Monday, 26 March 2012

(RIDDOR) Change – 6 April 2012

From 6 April 2012, subject to Parliamentary approval, RIDDOR’s over three day injury reporting requirement will change. From then the trigger point will increase from over three days’ to over seven days’ incapacitation (not counting the day on which the accident happened).

Incapacitation means that the worker is absent or is unable to do work that they would reasonably be expected to do as part of their normal work.

Employers and others with responsibilities under RIDDOR must still keep a record of all over three day injuries – if the employer has to keep an accident book, then this record will be enough.

The deadline by which the over seven day injury must be reported will increase to 15 days from the day of the accident.

Monday, 19 March 2012

How often do I need to test my electrical appliances?

This is an interesting question as the perception is that everything should be tested every year, if only this was the case, it would make life a lot easier for those doing the tests. The fact is that there are no hard and fast rules as to when or how often items should be tested.

Let’ s look at the whole picture first, portable electrical appliances need to be inspected and tested on a regular basis, inspection frequency need not be the same as the testing frequency, in fact they should be inspected by the operator every time they are used (is the plug damaged? are there any breaks in the cable? is there any damage to the appliance casing?) In other words a common sense approach to using any electrical item. This said not every fault will be spotted by a simple inspection, therefore it is essential that a regime of thorough inspections and testing be set up.

Now we go back to the original question, how often? Although there is no hard and fast rule, there is a code of practice produced by the IEE which provides guidance for qualified testers to use, to answer this question, however the final frequency will depend upon many factors, which an experienced tester will take into account and come up with a sensible schedule.

There are three main considerations when deciding how often to test an electrical appliance:

1.    Type of premises: The conditions or type of premises will have a major effect on the frequency of testing, imagine using something as simple as an extension lead, these can be found in every environment, however we would not expect one in an office to be subject to damage as much as one in a fabrication workshop. In general we would categorise the premises into 6 sections; Construction, Industrial, Public, Schools, Hotels and Shops & Offices.

2.    Type of Equipment: The appliance itself will also dictate the frequency in which it is to be tested, some equipment is more susceptible to damage than others, for example an electric drill is more at risk than say a refrigerator, in general terms the more portable an appliance is, the more it is likely to get damaged. Appliances are generally split into 5 categories; Stationary, IT, Moveable, Portable and Hand-held.

3.    Equipment Construction: When we say construction, we mean how well the live electrical parts are separated from being able to be touched, in other words how well they are insulated. An appliance which is well insulated will need a less frequent inspection regime than one that only has basic insulation. There are four classes of insulation, class 0 which has only basic insulation and no earth, class 1 which has basic insulation and a facility to connect to earth, class 2 which has enhanced double insulation but with no earth and finally class 3 or separated extra low voltage , which uses low voltage power fed from a double insulated transformer and no earth.

As can be seen here, there are many permutations to be taken into consideration when deciding how often to test an electrical appliance, which is why a qualified PAT tester will have been trained not only how to check the equipment, but also how to manage the testing regime. So going back to the original question “how often do I need to test my electrical appliances” there are 120 possible answers for each and every appliance, so please let the experts sort it out for you.

We hope that we have been able to answer the question and demonstrate that having your appliances tested at the correct intervals is not a cost, but an investment in your company’s future prosperity. Should you have further questions about this subject or any other health and safety issues, then please do not hesitate to contact us via

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Why do I need to test my electrical equipment?

This is a question that we get asked a lot of times and there are several parts to the answer, so let’s look at this stage by stage.

Firstly there’s the humanitarian issue, do we want to put our staff, ourselves or the public in danger? Off course we don’t, but that’s exactly what we are doing if we do not maintain all equipment in a safe manner. According to some HSE statistics 1% of all industrial accidents are as a result of electrocution from faulty or badly maintained electrical equipment, however this 1% of accidents represents 6% of total fatalities.

