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HOW STUFF WORKS / INDUSTRY

Beware Dodgy Xmas Lights

By Oonagh Reidy | Friday | 21/10/2011

Look out for the lights: consumers should take care when when buying or installing Christmas lights to stay safe during the festive season.


Click to enlarge
That's what peak Australian electrical industry body, National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA), warned today.

NECA's Media and Communication Manager, Mr Dominic Feenan, said consumers should be careful when buying products manufactured overseas as they may not meet Australian standards.

"It is always a concern at this time of the year when Christmas lights and other electrical items appear in stores and on the internet as many do not comply with Australian standards," Mr Feenan said.

NECA says consumers should buy only buy electrical products from reputable stores and if buying online check for the compliance mark or an approval number.

"Traditionally during the Christmas period, the use of outdoor lights increases and the risks to consumers from using non-compliant products also increases," Mr Feenan said.

"We tend to have more to do with electricity during the festive season as we decorate our homes and use old bar fridges or other appliances when family comes to stay. Taking a few minutes to think about electrical safety will help keep everyone safe at Christmas."

The seven electrical safety tips are:

1. Look up and around - When installing Christmas lights and other decorations make sure there are no overheard power lines or exposed wiring near where you are working. This is especially dangerous if working near metal.

If you notice dangerous or damage d wiring, contact your local licensed electrician so the problem can be fixed.

2. Indoor or outdoor lights - Many Christmas lights are designed specifically for indoor use and are not manufactured for use outside. It is important to only use indoor lights inside and not in any areas where they are exposed to the weather.

If you need to use outdoor lights, make sure they are made for this purpose.

3. Use compliant products - Buy Christmas lights from reputable stores and ensure they comply with Australian standards or have a compliance mark or an approval number.

When purchasing Christmas or decorative lights from overseas via the internet be careful as other countries have different electrical standards and the products may not meet Australian requirements.

4. Educate children - Take the time to explain electrical safety to children. Indoor Christmas l ights usually have bulbs that operate at extra low voltages but it is important children are taught not to play with electricity.

5. Avoid use in bad weather - During heavy rain and high winds turn off your Christmas lights. This type of weather can damage the lights and the insulation around the wires. This can potentially cause electrical faults and fire.

6. Never modify electrical products - It is illegal and dangerous for unlicensed people to carry out modifications to electrical installations or electrical products. Never modify or attempt to repair your own electrical products. This includes Christmas lights.

If you need assistance, ask your local licensed electrician.

7. Install a safety switch - Safety switches are an additional safety measure that can prevent electrocution. It is recommended that you have a safety switch installed on every electrical cir cuit in your home for added protection. Contact your local electrician for assistance.

If consumers are concerned about electrical dangers in their home they should contact a licensed electrician to have the problem fixed.

"A quick inspection by an electrician can determine if an electrical installation or product is dangerous. They will then be able to advise you on the best course of action to fix the problem," Mr Feenan said.

"It is always better to be safe than sorry," Feenan added.

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