Sparks Electrical News

Fires cost the South African economy more that R2-billion every year – half of that attributable to residential fires – according to the Fire Protection Association of Southern Africa (FPASA) statistics for 2013, the latest figures available.

Between 2010 and 2013, the number of fires increased a dramatic 60% from 26 574 to 42 343. In the same period, there was a sharp rise in the number of fatalities in fire-related incidents, from 224 to 578 in 2013 – more than double.

Information from the FPASA reveals that electrical faults are a leading cause of fire worldwide. These faults include overloaded installations, defective fuses, wiring and motors, the use of improper equipment in hazardous areas and the misuse of electrical apparatus. In 2013, almost a tenth of all fires in South Africa were attributed to ‘electrical fires’. The cost of residential fires was a staggering R1-billion.

In 2013, the common causes of all fires were listed as open flames (38%); electrical (9%); other (7%); arson (4%); smoking (4%); cooking (3%) and heating (2%). The cause of a third of all fires was listed as ‘undetermined’.

A summary of the statistics from 2010 to 2013 shows an alarming trend:

  • 2010: 26 574 fires – 2 110 (8%) attributed to electrical faults.

Total estimated loss: R1.32-billion, of which residential fires amounted to R613-million and industrial fires to R174-million.

Deaths: 224.

  • 2011: 37 721 fires – 3 261 (9%) attributed to electrical faults.

Total estimated loss: R2-billion, of which residential fires amounted to R728-million and industrial fires to R574-million.

Deaths: 410.

  • 2012: 41 481 fires – 3 588 (8.6%) attributed to electrical faults.

Total estimated cost: R3-billion, of which residential fires amounted to R744-million and industrial fires to R1.5-billion.

Deaths: 391 

  • 2013: 42 343 fires – 3 750 (8.86%) attributed to electrical faults.

Total estimated cost: R2-billion, of which residential fires amounted to more that R1-billion and industrial fires to R478-million.

Deaths: 578.

Electrical fires

Pierre Nothard, chairman of the SAFEhouse Association, believes that, in South Africa, causes of electrical fires also include sub-standard electrical products, poor installation methods and the misuse of electrical products.

‘Undetermined causes’

“While the FPASA statistics are not up-to-date, it is clear that there are about 3 800 electrical fires every year and, significantly, about 14 000 fires that are attributed to ‘undetermined’ causes.

“I would say that some of these are very likely to be electrical. What we don’t know is to what extent the root causes are sub-standard products, poor installation or misuse of products,” says Nothard.

“A further look at the figures reveals that – counter to general perception – there were 81% more electrical fires occurring in ‘formal’ dwellings than in ‘informal’ ones.”

He says that a significant lack of knowledge and understanding of how electricity works contribute to the common – and dangerous – attitude of ‘it won’t happen to me’.

Electrocution statistics

Nothard believes it is “telling” that electrocution statistics are not published, even though these are known to exist, and questions why such information is not made available  from the Department of Labour, which he says is “the custodian” of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHASA) and the Wiring Code, which deals with electrical installations.

Awareness

“It does not take much intellectual effort to fathom that one can at least begin to address the problems through greater awareness; educating users and their suppliers; and stricter enforcement of regulations.”

Nothard says it is also imperative to address electrical installation practices.

“Barely a handful of people are allocated to policing that aspect of the law – and they are expected to cover the entire country,” he says, adding, “This is not a strategy to beat the odds.”

The Department of Labour was asked for comment but none was forthcoming at the time of going to print. 

Contact Sparks Electrical News

Title: Editor
Name: Karen Grant
Email: sparks@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

Title: Advertising Manager
Name: Carin Hannay
Email: carinh@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

 
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