Is PAT Testing a legal requirement?

It is, but it isn’t!
One of the most common questions we are asked about PAT testing is “Is PAT Testing a legal requirement or not”, as a result we thought it important to bring some of the facts to the fore and ensure that all have the facts and knowledge to ensure your companies compliance.

There is currently no strict legal requirement for PAT testing. The Government however has put regulations into place that pertain to the maintenance of electrical appliances and the most effective way to ensure that these regulations are met is through PAT testing.

Claims that PAT testing is required by law and that the client is breaking the law by not having it done are simply NOT true. The Law does require however that employers, including self-employed, ensure that all electrical equipment they provide in their business is safe and properly maintained. This means that PAT testing is a critical part of your company’s health and safety and should be considered part of a solution to your safety concerns.

What Regulations must we comply with? – Here are the facts
The UK Health and Safety Executive along with insurance companies will expect you to perform PAT testing to ensure that you are compliant with certain regulations including:
Health & Safety at Work Act of 1974
The Electricity at Work Regulations of 1989
The Provision an Use of Work Equipment Regulations of 1998
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations of 1999

Not complying with the above mentioned regulations can result in fines up to £5,000 and/or six months imprisonment. Fines have been seen to go as high as £20,000 and offences heard in the Crown Court have carried sentences of more than 2 years imprisonment in addition to unlimited financial penalties. So even though PAT testing itself is not legally required, it simply helps you to protect yourself by ensuring that you are complying with these regulations.

It is fair to say that PAT testing is not defined by its own law but as a tool to ensure safety and compliance with work regulations and also as employer it gives clear piece of mind, knowing that all electrical items that you and your staff members, operators and general public use are safe and fit for purpose and not a risk of causing damage or harm to people and premises.

How often should you PAT Test?

How often you need to PAT Test is really determined by your appliances, users and environment. If someone tell you that once a year should be fine. It may not be!

When you start PAT Testing, you need to look at each appliance and determine the risk. The appliance alone does not determine the risk, but it is a factor. So for example if an portable electrical appliance is used with water, it is automatically high risk, but if it is plugged and unplugged very rarely, stored carefully and in good condition, the risk is reduced. Where an appliance is used with water, unplugged and plugged frequently and dragged around by it’s lead every night by an exuberant cleaner, a more frequent inspection program would be appropriate. Every day items like cleaners and kettles can really take a bashing and as such need inspecting more frequently.

Where you have static desktop computers you can probably include these in your inspection regime far less frequently, providing they meet the other criteria for low risk environments and users.

More information can be found in the HSE document INDG236

Trading Standards Issues Fake Charger Warning

Trading Standards officers have issued a warning about the dangers caused by fake chargers for mobile phones, tablets and electronic cigarettes and the associated risks of fire hazard and electric shock.

In a recent investigation, more than 50 per cent of chargers sampled by East Riding Council’s trading standards officers proved to be unfit for sale. After recently removing 55 chargers from sale, the officers bought a sample of 11 from mobile phone accessories shops, discount shops, market stalls and e-cigarette shops across the East Riding.

Independent tests showed three had critical safety failures and another three had technical failures on the markings or instructions.

Colin Briggs, manager of the council’s trading standards services, said: “Some of the chargers were so cheap, it was ridiculous. We are still carrying out our investigations as to where these chargers were made, but it looks like they came from the Far East.

“We are urging bargain-hunters to steer clear of cheap chargers and to only buy reputable brands that will meet the safety requirements.”

The main faults found in unsafe chargers across the UK include inadequate insulation between the input and output circuits, leading to a risk of fire and electric shock. Other faults include components not properly secured or poorly soldered, incorrect size and positioning of live and neutral pins and a lack of proper instructions for use.

Overloaded extension lead causes fire

Another report of a house fire highlights the dangers of overloading of electrical extension leads. Fire crews in Coventry were called to a property in the city when smoke was seen coming from one of the bedrooms. Whilst the house was unoccupied at the time, a number of pet reptiles and insects kept in the bedroom perished in the blaze. The local fire and rescue service watch commander, said: “The family’s son kept reptiles. He had snakes, tarantulas, frogs, that kind of thing. There was a lot of extension cords all going into each other. “With all the heat they just overheated. There was just too much power going through it. He has lost the majority of his pets. There is an important safety message here. What caused the fire was too much power being drawn through the extension lead. “It’s important that people get the message that they should not overload their power supply.”

HSE Penalises Electrical Faults

A Suffolk plastics manufacturer has been fined after electrical fittings at its production site were found to be dangerous. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) uncovered serious issues with the construction and maintenance of the electrical systems at Techplas in Sudbury after investigating a separate unrelated issue. HSE inspectors found live 400 volt cabling hanging off the wall, a broken socket with live 400 volt cabling coiled on the floor and fused spurs and electric switches hanging off single-core cabling, leaving the live 230 volt wiring inside exposed. Guards had also been removed from a plastic forming machine, exposing heating elements that could become dangerous as soon as the machine was switched on. HSE served three Prohibition Notices on the company ordering urgent improvements to be made. Magistrates were told the electrical systems posed a significant and immediate danger to workers. After the hearing HSE inspector Saffron Turnell, said: “The state of the electrical systems at Techplas was simply appalling and it is only a matter of luck that nobody had been injured or electrocuted. “Employers have a duty to ensure the workplace is a safe environment and this must include electrical installations, whether or not the work carried out at their premises directly involves electricity.”

