PAT guidance changes will require a new approach, says Seaward
The renewed emphasis on a risk based approach to workplace electrical safety testing will undoubtedly pose a significant challenge for the PAT sector, according to test instrument manufacturer Seaward Group.However, the Seaward Group also says that recently updated PAT advice creates 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 recently published fourth edition of the IET Code of Practice emphasises the importance of taking a proportionate response to ensuring that all workplace electrical systems are safe to use.
To do this it says that a structured approach to risk assessment should be adopted for the determination of inspection and testing intervals.
This latest advice essentially follows the theme established by the earlier Löfstedt report on health and safety and the HSE’s revised guidance on maintaining portable electrical equipment in low risk environments.
The new guidance has been developed in response to concerns that the implied legal requirement for maintaining the safety of electrical appliances was being applied too broadly, resulting in situations of costly over compliance, particularly in some of the more low risk working environments.
Although newly introduced, the changes have already led to some in the industry fearing for its future while others remain to be convinced that anything will change.
Jim Wallace added, ‘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.’