Secondly there’s a business continuity issue, whilst all equipment will be out of service for a very short moment (during testing) this is minute compared to the same piece of kit electrocuting someone. At this point your production will be stopped whilst HSE and police investigate the circumstances, your man power will have been reduced (the member of staff being off sick or even killed) the piece of kit will probably need to be repaired or replaced, all this is costing the company time.

Thirdly we have an intellectual issue, having had an incident it’s almost certain that you will have a negative effect on morale within your work force, as they will feel that they are not valued enough to look after. In addition to this your professional image to your existing and potential customers will also be affected, how many of them want to be associated with a company that is careless or just doesn’t care?

Next we have the cost to the company, yes there is a cost involved in having the equipment tested and with this you get what you pay for. To test an electrical appliance properly in accordance with IEE code of practice takes between 4 and 6 minutes (so if anyone tells you he can test more 120 in a day, then beware) If you take the cost of the testing and put it against the items we have already covered then the alternative costs involved would be; court costs in being sued for negligence or even prosecuted for corporate manslaughter, loss of production, sick pay, reduced production from remaining staff, replacement or repair of the piece of kit, HSE costs, loss of revenue and you will still need to pay for your appliances to be tested.

If by now you’re getting really depressed about this, then buckle up because there’s more. According to fire brigade statistics 26% of fires, on commercial premises, are caused by faulty electrical equipment, this means there is a potential for one in four businesses to be the victim of fire as a result. The consequences of a fire on your premises are potentially far more serious than previously explained; more injuries, more fatalities, greater loss of continuity, removal from the market place (whether this is temporary or permanent), greater costs or even total loss of your business.

“This may all be inconvenient, but our insurance will pay to get us back on our feet” check your small print, because you may find that by not carrying out your best endeavours to prevent these incidents, that you have invalidated your insurance, there may also be a clause that states you must comply with all of your legal duties.

Which brings us to the last point, “why do I need to test my electrical equipment” because it’s your legal duty, under various health and safety legislation, it is your responsibility to maintain all equipment in a safe manner and the best way to do this is employ a regime of regular inspections and testing.

We hope that we have been able to answer the question and demonstrate that having your appliances tested is not a cost, but an investment in your company’s future prosperity. Should you have further questions about this subject or any other health and safety issues, then please do not hesitate to contact us at via 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Guide to Safe Equipment at Work

Accidents happen in every walk of life and often, are down to lack of concentration or simple carelessness but accidents in the workplace can happen because equipment is not safe to use or a risk assessment hasn’t taken place.

Clearly, a worker should not use equipment if he or she thinks it isn’t safe but employers are bound by a duty of care which means they are ultimately responsible for making sure that both staff and visitors are not put at risk.

So employers must ensure that all equipment and machinery is safe for use. This means that it should be inspected regularly in case it has been damaged or misused.

Ensuring Safety in Your Business

Most obviously, you need to keep the workplace clean and safe for all and ensure that people are protected from falling from heights or being exposed to hazardous substances.
You should also check that all roads, walkways, floors and stairs are safe to use and not blocked by large pieces of equipment or piled up stock.

Although serious accidents can occur with large or specialised machinery, many injuries happen every year when employees are using basic every day equipment such as stepladders, hand saws or mechanical screwdrivers.


So it’s extremely important to make sure that all equipment is inspected regularly. In most cases, a daily pre-check should be carried out. You can emphasise the importance to your workers through regular toolbox talks.

Show them some examples of accidents which have happened through every day equipment and make sure they know the importance of checking all equipment before they use it.
For example, before using a ladder they should check it visually for any broken or cracked rungs and ensure that the feet are solid.

They need to check that any locking devices on stepladders are working properly and should use any recommended safety equipment at heights, such as a harness.

Other equipment such as machinery should be visually checked and employees must know who is responsible for checking that any safety guards or switches are in good working order and that any moving parts, waste collectors and other gadgets have been oiled regularly.

