Businesses urged to adopt a ‘common sense’ approach to health and safety

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Figures released by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) are said to show businesses are wasting millions of pounds each year by over-maintaining electrical appliances with unnecessary annual tests. By adopting a common sense approach, the IET estimates businesses could save over £30m annually and £120m over the next four years.

 

The IET has said the research highlights millions of pounds being are being needlessly spent because of the misunderstanding that portable appliance testing (PAT) should be undertaken every year, a misnomer often perpetuated by external contractors providing PAT services. In fact, testing annually has never been a legal requirement and it is not the case that insurers require policyholders to undertake testing every year, particularly in low-risk business environments such as offices, shops and hotels.

To help businesses to understand their PAT obligations and to prevent unnecessary electrical appliance maintenance, the IET has published the fourth edition of the Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment. The new publication will enable individuals with responsibility for electrical equipment, including building mangers, office managers and health and safety inspectors, to make more informed decisions on the level of inspection and testing required. The proportionate risk-based approach which the Code of Practice advises, takes into consideration the usage, type and environment of the equipment under question.

Geoff Cronshaw, chief electrical engineer at the IET, said: “Misunderstandings around inspection and testing of electrical equipment have led to low-risk businesses paying unnecessarily for over-the-top maintenance regimes. The Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment, fourth edition, incorporates major changes reflecting Professor Löfstedt’s report and the Health and Safety Executive’s view that promotes a proportionate risk-based approach when assessing the safety of electrical equipment and appliances, potentially saving businesses millions of pounds.”

Peter Brown, head of the Work Environment, Radiation and Gas Division of the Health and Safety Executive, said: “We welcome the publication of the Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment, fourth edition, which will help to promote a balanced risk-based approach to determine how frequently equipment should be maintained, reducing the likelihood of businesses wasting money on unnecessary testing.”

While the recently updated PAT advice will undoubtedly pose a significant challenge for the PAT sector, test instrument manufacturer, the Seaward Group, also believes it will create major new opportunities for those PAT firms able to respond positively to the changes.

Jim Wallace, associate director of Seaward, said: “There is no doubt that the latest guidance on portable appliance testing will require a new approach to be taken by those involved in the industry.

“The clear message is that electrical equipment inspection and testing regimes should be based on a more focused and robust approach to assessing the safety risks posed by appliances.

“Those companies that can respond positively to the change in emphasis now have the opportunity to provide much more added value to their customers.

“This will mean moving away from a simple cost per test-driven service to the provision of more thorough support based on a more professional advisory, testing and record keeping service.”

The changes have already led some in the industry  to fear for its future while others remain to be convinced anything will change.

Wallace continued:  “There is indisputable evidence that the periodic in-service testing of electrical equipment prevents injuries, saves lives and avoids workplace fires that would otherwise be devastating for those involved.  This has not changed.

“In certain situations there has been a problem of an over zealous approach to testing and over compliance with the regulations.  The new emphasis on risk assessment is designed to overcome this, but also reaffirms that dutyholders can accept advice from the person doing the inspection and testing.

“This is the opportunity for contractors. The key is having a proper understanding of risk assessment – and being able to apply the same principle to other areas of workplace safety.

“If this new approach can be adopted, there is no reason why professional PAT firms should not continue to succeed.”

The Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment, fourth edition, has been developed by the IET alongside industry stakeholders including the Health and Safety Executive. It reflects the recommendations contained in the Löfstedt Report (published in November 2011).

The Code of Practice, which will be available from 08 November, can be purchased by visiting www.theiet.org/electrical . In addition, the IET is also offering a free webinar on the Code of Practice which will take place on the 14 November and can be viewed by visiting www.theiet.org/webinar-form-pr .

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