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Thursday, 06 July 2017 15:13

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QBE’s recent research revealed a number of key fire risks that those of us who work from home could be exposing ourselves to. Are you guilty of any of these? 

If so, by reducing the risk before something happens, you can save yourself a whole lot of heartache – and money.

While the global pandemic forced many of us to work from home temporarily, those arrangements have continued now that we’ve all grown accustomed to living with COVID-19.

In fact, the number of people who now work from home has almost doubled since before the pandemic1,with 41 per cent of people working from home at least one day per week, compared with 24 per cent pre-pandemic. With recent research2 commissioned by Orange Credit Union’s insurance partners, QBE, which found that 46 per cent of respondents were working from home.

Working from home has been a new phenomenon for a lot of us, and we’ve had to establish new ways of living and working in environments that usually were only ever meant for the former.

And that brings with it a whole new set of risks – one of them being an increased chance of fire.

Top 5 fire risks at home

Risk 1: Piggybacking power boards

You’ve got your laptop and monitor (or two), then your Bluetooth speaker, your charger and your portable heater – and you need them all running at the same time. Trouble is, there are only two powerpoints.

According to QBE research, a huge 95 per cent of us use double adaptors or power boards at home, but it’s important to not overload the power board (putting additional adapters into the power board) and to not have too many high-amperage appliances on the same board. A phone charger, for example, uses only a small amperage, but a kettle uses a lot.

In NSW alone, more than 350 domestic fires per year are caused by electrical faults4. Overloading power boards, dust in unused points, inadequate ventilation and overheating are common causes of power board-related fires5.

Fire safety tips:

Risk 2: Charging your phone or laptop on surfaces that don’t provide enough ventilation

Our devices are in continuous use – and if they’re not, they’re usually being charged. The vast majority of us even sleep with them – 75 per cent of us have charged our devices on or next to our bed, with 62 per cent of us often or always doing so, according to QBE research.

This presents the potential for a spot of bother, especially if the device is in the bed, as it may not have the necessary ventilation and could overheat. The same goes for charging things on surfaces that could burn, such as couches.

Fire safety tips:

Risk 3: Leaving the dryer running during the day or while you’re on your lunchtime walk

One of the perks of working from home is getting a few household chores done between tasks. A load of washing here, a load of drying there – it’s multitasking at its finest! However, that dryer can be a fire hazard in its own right, especially if you aren’t maintaining it correctly.

QBE’s research found about 28 per cent of us frequently or occasionally leave our tumble dryer spinning ’round when we leave the house. This can be a problem because 61 per cent of us don’t clean our lint filter as much as we’re meant to – which, by the way, is after every use. The lint produced can become a fire hazard if it’s allowed to accumulate and cause overheating.

So if you’re in the habit of running the dryer while you’re out on your lunchtime walk or even tucked away in the upstairs office, it’s best to think again.

Fire safety tips:

Risk 4: Having the heater on more often

Over winter, our heaters were getting more and more of a workout – QBE’s research found almost 45 per cent of us are using our electric heaters and almost 25 per cent are using gas heaters. More than 10 per cent of us are using our fireplaces, while 14 per cent are relying on a wood heater.

However, many of us never check that our heaters are safe to use, with just 41 per cent checking at least once a year. It’s a huge potential problem. A defect could cause a failure – and a fire. In fact, heaters are the cause of hundreds of claims every single year.

Fire safety tips:

Risk 5: Walking away from cooking

Another benefit of working from home is that you can get the dinner on and bubbling away while you get your afternoon’s work done. And while the wafting aroma of bolognese or curry is always a pleasure, it comes with some significant risk, because according to QBE research, almost 75 per cent of people leave an appliance unattended while cooking – with 22 per cent admitting to doing it all the time. The risk increases in winter, with 40 per cent of people cooking more during the colder months.

Kitchens are packed full of flammable items, and stepping away – even momentarily – can lead to a fire occurring, as well as thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Fire safety tips:

By focusing on fire safety while you work from home, you can act before something major happens. Of course, there’s only so much you can do – and sometimes fires can happen despite all your best efforts. (Remember to check your smoke alarms are in good working order!) If such an event does occur, your home and contents insurance can help you get back to the position you were in beforehand.

 

1 https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/people-and-communities/household-impacts-covid-19-survey/feb-2021 2 Polling study of 1,011 Australians, aged 18-65, completed for QBE Insurance Australia in April 2021 3 Polling study of 1,011 Australians, aged 18-65, completed for QBE Insurance Australia in April 2021 4 https://www.fire.nsw.gov.au/page.php?id=630 5 https://www.fire.nsw.gov.au/page.php?id=630 The advice in this article is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You must decide whether or not it is appropriate, in light of your own circumstances, to act on this advice.

 

This article was originally published on the QBE website as https://www.qbe.com/au/news/wfh-fire-risks