If machinery has an exhaust system, this needs to be inspected on a regular basis.
Safety Aids

Research by the Health and Safety Executive has shown that experience is no substitute for safety guards or equipment.

It takes only a split second of concentration loss to lose a finger in cutting equipment but often, experienced workers have disabled safety features to make a machine easier to use.

It is easy to become complacent about small equipment such as wood saws or mechanical screwdrivers but they are capable of causing serious injury if not well maintained or used correctly.

Employers should make a list of all equipment in use and decide how and when it should be checked and who will note that an inspection has been undertaken. In the event of an accident, this will at least show that dangers have been taken seriously and that procedures are in place to keep employees safe.

Protective Equipment

Lots of every day equipment has the potential to cause injury unless workers have been given personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce the chances of harm.

PPE equipment can vary from something as simple as clothing which provides protection against the weather to safety helmets, gloves, eye protection, safety footwear, noise reduction headphones or safety harnesses.

If PPE is needed for a job, it must be provided by the employer and they cannot charge employees for it.

It is important that employers provide the required PPE and ensure that it is fit for purpose. Check gloves for holes or damage, ensure that headphones are not broken and follow guidelines for checking harnesses.

Employees also have a responsibility towards their own safety and can refuse to undertake any job which they consider unsafe.

As an employee you can reduce the risk of accidents by reporting any faulty equipment or machinery as soon as possible. Make sure equipment that you are using is in good condition and well looked after. It should always be cleaned well and correctly stored after use. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The dangers of electrical equipment in the workplace

Employers and other duty-holders have been reminded of the dangers that can be posed by electrical equipment in the workplace, in the wake of recent research into the failure rates of appliances.

Test instrument manufacturer Seaward reviewed its portable appliance (PAT) test reports compiled during routine in-service electrical safety ...testing. Its analysis of more than 80,000 PAT tests revealed an average appliance failure rate of 1.4 per cent, which equates to more than 1100 potentially dangerous appliances that would not have been discovered had inspection and testing not been carried out.

The failures were typically recorded in such premises as offices, schools, universities and factories, and involved damaged mains cords, enclosures, or casings, exposed moving parts, and failed earth continuity, or insulation resistance tests.

In industrial environments, such as engineering and manufacturing premises, the failure rates were, at an average of 7.4 per cent, much higher than the likes of offices and administrative services, reflecting the damage and mishandling often associated with power tools and other moveable electrical equipment.

Seaward also emphasised another potentially deadly effect of faulty portable electrical appliances: fire. It cited official UK fire statistics, which show that the Fire Service attended 136,000 accidental fires in non-residential dwellings between 2000 and 2005, the main cause of which was faulty appliances and leads, which were responsible for 30 per cent of the total.

During this same period, the Fire Protection Association revealed that there were 346 reported fire losses that were electrical in origin in premises other than dwellings. The total loss from these was £178m, with an average loss per incident of £50,000.

Rod Taylor, managing director of Seaward, said: “These figures show beyond any doubt the extent to which damaged and faulty electrical appliances pose a danger to users, and are also a potential cause of damaging fires.

“Although at first sight the percentages may appear to be low, the true potential impact can be gauged from the massive number of appliances and electrical items used in everyday workplaces.

“Clearly, the preventative measures to be adopted need to be in proportion to the risk, but in the majority of cases the costs of adopting sensible inspection and testing regimes are lower than those involved with other forms of risk assessment.”

For further advice on PAT testing or to arrange for your equipment to be checked out contact us via our website at

Monday, 5 March 2012

Who is responsible for fire safety?

