Firms urged to pull the plug on £30m of wasted electrical safety tests

2 May 2012 01:56 PM

It's a myth that every portable electrical appliance in the workplace needs to be tested once a year - and what's more it's a costly one.

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 over-the-top maintenance regimes.

The law simply requires an employer to ensure that electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger - it does not state that every item has to be tested or how often testing needs to be carried out.

Testing appliances to ensure that they are safe to use can contribute to an effective maintenance regime, but in a low-risk environment most dangerous defects can be found simply by checking the appliances for obvious signs of damage such as frayed cables.

Launching HSE's revised guidance on portable appliance testing (PAT), HSE Chair Judith Hackitt said:

"We know that low-risk companies are being mis-led over what the law requires when it comes to maintaining portable electrical appliances, and many are paying for testing that is not needed.

"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."

Nick Starling, Director of General Insurance at the Association of British Insurers, said:

"Insurers have never required policyholders to undertake unnecessary portable electrical appliance tests which 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."

Notes to editors

  1. HSE Guidance: Maintaining portable electrical equipment in low-risk environments www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg236.htm1
  2. For further information on portable appliance testing see HSE's FAQs www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/faq-portable-appliance-testing.htm2
  3. The revised guidance is in response to Professor Lofstedt's independent report on health and safety legislation which said that the legal requirements concerning maintenance of electrical appliances was "applied too widely and disproportionately", resulting in costly over-compliance with the law. www.dwp.gov.uk/policy/health-and-safety/ 3
  4. The £30m estimated is what office-based businesses could potentially save by stopping unnecessary yearly testing.
  5. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is the voice of insurance, representing the general insurance, investment and long-term savings industry, with over 300 members. The ABI offers clear, practical advice to help businesses take the right approach to risk management. www.abi.org.uk/ 4

Press enquiries

All enquiries from journalists should be directed to the HSE Press OfficeUnnecessary electrical safety tests cost office-based businesses an estimated £30 million a year.