DIY blunders cause half of all serious electrical shocks

A study by the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) finds blundering DIYers across the UK are risking their lives and facing costly repairs through misplaced confidence in small jobs and even ‘having a go’ at tasks best left to the professionals.

The UK charity surveyed consumers and electricians and found that almost half of all severe electric shocks are caused by DIY attempts, with people confessing to such errors as cutting through power leads, drilling into wiring in walls and repairing electrical items that are still switched on.

Electricians say they are spending an increasing amount of time repairing such blunders and are concerned that ‘Dive-in DIYers’ are endangering themselves and their families. This is a serious concern – someone dies as a result of an electrical accident in their home every week in the UK, and electricity is the cause of 350,000 serious injuries each year, as well as half of all house fires.

As well as tackling simple tasks with enthusiasm, worryingly many Dive-in DIYers are also taking on the big jobs – one in five people with no electrical training say they are confident to try installing new lights in their homes and one in ten say they’d happily install new wiring.

The overconfidence partly comes from relying on the advice of unqualified friends or family (half of those surveyed said they do this) or seeking help online where the advice might not be appropriate – two fifths of people say they use Google to get tips and the same number use online video tutorials, such as on YouTube.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many blunderers are men who step up to the challenge through a mixture of compulsion and bravado – two fifths of men say they feel a responsibility to do electrical and DIY jobs, and almost half of all men are likely to try a job themselves or ask a mate, before seeking help from a professional.

Phil Buckle, Director General of the Electrical Safety Council, said: “As budgets continue to be stretched, many people will look for the easy solution but we have found this can often be more costly in the long term and can also pose severe risks. There is a lot of good advice out there on how to go about tasks safely but you must make sure the advice you take is reputable. For the small tasks that you are not sure of and for all the major jobs, my message is DDIY – Don’t Do It Yourself – get a professional in. You can find a registered electrician in your area by searching the Electrical Safety Register.”

The ESC asked 2,000 electricians for their experiences and found a third of them are now spending up to a quarter of their time fixing botched DIY, with half of those surveyed saying this has increased over the last five years and that the majority of these call-outs are to fix simple jobs that have gone badly wrong.

Furthermore, the majority of electricians – 82% said repairing failed DIY efforts costs the homeowner more overall in the long run. Worryingly, a third of electricians said they had seen or been involved with fixing DIY which had resulted in fires, serious electric shock or serious financial cost to repair.

More than half of UK homes, 13 million, don’t have Residual Current Device (RCD) protection in their fusebox. This important device can save lives by cutting power in the event of a fault or surge. The ESC advises anyone planning to do DIY to ensure they have RCD protection in the fusebox or use a plug-in RCD when working with power tools.

For those who are unsure about how to do electrical DIY, the ESC advises they get professional advice. Tips and guidance from ESC can be found at and anyone can find a registered electrician local to them by searching the Electrical Safety Register at The Register contains details of over 34,000 contractors based throughout the UK, including Northern Ireland and gives you the peace of mind that you are using a competent and trusted professional.

Andy Kane – a.k.a Handy Andy – is supporting the ESC’s call for safety. He said: “I’m well known for my DIY skills and love getting stuck into a good project. But when it comes to electrical DIY I always get professional advice and help. I don’t think it’s unmanly to want peace of mind for yourself and your family. Even when you are carrying out simple DIY jobs like putting up pictures, it’s important to be aware of the potential danger electricity presents in the home.”