Snake perishes in electrical consumer unit incident – This “incident” may be creative license however the dead snake was found by a Veriserv engineer whilst carrying out a routine electrical fixed wire inspection and test at a domestic property. Although this is a rare situation we would like to highlight the more serious issue of how a domestic consumer unit can be susceptible to fire, particularly if not electrically inspected and tested periodically.
It wasn’t clear from the remains of the snake whether or not it had died directly from an electric shock or from starvation whilst in the electrical consumer unit , but it was clear that it had been in there for quite some time. When it was shown to the tenant living at the property he said that his pet snake had mysteriously disappeared two years earlier and had never been found, so this did explain where the snake had come from.
We would like to raise the more serious issue about consumer units generally and how fires can be prevented by periodic electrical inspection and testing. Consumer units can be the source of a fire caused by overheating of loose terminals, faulty or incorrectly rated breakers, and debris inside the enclosure can be a source of fuel for a fire to start, such as loose paper or other flammable materials.
Here is an example of overheating in a distribution board, again found by a veriserv engineer whilst carrying out a periodic mains fixed wire test.
Most domestic consumer units are made of plastic and a recent update to the 17th edition wiring regulations calls for all consumer units to be constructed using a non combustible enclosure.
The third amendment to BS 7671:2011 (IET Wiring Regulations Seventeenth Edition), includes a new regulation requiring consumer units and similar switch gear assemblies in domestic premises to have a non-combustible enclosure. More information can be found by visiting the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET).
More useful information can be found by visiting the NICIEC website.
Chapter 42 of the regulations states;
Due to the number of consumer unit fires reported within domestic premises, Regulation 421.1.201 (UK only) has been added and requires consumer units and similar switchgear to have their enclosure manufactured from non-combustible material or be enclosed in a cabinet or enclosure constructed of non-combustible material and complying with Regulation 132.12. This regulation was implemented on 1st January 2016 to allow manufacturers time to ensure an adequate supply of suitable cabinets or enclosures would be available.
For more fire safety advise check the “Fire Kills” gov.uk website