Always putting safety first comment: electrical safety first

A sustainable business puts safety at its core and always keeps on eye on the future. And with the current market for smart products estimated at £10Billion, the future is definitely ‘smart’. Here, Martyn Allen, Technical Director of Electrical Safety First, explains why, and how, the Charity is putting a spotlight on technology and the human factor.


he house is a machine for living in”, claimed the Swiss-born architect

Le Corbusier, back in the nineteen twenties. A century later, that description is coming closer to reality. With technology becoming embedded in our homes, the number of smart appliances and electrical gadgets we own has significantly increased. And the readers of this column don’t need me to tell them that the way we buy these goods has also been transformed. To add to the complexity, our technological

revolution is taking place while the legislative landscape is also in flux. Not simply as a result of Brexit but also as evidenced by the Government’s launch of its Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). And the electrical retail sector is at the coalface of this major shift. Electrical Safety First’s core commitment is

the protection of the consumer, promoting safety and behaviour change by running a range of political lobbying and high-profile media consumer campaigns. But the charity is also a strong supporter of industry best practice, acknowledging it as a key element of consumer protection. By the time you read this, our 11th

anniversary product safety conference – Think Like a Consumer: Behaviour-led Insights for Safer Products - will have taken place. In the decade since we established this event, our aim has been to help ensure that the industry is well- prepared for forthcoming changes in consumer behaviour and regulatory policy. That’s why, in the last three conferences,

we have always included in the agenda a review of the smart home. This year, however, we highlighted the human end of the smart equation. As one of the leading lights of our new industrial revolution Steve Jobs said: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology – not the other way around.” In this year’s conference session, Connecting

stakeholders, to create the first smart home guide for the absolute beginner. Many people would welcome the benefits from making their home smarter but they don’t know where to begin. Although you can easily find lots of information available about smart products, much of it is not written for the total novice. So we wanted to provide something offering all the basic information required, from the initial planning, to buying, installing and using smart devices. The guide was produced and published

by The Smart Technology Product Safety Stakeholder group, led by Electrical Safety First and leading law firm, DLA Piper. Comprised of key businesses and organisations involved in the production and sale of smart devices, the group was established to help create a 360-degree approach to product safety in the digital age. The effective – and safe – functioning of

the Consumer, we discussed how we can establish a joined-up approach amongst manufacturers, retailers and the consumer, to raise awareness of the convenience and safety benefits of a smart home. And to address consumer concern around security, product compliance and the opportunities and skills needed to install connected homes. The latter is becoming a key issue, as homes get smarter and develop their own smart product ‘ecosystem’. Currently, smart speakers are the most popular smart product, followed by lighting and security, but while 90% of consumers are aware of the smart home, 20% exhibit concerns because of security issues. This response is also caused by a lack of knowledge, which understandably leads to a reluctance to take-up new innovations. As part of our work around this, we have also been working collaboratively with key

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smart devices not only requires businesses to deliver high quality products and services but also the promotion of consumer’s understanding of these devices and their use. The popular press has highlighted certain advantages of the smart home, such as the ability to tailor the environment to personal needs – which is becoming particularly important in an ageing population, where many people want to stay in their own home. The economic benefits that the monitoring and customisation a smart home can provide has also made headlines. But the safety benefits it can bring- such as improved recall effectiveness and automatic product registration - have had little coverage. Yet smart appliances could easily offer automatic registration and dramatically improve the efficiency of recalls, which hovers around a 10-20% success rate, to protect both the consumer and brand reputation. All new technologies disrupt and inevitably

require an ‘education’ process to support consumer take-up and understanding. Our research – and our recent conference – has clearly shown that engaging with the consumer, tapping into the media platforms and outlets they use, and providing them with the information they need, is essential in ensuring they understand exactly what getting ‘smarter’ can do for them. And that can only benefit ‘smart’ electrical retailers.

To download a free copy of the guide, visit: uk/guidance/safety-around-the-home/ smart-homes/

December 2019/January 2020

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