This is a true story, that happened in October 2021.
It was a Tuesday in October 2021; we had a 3-man team working in a busy office/production business in Newcastle upon Tyne. The company is very well run, with many intelligent personal, many of whom are electrical engineers – we’re saying this to show that even people who should know better can make mistakes.
In the reception office, where it was cold, mainly because the building had no real ceilings, just a corrugated roof, so the receptionist was running an electric convection heater.
It had a sealed plug – they often cause alarm bells as we don’t know what standard the internal wiring is, and that plug was plugged into a “cheap” 4-gang switched extension lead – that’s a big no no whenever we see this, and we always advise the client against such an arrangement. We did on this occasion of course.
What made the situation every worse though, was that that extension was plugged into another extension. In this case a cable reel. The cable reel was coiled up inside – if you are going to use a cable reel, always fully unwind it for safety.
This cable reel was powering a printer, and a franking machine. plus the other extension lead and a heater. It was overloaded.
We advised the staff to not do this; to only plug the heater into the wall direct. There were no enough sockets in the room unfortunately, not leaving one to plug the heater in.
Individually each of these items were fine, there was no need for us at this stage to fail anything, except advise on best use.
We were very concerned the heater may cause overhearing of the extension lead. We left the heater unplugged, and also unplugged the extension lead.
The very next day, we were contacted by the manager of the business, to inform us our guidance had not been followed.
The heater had been plugged back into the extension lead. We’re not sure if the extension went back into the cable reel or into the wall direct, but what we do know, is that the heater on the extension lead caused the extension socket to overheat and melt, in fact it was a miracle no further damage was caused.
Technically it did catch fire, although no actual flames were seen. But from the pictures you can see the white plug is very clearly burnt.
We see after affects of this quite often, although it’s a first for us to hear of it happening so soon after our visit. We’re just glad it happened when someone was in the room, and not during the night when the heater may have been left unattended.
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