Electric Shock leads to HSE fine

A Hertfordshire contracting company and its managing director have been prosecuted for safety failings after a worker received an electric shock from a live junction box during poorly planned maintenance work in London. Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that his employer Fras Contractors Limited could and should have done more to protect the worker as he attempted to repair an external flood light. The Health and Safety Executive presented evidence that the routine job was flawed in a number of ways. Firstly, a ladder was placed on top of storage boxes underneath the junction box unit. These should have been moved to make space. Secondly, the cover of the junction box was removed before the electrical circuit within was isolated. As a result the worker received an electric shock when he touched the live junction box with his left hand. Adam Fras pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 14 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 in relation to the incident following the HSE investigation. He was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs. Fras Contractors Limited, of Station Road, Smallford, St Albans, pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £1,500 with costs of £1,000. After the hearing, HSE inspector Jack Wilby said: “Adam Fras is a qualified electrician who really should have known better. He and his firm ignored the essentials, in this instance isolating the power and ensuring a ladder was used in a safe manner. As a result the worker was placed in totally unnecessary danger and he very nearly paid with his life.”

Fine for electrical safety failures

A bed and breakfast operator in Harrogate has been hit with a £5,000 fine after being prosecuted by the local authority over a string of electrical safety failures. According to Harrogate News, the owner of a bed and breakfast accommodation in the town was ordered to pay the penalty – as well as costs of £2,090 – by Harrogate Magistrates’ Court last month. Magistrates expressed concern about the business’ failure to resolve the relevant safety issues. An inspection of the premises by Harrogate Borough Council and the Health and Safety Executive uncovered a number of electrical problems and an improvement notice was served. However, the issues highlighted were not resolved and the matter subsequently proceeded to court. “Businesses must make sure that their electrical systems are maintained in a safe condition. Had this owner complied with the improvement notice then they wouldn’t have had to pay this hefty fine,” said Cllr Stuart Martin, chair of the Harrogate council’s licensing committee. “Action will be taken against those businesses neglecting to maintain their premises in a safe condition.”

Faults highlighted in second hand electrical goods

Hundreds of second-hand electrical goods have been checked by Liverpool trading standards officers in a drive to ensure safety for bargain-hunters. A three-month project has seen them inspect premises throughout the city which sell second hand goods to ensure that unsafe items are not being sold. A total of 106 shops were inspected including charity stores, house clearance businesses, antique shops and ‘cash for goods’ national chains. About 1000 items were checked, including nearly 700 electrical goods, and 68 were seized for not complying with safety requirements. Among the goods seized were two electric fires, a fridge, coffee-maker, a foot spa and lamps. Councillor Tim Moore, Liverpool City Council cabinet member for the environment and climate change, said: “This exercise was not just for the benefit of the customers, it was also to help the traders. It was not about trying to catch them out but to help them be more aware of what they need to do to make sure the goods they sell are safe and that their businesses comply with all the relevant legislation.” The project was partly funded through a grant from the Fire Safety Fund which is part of the Electrical Safety Council.

PATs and Fire Prevention

Two recent pieces of news further underlined the role of portable appliance testing and its role in fire prevention. The latest annual Fire Statistics Great Britain, 2010/2011 further reinforced the role of faulty appliances and leads as the main cause of accidental fires in other buildings (non dwellings). The report showed that, In 20010/11, faulty appliances and leads were the cause of 4,400 accidental fires in non-residential buildings, a figure that represents 25% of all such fires. Over the period 2000 and 2011 (excluding 2010 for which no breakdown is available), each year faulty appliances and leads were identified as the cause of between 25% and 32% of accidental fires in non dwelling type buildings. To help overcome such problems in domestic premises, the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) has recently run a workshop on electrical fire safety for the Fire and Rescue Services (FRS). The London-based event attracted 38 delegates from 25 FRS – representing over half of the entire FRS in England – with officials from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) ‘Fire Kills’ campaign also in attendance. Phil Buckle, Director General of the ESC, said: “The FRS undertake a range of fire prevention activities, often with the focus on the vulnerable groups – such as pensioners, children and people on low income – who are also our priority audiences. “By enabling the Fire and Rescue Services to extend their understanding of electrical fires, we help them develop key electrical safety messages to communicate to householders and, hopefully, improve the accuracy of fire reporting. This in turn will enhance statistical data on electrical-related fires and assist us in determining how best to reduce them.”

Council Grants Scheme Makes Homes Safe

The Electrical Safety Council Continues to improve homes working in conjunction with various organizations to offer over 80k in funding shared between 662 vulnerable households. Work completed under the grant scheme can include upgrading earthing, consumer units and the provision for portable appliance testing.