towel rails

Central heating is the safest way to keep a bathroom warm. But if you do have an electric heater, it must be fixed at a safe distance from the bath or shower.
Electric and gas water heaters in a bathroom must be fixed and permanently wired, unless they are powered by a socket fitted three metres from a bath or shower.
A pull-cord or switch outside the bathroom is the ideal way to control electric heaters.


An electric shower must be supplied on its own circuit directly from your fusebox.

Portable electrical appliances

Never bring mains-powered portable appliances such as hairdryers, heaters or radios into a bathroom. You could be severely injured or killed.

Fire Safety

It’s not only electrical faults that start fires, human error is often to blame. Whether it’s a badly wired plug or an iron left on – we all need to take more care.
Electricity is a major cause of accidental fires in UK homes – over 20,000 each year, while nine out of 10 (89%) electrical fires are caused by electrical products.
We use electricity every day but it can be dangerous. Treat it with respect and follow these simple do’s and don’ts:


  • Check the condition of your wiring – This should be done when you move into a new home and then once every 10 years. It’s the landlord’s responsibility if you rent your home. Ask to see a copy of the certificate or report confirming that the electrics meet the UK national standard BS 7671 (Requirements for Electrical Installations).
  • Check your sockets regularly – if you see burn marks or they feel hot, get a registered electrician to check them.
  • Turn off any electrical equipment you are not using – especially at night, when a fire can spread quickly while you sleep.
  • Regularly check flexible cables on kettles and other similar appliances – look for signs of fraying, general wear and tear, or a loose plug. Do this before you plug anything in.
  • Be careful when using hand-held electrical equipment –­ make sure you switch off and unplug when you have finished. This is important with items that get hot, for instance hairdryers or curling tongs, as they may come into contact with materials that can catch fire (like curtains).
  • Check the current rating of an electrical adaptor before you plug appliances in ­­– make sure that the total current used does not exceed the adaptor’s rating.
  • Call the Fire and Rescue Service immediately if you smell burning that cannot be explained. They will have equipment such as thermal imaging cameras which will accurately detect objects that are overheating.



  • Overload any adaptor or socket – especially with appliances that have a high electrical current such as kettles, irons or heaters. It’s safer to have extra sockets installed if needed.
  • Put electric heaters near curtains or furniture – or dry clothes on them.
  • Cover the air vents on storage heaters or fan heaters.
  • Trail flexible cables under carpets or rugs.
  • Exceed the wattage of the light fitting or lampshade with the bulb you use.
  • Cover the air vents on storage heaters or fan heaters.
  • Store combustible materials (clothes, papers, cleaning materials etc) close to your service head (cut-out fuse), electricity meter or fusebox.


Did you know?

Many local Fire and Rescue Services will come to your home and carry out a Home Fire Risk Check to help keep you and your family safe. For more information on fire safety, visit www.direct.gov.uk/firekills, or contact your local Fire and Rescue Service (not 999).

You are half as likely to die in a house fire if you have a working smoke alarm. If a fire starts in your home, a smoke alarm gives you the time to get out.
Modern alarms are neat and tidy, cost around £10 and are easy to fit. You may find your local Fire and Rescue service may install one for you, for free, as part of a free home fire risk check.

In the kitchen

Nearly 13,000 fires start each year in the kitchen1.  These accidents, caused mainly by people misusing electrical cooking equipment like microwaves, could easily be avoided.
Here are some simple suggestions to reduce the risks of fire

    • Don’t let leads from kettles, toasters or similar, trail across your cooker.
    • Never dry towels on, or near, the cooker.
    • Don’t let fat and grease build up, especially in the cooker’s grill pan, as it can catch fire easily.
    • Make sure you turn the cooker off when you have finished.

1 Data supplied to ESC by the Department of Communities and Local Government, 11/02/10

First Aid

What to do if you believe someone has had, or is getting, an electric shock

It may not be immediately clear, but if you think someone is suffering from electricshock, approach with extreme caution.

The first step is to separate the person from the source of electricity as quickly as possible. The best way of doing this is to turn off the supply, for example, by unplugging the appliance or by turning the mains off at the fusebox (consumer unit).
If this isn’t possible, then try to remove the source of electricity from the person using a piece of insulating material, such as a length of wood.
NEVER touch the person receiving the electric shock, or you could suffer one too.
After removing the person from the source of electricity, if the person is unconscious call for an ambulance immediately. Only those with the necessary knowledge and skill should carry out first aid.

Where the person is conscious and seems well, it is still advisable to monitor their condition, as the effects of an electric shock may not be immediately obvious. In worst case conditions, an electric shock may lead to a condition known as electroporation, where cells within the body rupture, leading to tissue death. Additional problems might include deep-seated burns, muscle damage and broken bones.

Use an RCD

Using an RCD will help to protect you from dangerous electric shocks. Although not a guarantee of absolute safety, it limits the time current can flow through the body if a person comes into contact with a live source of electricity.
We strongly recommend that anyone using electrical appliances in the garden ensures that they are protected by an RCD, preferably one fitted in the main household fusebox.

Alternatively, a dedicated RCD-protected socket or a plug-in RCD should be used.



Health and beauty products

Health and beauty products


Hair straighteners, and other electrical beauty products, are seen by many as an essential. But they can be very dangerous, particularly to children.

Straighteners can reach temperatures of over 220°C and then take up to forty minutes to cool down after use. They can cause severe burns if they touch the skin, with children particularly vulnerable as their skin can be 15 times thinner than adults.

