Always In the Spotlight - The Safety of Electrical Household Appliances
Every day people use a number of electrical appliances. One might start the day by using an electric toothbrush, fixing their hair with a curling iron, making breakfast with a waffle iron and ending with a healthy drink from the blender. Many electrical appliances such as toasters, hair dryers, kettles, waffle irons, mini-ovens, egg cookers, heaters and electric grills are an integral part of our lives and it’s easy to forget that there are real safety hazards and risks associated with their use.
Sometimes these dangers become reality due to consumer negligence: overloading outlets with multiple adaptors, connecting an electric device with several extension cords or using light bulbs with incorrect wattage. Yet every so often minor flaws in the electrical appliances can lead to burns or other injuries. If a product emanates excessive heat or has defective insulation, if inadequate raw materials were used in the manufacturing process or if the product had insufficient creepage distances because of a flawed design, using that product could even lead to fatal electric shocks.
Such risks associated with the use of electrical products are a real concern not only for end consumers, but also for manufacturers, governments and consumer protection organisations. While it is in the manufacturers’ interest to ensure that their products comply with all safety legislation and requirements, the governments’ mandate is to enforce compliance so that defective products are less likely to enter the market and get into consumers’ homes.
Product recalls brand-damaging
In the past years, governments have intensified their market surveillance efforts so as to ensure that manufacturers of domestic appliances are taking all steps to ensure that their products meet standard regulatory requirements for market entry, that they follow correct electrical consumption classification and most importantly that they achieve a high degree of safety before placing products on shelves.
According to a US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) statistics report1, between 2002 – 2009, almost 3000 electrocutions associated with household consumer products were registered and small appliances were at the top of the list of culprits, bringing the total to over 38,0002 estimated consumer product-related injuries in the past 25 years.
Due to the sheer size of the industry, some hazardous products slip through the cracks and enter the market for a short period, before ending up on product recall lists. In the mid 2000s, household products have been the second most recalled products in the US3, while electrical appliances have been the fourth most recalled products on the EU market4. This is not only bad news for consumers, but also for manufacturers. Product-related incidents and product recalls cost the US more than 700 billion5 each year.
Thorough testing always helps
Manufacturers should make every effort to ensure that their products are thoroughly tested before they hit the market so as to avoid the hassle of a market recall which can bring considerable harm to their brand, not to mention to their customers’ trust.
Product testing is simply essential in ensuring consumer safety. For example, in the testing process of a kitchen toaster, a few checks and measurements need to be undertaken. The tests should confirm that the temperature on all touchable surfaces does not exceed certain measurements and that the shut off function is working correctly. Further in-depth tests could be performed on certain parts of the unit to check that the device cannot trap the toasting material and if the material burns, the unit could withstand the high temperatures and not cause a fire. Other elements such as insulation points, the internal wiring and distances between wires should also be analyzed to ensure that they do not present any dangers.
SGS offers product and usability testing and certification services to help manufacturers and importers achieve product compliance with current legislation and requirements in most countries around the world. Our experts can help minimize the risks associated with bringing a new electrical product to market.
Find out more information about SGS services for household appliances.
- Electrocutions associated with Consumer Products
- US Consumer Product-Related Injuries and Deaths
- Consumer Product Recall Statistics 2004 – 2008
- Recalled Product Statistics UK and Europe
- Product Recall Statistics - FAQ for Manufacturers
For further information, please contact:
Team Leader E&E Safety/Fit for Use Testing
SGS Germany GmbH
t +49 6128 744 733
SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 75,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,500 offices and laboratories around the world.