Product safety and injury prevention
Nearly every product in our homes and workplace has to obey the industry-standard safety regulations and testing to make sure it is fit for purpose and safe for us to use. So, naturally it’s very easy to assume that what we buy and use on a daily basis is safe, but unfortunately many products fail to meet the required safety standards.
Using unsafe products can lead to serious injuries or maybe even fatalities. For example, poor quality electrical components can cause fires, electric shocks and burns while contaminated cosmetic products can cause injuries ranging from skin blemishes to serious infections.
Below we’ve listed some of the markings you can look out for when shopping to make sure the product you’re buying meets the industry standard.
When buying a product which could potentially be dangerous or cause an injury, it’s important to check that it has a CE mark. The letters “CE” are the abbreviation of the French words “Conformité Européene” which translates to “European Conformity”.
This means that products with a CE mark meet EU health, safety or environmental requirements and complies with EU legislation. It also means that they can be sold throughout Europe.
Not all products are required to have the CE mark, but most equipment or machinery that could be potentially dangerous or that can cause injury is legally required to have the CE mark.
The Government has a full list of the types of products that should have a CE mark.
Another certification mark to look for when making sure that a product is safe is the Kitemark.
The Kitemark can usually be found on products where safety is very important, such as on electrical equipment and smoke alarms.
If a product has this mark, it means that it has met the British Standard’s specifications and so has been tested and checked and found to be safe, reliable and of good quality.
Unlike the CE mark, it’s not a legal requirement for a product to have the Kitemark, but if it does then you can be confident that the product meets a recognised industry standard and is safe, reliable and of good quality.
Read more about Kitemarks here.
Product safety when buying online
Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular, and this has unfortunately led to more unsafe products being sold than before.
There are an increasing number of fake or sub-standard electrical products being sold on the internet, which are often made with poor quality or incorrect parts which can malfunction and cause fires, electric shocks and burns.
Some of these products are low quality copies of well-known brands, so if you think you are buying a new product which is from a well-known brand and the price is much lower than usual, there is a chance that it’s fake.
It’s also important to bear in mind that it’s possible to forge the Kitemark and CE mark, so even if the product you buy has this mark it doesn’t completely guarantee that it’s safe.
The best way to avoid purchasing an unsafe product is to always buy from shops or retailers who are well known and have a good reputation.
If you do decide to buy a product from a lesser known retailer, there are a few things to consider:
- Only make purchases from websites where the padlock symbol shows up in your browser. This means that the website allows you to pay safely and is usually an indicator that the site can be trusted
- Make sure that the site you are buying from is a member of an online retail accrediting body. You should be able to find this information on their website
- You can look at reviews online to see what other people’s experiences are of buying a product or buying from a particular retailer
- Always keep records of the products you purchase
- Voltage of products in the UK should be 230V, 50Hz
- Only buy products with a standard three pin UK plug
If you think the product may be unsafe or is a fake of a known brand, then don’t take the risk. You should never use a product you don’t trust.
Second hand product safety
Buying second hand electrical products can be risky. Over time electrical appliances can become worn and unsafe. For example, if the cord is frayed and wires are exposed then this can cause electric shocks.
Always check for exposed wires when you buy a used product, and if you have any doubts about its safety, don’t use it.
We know that buying new electrical products can be very expensive, so a good alternative is to ask whether a PAT test has been carried out before you buy a second hand item. PAT stands for Portable Appliance Testing and makes sure that used electrical items are safe to use.
Another problem with buying second hand items is that they often do not come with instructions, and improper use of products like power tools can result in serious injuries. It’s therefore very important to look up the instructions for a second hand product online so that you know how to use and maintain it properly.
It’s also a good idea to check online to see if the product you’re buying has been recalled. If it has been recalled, then it may not be safe to use.
If you buy a second hand gas product, such as a cooker or fire, you should get it checked and fitted by an engineer who is registered as ‘Gas Safe’. This means that they are qualified to carry out the work safely and to a high standard. For more information about keeping your home gas safe, visit our page here.
You should never buy furniture unless it has a label under the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988. The label showing their approval can usually be found under the main cushion of a sofa.
Sofas and mattresses can be very flammable, which is why they have to be tested for fire safety to meet certain requirements in the UK, and this label certifies that the item of furniture has passed this test.
This label is often cut off of second hand furniture and so unfortunately there is no way to know for sure whether or not it is fire safe. Remember that there are plenty of other options out there, so keep shopping until you find something that you know is safe.
Glass furniture can also be extremely dangerous. Glass which is too thin could break easily if, for example, somebody falls on it. Also, when it does break, it could shatter into long shards which could cause serious injuries.
Always check for the Kitemark on glass furniture. This will ensure that the glass is thick enough to withstand reasonable impacts and will not shatter into dangerous shards.
Choosing the right tradesperson
Even if you do buy products which are safe, having them installed by somebody who is not fully qualified is a common cause of accidents and injuries.
Electricians carrying out work in England and Wales have to comply with Part P of the Building Regulations. This states that anyone who carries out electrical work must make sure that reasonable provision has been made to protect people from fire and injury.
To make sure that your electrician is carrying out work to a safe standard, you should use an electrician registered with a government approved scheme, such as Registered Competent Person. Don’t be afraid to ask to see their qualifications and registration status. You can contact the scheme directly if you want to make sure that they’re registered.
Gas can be extremely dangerous in the home. If gas appliances are not fitted properly then this can lead to fire, or you could risk carbon monoxide poisoning which could be fatal for you or your loved ones. Carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous because it is poisonous but also colourless and odourless, making it completely invisible.
All gas appliances are required to be fitted by a fitter who is Gas Safe registered. The Gas Safe Register is the official list of gas engineers who are legally registered to work on gas appliances and are trained to work to high safety standards.
Before a gas fitter carries out any work in your home, ask to see their Gas Safe Register ID card. Check on the back of their ID that the engineer is allowed to carry out the work he intends to do – not all gas fitters are qualified to do all kinds of work.
Defective product claims
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell when there’s something wrong with a product and this often causes injuries.
If you’ve been injured because of a defective product and it was not your fault, then you may be eligible to claim compensation for your injury. We can help you to make a no win no fee claim to help to cover the costs of your injury so that you can get your life back on track.
We make the process of claiming easy and straightforward. We cut out the legal jargon and do the hard work for you so that you can focus on your recovery and other more important things.
If you want to chat about an accident you’ve had as a result of a defective product, then you can call one of our friendly, legally trained advisors on 0800 540 4258 for free. They are available 24/7 and will be happy to answer your questions and let you know if they think you have a claim.
Alternatively, you can fill in your details into one of our short forms and we’ll call you back.
Remember that when you do call us there is no obligation to continue with your claim, so if you just want to talk then we are here to listen.
Find out more about defective product claims.