Coronavirus lockdown UK: Thermal images show the dangers of working from home


Some 81 per cent of those asked to work from home amid coronavirus lockdown have not been given any safety advice regarding their home working set up – as thermal photographs show the dangers posed by increased electricity use.

Chargers and laptops balanced on beds, overloaded sockets, balancing things on top of extension leads and surrounding routers with paper or books all increase the risk of fire.

While 56 per cent of 2,000 people surveyed said they were not worried about electrical dangers, office managers usually have a duty to check equipment is all in working order.

Photographs taken on a Cat S62 Pro smartphone show the heat emitted from electrical items.

Chargers and laptops balanced on beds, overloaded sockets, balancing things on top of extension leads and surrounding routers with paper or books all increase the risk of fire. While 56 per cent of 2,000 people surveyed said they were not worried about electrical dangers, office managers usually have a duty to check equipment is all in working order

Photographs taken on a Cat S62 Pro smartphone show the heat emitted from electrical items. When a laptop is balanced on top of a stack of paper it may make it easier to work from a dining room table, but the heat spewing out from the laptop can increase the risk of fire. If the technology was to malfunction the paper could catch light

Despite looking fine under normal lighting, the thermal-imaging camera showed how heat flooded out of electrical items and warmed up other items nearby. Nathan Vautier, CEO at Bullitt Group which commissioned the survey, said: ‘When the country first locked down, homeworking was seen as a temporary situation.’ In these photographs a stuffed toy and highly flamable bag filled with paper have been piled on top of an extension cable

Despite looking fine under normal lighting, the thermal-imaging camera showed how heat flooded out of electrical items and warmed up other items nearby.

Nathan Vautier, CEO at Bullitt Group, said: ‘When the country first locked down, homeworking was seen as a temporary situation. 

‘Now it’s looking more long term, it’s important that both employers and employees are fully aware of the risks and how to mitigate them.

‘The thermal imaging technology built into the S62 Pro is a quick and simple way to see a world that’s invisible to the naked eye and can improve safety in any working environment. 

Before lockdown, 40 per cent of respondents' companies had a procedure in place to regularly check electrical items, but this has dropped to just 22 per cent since working from home began in March. The thermal imaging camera in the phone shows a danger the naked eye cannot see

Before lockdown, 40 per cent of respondents’ companies had a procedure in place to regularly check electrical items, but this has dropped to just 22 per cent since working from home began in March. The thermal imaging camera in the phone shows a danger the naked eye cannot see

Papers and other potential combustibles should be kept at least three feet away from space heaters and other heat sources

This childrens' costume is likely to be highly flammable and could prove to be dangerous if anything goes wrong with the electric heater that has been left too close

Papers and other potential combustibles should be kept at least three feet away from space heaters and other heat sources. This childrens’ costume is likely to be highly flammable and could prove to be dangerous if anything goes wrong with the electric heater that has been left too close

The research, compiled by Censuswide using a sample of people working at home due to COVID, shows electrical safety checks by employers have dropped by nearly half since lockdown. Despite a router slotting nicely into a bookshelf, the danger posed by having it so close to flammable materials is not worth the aesthetic

Millions of British employers were forced to find a way to allow employees to do their jobs from home when coronavirus lockdown was announced on March 23. But since then only 19 per cent have been given any safety advice regarding their working from home set-up. People should not be using multiple extension leads to allow them to sit further away from sockets

‘Tradesman have used our thermal phones to spot electrical faults and issues for some years but this is also a genuinely useful tool for anyone who wants to improve safety and monitor what’s going on with electrical equipment in their homes.’ 

Before lockdown, 40 per cent of respondents’ companies had a procedure in place to regularly check electrical items, but this has dropped to just 22 per cent since working from home began in March.

Some 21 per cent of workers do not have a dedicated working set up and 36 per cent often move their electrical items around to work in various places in their homes. 

The research, compiled by Censuswide using a sample of people working at home due to COVID, shows electrical safety checks by employers have dropped by nearly half since lockdown.

When sockets are overloaded it can increase the chances of fire. A spokesman for Electrical Safety First said: ‘There is simply not enough awareness out there about the possible dangers of poorly set up home office environments. Thermal technology is certainly one way to monitor electrical equipment for overheating issues’

The extension cord on the right has been filled with electrical plugs. It has overheated to 80F (26.7C), putting it at risk of sparking. A key tip to ensure a working environment is safer is to avoid 'daisy chaining' extension leads. If your cable doesn’t reach don’t plug it into another adaptor, move your workspace closer to the socket or use a longer lead

The extension cord on the right has been filled with electrical plugs. It has overheated to 80F (26.7C), putting it at risk of sparking. A key tip to ensure a working environment is safer is to avoid ‘daisy chaining’ extension leads. If your cable doesn’t reach don’t plug it into another adaptor, move your workspace closer to the socket or use a longer lead

Almost a third, 31 per cent, felt their employer should be doing more to provide safety guidance around home working.

Millions of British employers were forced to find a way to allow employees to do their jobs from home when coronavirus lockdown was announced on March 23.

But since then only 19 per cent have been given any safety advice regarding their working from home set-up.

A spokesman for Electrical Safety First said: ‘There is simply not enough awareness out there about the possible dangers of poorly set up home office environments. 

‘Thermal technology is certainly one way to monitor electrical equipment for overheating issues and the images that Cat phones have created here show very clearly just what is going on and highlight some of the common dangers we regularly warn people against.’  

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MAKE YOUR ‘WORK FROM HOME’SET UP SAFER? 

Don’t 'daisy chain' extension leads, if your cable doesn’t reach don’t plug it into another adaptor, move your workspace closer to the socket or use a longer lead, regularly check electrical cords and extension cords for damage and only use extension cords on a temporary basis

Don’t ‘daisy chain’ extension leads, if your cable doesn’t reach don’t plug it into another adaptor, move your workspace closer to the socket or use a longer lead, regularly check electrical cords and extension cords for damage and only use extension cords on a temporary basis

Key tips to ensure your working environment are safer include:

  • Avoid overloading sockets; 
  • Do not leave phones or laptops plugged in to charge overnight and don’t charge on a bed – always charge on a hard, flat, non-flammable surface; 
  • Don’t ‘daisy chain’ extension leads. If your cable doesn’t reach don’t plug it into another adaptor. Move your workspace closer to the socket or use a longer lead; 
  • Regularly check electrical cords and extension cords for damage; 
  • Only use extension cords on a temporary basis; 
  • Do not plug a space heater or fan into an extension cord or power strip; 
  • Do not run cords under rugs / carpets, doors, or windows; Make sure cords do not become tripping hazards; 
  • Keep papers and other potential combustibles at least 1m away from space heaters and other heat sources; 
  • Make sure you use the right wattage for lamps / lighting; 
  • Only use chargers provided with the product and buy any replacements from reputable retailers you know and trust; 
  • Keep your work area tidy and keep drinks away from electrical items; 
  • Make sure your home has smoke alarms. Test them monthly and replace the unit every 10 years or as directed by the manufacturer. 

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