The HSE has issued revised guidance on electrical equipment checks and is urging businesses not to be fooled into paying for testing that is not required.
Unnecessary electrical safety tests cost office-based businesses an estimated £30 million a year, but it’s a myth that every portable electrical appliance in the workplace needs to be tested once a year.
According to the safety watchdog, misleading advice and advertising – often, by companies who offer the testing – is contributing to low-risk businesses, such as offices, shops and hotels, paying unnecessarily for excessive maintenance regimes.
The message from the HSE is that employers need only ensure that electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger – as the law does not stipulate that every item has to be tested, or how often testing needs to be carried out.
While the testing of appliances can contribute to an effective maintenance regime, in a low-risk environment most dangerous defects can be identified simply by checking the devices for obvious signs of damage, such as frayed cables, advises the Executive.
Launching the revised guidance on portable appliance testing (PAT), HSE chair Judith Hackitt said: “Businesses are responsible for protecting their employees, but they shouldn’t be wasting their money on unnecessary checks that have no real benefit.
“HSE has always advocated a proportionate, risk-based approach to maintenance. This new guidance is simple and clear to follow.”
The guidance has been revised in response to Professor Löfstedt’s independent report on health and safety legislation, which concluded that the legal requirements concerning maintenance of electrical appliances were “applied too widely and disproportionately”, resulting in costly over-compliance.
Nick Starling, director of general insurance at the Association of British Insurers, added: “Insurers have never required policy-holders to undertake unnecessary portable electrical appliance tests that are not proportionate to the risk.
“We welcome HSE’s guidance, which will help businesses focus on what they do best, free from worries about health and safety myths.”
The guidance, Maintaining portable electrical equipment in low-risk environments, is available at www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg236.pdf