Made in England: regulations

We have just completed our annual PAT test. We are fortunate that we have a member of staff who we were able to put through the training and we can free him up for about three weeks every year to do this work.

Well that’s Europe for you you might well say. You might well do so, but you would be wrong.

I looked up the regulations and I was knocked over by the list of regulations governing this area. It’s no wonder businesses complain that they are sinking under the regulatory burdens. The net result is we simply accept what some health and safety advisor tells us to do: unscrew every plug annually, put a sticker on it, log it on a piece of paper and file it in the CYA (Cover Your Arse) file. That way if someone asks, the file can be produced.

Whilst the plugs are all tested we glibly put electric radiators in our offices to protect us against the bad insulation. Imagine them doing this in Scandinavia! I have seen too many accidents with these horrible little things and would love to see a regulation only allowing oil filled radiators, but heh, that’s me. So long as the plugs are unscrewed from time to time, all is well.

Looking through the regulations one thing was very clear: there is no regulation requiring the unscrewing of plugs on an annual basis. We have simply all been terrified into it by the lack of clarity in the regulations.

So let’s be sensible. Appliances used regularly in potentially dangerous situations should be checked regularly.  In fact, in many cases this is done much more frequently than once a year. However, unscrewing the plug on a lamp is more likely to cause damage than to cure it. The person putting a nail in the place of a fuse is unlikely to worry about PAT testing anyway. You might want to do a risk assessment in your business and invite that electrician every other year instead – safer and cheaper.

Much more appropriate is a regular walk around to check how appliances are used. A toaster standing on the counter near a sink is a concern, no matter how much PAT testing you do. To my great amusement I once watched a gentleman cut through the wire of his hedge trimmer with the device – big flash and that was that. Probably tested and complete with CE label. The man was fine.

In our businesses we have to use some common sense and let’s hope and pray that the regulatory obsessed start using their brains too.  And blaming it on Europe does not help. After all, their plugs do not have fuses, so the regulation was made here, not there.

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