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Electric blanket testing by Cumbria County Council has shown that more than half of the blankets tested were faulty. During a 10-day period, a total of 761 electric blankets were examined and tested. The results showed a high failure rate, as more than half (50.7%) of the blankets tested failed, resulting in 386 unsafe blankets being taken out of circulation.
Having secured funding from the Electrical Safety Council's Fire Safety Fund, the Trading Standards service was able to hold 10 testing events across the county in Barrow, Cleator Moor, Workington, Penrith, Carlisle, Kendal, Grange-over-Sands, Ulverston, Wigton and Whitehaven. The service also offered a collect and return service for elderly and vulnerable people with mobility problems and those living in more isolated and rural areas of Cumbria.
For those blankets which failed safety tests, the county council provided one replacement blanket per household.
The most common reason for failure was due to age and wear and tear. Problems included poor wiring, defective controls or lack of protection against overheating.
Angela Jones, Cumbria County Council's Trading Standards Service Manager, said: "Our advice is to always buy blankets new, not secondhand and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. We are concerned at the continual high failure rate and we will continue to raise awareness of the dangers of using old and worn blankets"
Cllr Gary Strong, Cumbria County Council's Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Local Services, said: "This is a worthwhile safety initiative and we are always encouraged by the number of people who take advantage of this free annual service. Unsafe blankets pose a fire safety risk and we want residents to stay safe and warm this winter"
The electric blanket testing campaign has now finished, but owners can check the safety of their own electric blankets by looking for the following warning signs:
the fabric is worn or frayed
there are scorch marks anywhere
the tie tapes are damaged or missing
the flex is worn or damaged
any connections are loose
the heating wires have been damaged or displaced. To check, hold the blanket up to the light. The wires should be evenly spaced and should not touch each other anywhere
Older blankets in regular use are much more likely to have one or more of the above faults. If your blanket is over 10 years old or it is showing any of the warning signs it is recommend that you replace it with a new one.
For general consumer safety advice contact Trading Standards via Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06.