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Written by
on 03 May 2012


There is a common myth which is believed by a large proportion of businesses in the UK. This myth costs office based companies around £30 million each year! That money is being spent to test all of the portable electrical devices in the workplace, and it is absolutely not necessary.

Portable electrical appliances don’t have to be checked each year.  Many electrical companies that offer the tests to businesses give off the impression that their service is essential and a must. This misleading advice is incorrect as the actual law says that all employers need to do is ensure the electrical items are well maintained and safe to use so they prevent dangers from occurring.  The law does not state that a yearly test is necessary.

New Revised Guidelines Designed to Help Improve Understanding of the Law

While it is helpful to measure the condition of any electrical appliance, the safety tests can put a lot of expense on companies.  Checking over the condition of an appliance should be enough for most low risk environments. You can check for signs of a fraying cord for example.

The Health and Safety Executive have just revised their Portable Appliance Testing guidance.  The Chair of HSE, Judith Hackett said at the launch that they recognised that many companies considered to be low risk were often left confused by the law regarding PAT.  While employers are responsible for protecting their staff it is wasteful and stressful to have to arrange testing when it is simply not necessary.  It’s important to keep things in proportion and ensure that employers focus on risk based approaches.

Features of the PAT guide

In the new guidance publication which is available on the HSE website it makes it clear that while maintenance is important there is no stipulation on how frequently you need to do this or how to go about it.  It states that you must take into consideration:

  • If there is an increased risk based on how often the equipment is used
  • Is the equipment suitable for what it is being used for?
  • Is the environment it’s used in harsh?
  • Check to see if the equipment is double insulated or earthed

Any outside equipment your employees bring in to the workplace also must be checked. It doesn’t matter of they supplied it or if you did, either way it needs to be included in the PAT. Not all equipment requires a PAT and you can carry out some simple tasks without an expert such as:

  • Bare wires
  • Any internal damage inside the plug
  • Signs of fire damage
  • Loose cables
  • Correct fuse is in use

Other appliances or electrical equipment will still require testing such as the kettle but this doesn’t have to be once a year by law.  Ask your employees to mention any issues with electrical appliances immediately and to check over the item before it is put to use. Try and work in a visual inspection into your routine, perhaps once every six months for example.  If you find appliances which aren’t double insulated get those checked by a professional and arrange re testing between one to five years.

If you are left confused by any laws the health and safety consultants are waiting to lend a hand. Check out the office based health and safety services online or give the consultants a call to discuss your concerns.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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