Poor installation of smart meters has led to at least three safety incidents in the UK since 2010, the HSE has confirmed.
“Since 2010, HSE has received three reports of near misses to the ESQCR Electrical Incidents Database [Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations] involving smart meter installations. The reported issues are not specific to the meters themselves, but appear to be related to incorrect or faulty installation practices,” a spokesman told E&T.
The ‘near miss’ classification means that the incidents did not result in serious injuries or deaths.
E&T has uncovered a further unconfirmed report of fire related to the poor installation of a smart meter.
Kieran Jenkins, factory manager for Proteus Switchgear, which makes consumer units, described an incident in March this year in Wolverhampton involving a fire where a smart meter was the suspected cause.
“Initially, the insurance company for the householder had suggested that the fault was with our consumer unit, which had been working without fault for over four years,” explained Jenkins.
“But when we looked into the matter we noted that a smart meter had been installed just weeks before and the meter tail was not properly secured.”
The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) has long argued for better training and has warned about the dangers of poor installation.
“Meter tail connections at the main switch in consumer units may be loosened when meters are replaced, creating a possible fire hazard”, said ESC technical director Michael Clark.
“We would like to see the meter installer having to check the tightness of these connections before re-energising installations, something that is not currently being made a requirement.”
In the US, Canada and Australia, there have been dozens of reported fires related to smart meters. Some have been attributed to poor design and others to faulty installation.
In Britain, the government wants to see smart energy meters in every home, with a mass roll-out programme planned between 2014 and 2019.
Energy suppliers will be responsible for replacing over 53 million gas and electricity meters, involving visits to 30 million premises.
A foundation stage, intended to build experience and give confidence to consumers and investors, began in April 2011.