The number of hair straightener burns among children has doubled in recent years and they now account for nearly one in ten burns. The majority of these incidents are when toddlers touch, grab or tread on the hot hair straightener plates. Nearly half of all adults have also received a burn from a heated hair appliance.

Our video highlights the dangers of leaving your straighteners unattended near toddlers.

Hot Looks


Turn them off. Put them away.


Keep your children safe

If you use hair straighteners, follow our top tips to make sure that you, and your children, stay safe from electrical burns:

  • Keep hair straighteners out of reach of children
    Children’s skin can be 15 times thinner than that of adults so it’s important to keep them out of reach of little feet and hands.
  • Use a heat proof pouch
    Hair straighteners stay hot up to forty minutes after they have been switched off. A heat proof pouch is the easiest and safest way to store a product after use.
  • Keep them away from skin
    Do not allow the any of the hot plates to come into contact with the face, neck or scalp when using straighteners.
  • Seek medical attention
    In the incident of a serious burn, seek immediate medical attention.  If the hot plates comes into contact with the skin but it is not serious, run the affected area under cold water.

Find out what more you can do to protect children from hair straightener burns and other accidents by visiting the website of our campaign partner The Child Accident Prevention Trust.



Downlighters are one of the most attractive ways to brighten up your home, but poorly installed downlighters are the cause of a significant number of fires in homes every year.

What is a downlighter?

Downlighters (recessed luminaries) are light fixtures installed in hollow openings, usually in ceilings. By installing them in these hollow recesses the light looks as if it is part of the ceiling, rather than hanging down or sitting separate from the ceiling.

Types of downlighter

Downlighters operate at mains voltage (230 Volts) or are powered via a transformer at extra-low voltage (12 Volts). Extra-low voltage (ELV) downlighters are often described as “low voltage” on product packaging.

Downlighters may also be described as ‘Fire rated’. This means they have in-built fire protection that completely seals the downlighter in the event of fire in the room below, to prevent the spread of fire and smoke into other areas.

For all downlighters installed into a ceiling, Electrical Safety First recommends the use of ‘fire rated’ downlighters fitted with aluminium reflector lamps to ensure fire and excessive heat are kept out of cavities.

Thinking of installing new downlighters?

We recommend that you use a registered electrician to install your downlighters and that you keep the manufacturer’s instructions in a safe place for future reference, such as when you need to replace a lamp.

When fitting replacement lamps:

  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check the packaging and the downlighter for details of correct replacement lamps and do not exceed the maximum allowed wattage.
  • Always switch off the electricity before changing a lamp.
  • Don’t fit a cool beam (dichroic) reflector lamp unless the downlighter is specifically designed for use with that type of lamp. If in doubt, fit only aluminium reflector lamps.
  • If the lampholder is damaged, scorched or corroded, do not fit the lamp, and seek advice from a registered electrician.


Checking your existing downlighters

  • Check for visible markings on downlighters indicating lamp wattage and lamp type
  • Check downlighters and their surroundings for signs of overheating such as curled labels and discolouration or scorching
  • Ensure that downlighters installed in floor and ceiling cavities have sufficient space around them
  • Ensure that downlighters are not in contact with or covered by loft insulation or combustible material, unless they are designed to operate safely in those conditions
  • Check that downlighters are not installed near furniture, curtains or similar combustible items
  • If cool beam (dichroic) lamps are fitted in downlighters designed for use with aluminium reflector lamps only, replace them with the correct type.





It’s a good idea to check plugs and plug wires regularly. Plugs and their cables can be damaged with use. Here’s how to check the common, square-pin 13-amp plug used in all modern appliances such as hairdryers, vacuum cleaners and microwaves.

With the plug removed from the socket, check the cable.

  • Is the cable securely attached to the appliance and the plug?
  • Is the cable cut, nicked or damaged in any way?

There should be no joints and no repairs with insulating tape.
Then check the plug.

  • Look for cracks or damage on the casing.
  • Look for signs of overheating, such as discoloured casing or cable.
  • Check the plug meets British Standard BS 1363 – it will be marked on the back.
  • Check that the plug cable is firmly clamped into the plug and no coloured plug wires are showing.

For plugs that did not come fitted to the appliance, check that the cable is connected correctly:

Remove the plug from the socket, and remove the cover.

Check plug wires:

  • The brown (previously red) plug wire goes to live (L).
  • The blue (previously black) plug wire goes to neutral (N).
  • The green and yellow (previously green) wire goes to earth (E).
  • The cord clamp holds the cable securely and that both of the screws are tight.
  • The screws holding the three plug wires are tight.
  • The fuse is the correct size and meets British Standard BS 1362 – see the manufacturer’s instructions if you are not sure what fuse to use.
  • The fuse clips securely into its holder. It should not be loose and there should be no signs of overheating.

Replace the cover securely.

A note on plug fuses

A common UK plug is generally fitted with a 3A or 13A fuse. For appliances up to 700w you need to use a 3A fuse and for appliances over 700w you need to use a 13A fuse. For example:

3A Fuse – Table lamp, standard lamp, television, video, computer, mixer, blender, fridge, freezer, power drill, jig saw, soldering iron

13A Fuse – Washing machine, dishwasher, microwave, kettle, toaster, iron

Manufacturers have now standardised plug fuse ratings to be either 3A or 13A. However, 5 Amp fuses are still used in some older equipment and are available to buy.

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