Who is responsible for fire safety?
Generally, the employer (Responsible Person) is responsible for the fire safety of all who are lawfully on the premises (Relevant Persons). These include employees, visitors, contractors, members of the public and any person in the immediate vicinity, such as people walking past. Operational fire fighters at incidents are not included.
Responsibility for managing duties on behalf of the Responsible Person (RP) at the head of an organisation may be shared, for example, between branch or area manager, depending on the extent of control each has i.e. they must have the appropriate authority, skills and training to manage these duties. 
Is it permissible for others to carry out duties on behalf of the Responsible Persons?
Yes, the RP may nominate Competent Persons (CP). For instance, an RP may nominate others to act as fire marshals or wardens with a duty for assisting with evacuation; or an engineer might be given the task of testing fire alarms.
The RP must ensure CPs have the ability to carry out their tasks i.e. they must be properly competent, trained and equipped, or external experts may be brought in to fill any shortfall. 
Please bear in mind that delegating duties falling within the RP’s remit does not absolve a person from responsibility. It is down to the RP to put sufficient checks in place to ensure delegated duties are carried out correctly.
Do employees have responsibility?
Yes, employees must take reasonable care for the safety of themselves and others who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work e.g. wedging open a fire door. It is the RP’s responsibility to ensure employees receive training.
Who is responsible for fire safety in multi-occupied premises?
This may be shared by several people. In a multi-occupied office, the landlord/owner and tenants may be responsible for common areas with each occupier responsible for the areas they control. 
The fire alarm may be the sole responsibility of the landlord/owner if it is common to the entire premises. A tenancy agreement should identify who is responsible for each area of fire safety.
Occupiers have a duty to take reasonable steps to co-operate and co-ordinate with each other.
Who is responsible for fire safety when there is no employer?
The person in control of the premises is responsible. This could be the person or organisation paying the rent or owning the building. e.g. a charity trustee in the case of a charity shop or a parish council in case of a village hall.
Who is responsible for fire safety in an unoccupied building?
This is normally the owner of the building

Friday, 2 March 2012

Impact of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Falling foul of fire safety legislation can result in hefty fines, often in cases where there has been no serious injury or loss of life.

When assessing risks associated with fire, the immediate concern is often the potential loss of life. Corporate manslaughter or gross negligence charges can follow if death occurs due to corporate or individual gross negligence, also lesser injuries often result in health and safety prosecutions.
However, businesses are also discovering - to their considerable cost - that it is not injury, but the risk posed if there was to be a fire, which is triggering prosecution under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO).

Obligations imposed by the RRO

The RRO imposes duties on a defined "responsible person" to protect anyone who may be on or in the vicinity of the premises. A responsible person may be a corporate or an individual and includes employers operating from, and owners or commercial occupiers of, premises.

A responsible individual has a duty to ensure that a risk assessment is carried out to identify what needs to be done. They must also take "general fire precautions" to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of staff and others. "General fire precautions" include measures to reduce the risk or spread of fire. These include consideration of:
  • the means, safety and efficacy of escape measures
  • how any fire will be detected and tackled, and how warnings will be given
  • arrangements for the instruction and training of employees on fire prevention and firefighting, minimising the risks and evacuation.

The RRO created a number of new offences and inspectors have power to issue enforcement and prohibition notices and prosecute for breaches.
One offence created is the failure of a responsible person to comply with fire safety duties "where that failure places one or more relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury in case of fire".

Very similar to the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, individuals may also face prosecution where a company is guilty, as a responsible person, for a breach of the RRO and that breach is, "proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer."
Where an offence has been committed due to "the act or default of some other person", that other person is also guilty of an offence and may be prosecuted regardless of whether or not there are also proceedings against the responsible person.

The offences clearly envisage, and the cases confirm, that guilt will be established simply for putting people at risk were there to be a fire, whether or not there is actually a fire. It is not a defence that an employee or someone nominated by a company has made a mistake. The only defence available is for offences where the charges include a failure to take reasonable precautions. In those cases, it is a defence that reasonable precautions and all due diligence were taken to avoid the commission of the offence.

We hope that we have been able to highlight the impact of this legislation. Should you have further questions about this subject or any other health and safety issues, then please do not hesitate to contact us via