Firms advised over ‘unnecessary’ electrical safety checks

Firms have been told they do not need to carry out annual safety tests on all electrical equipment, in an overhaul of “health and safety red tape”.

New guidance should stop firms being “duped” into “unnecessary” Portable Appliance Tests on items like kettles and computers, the government said.

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said it could save businesses £30m a year.

The Federation of Small Businesses said it was a “welcome step” in reducing the regulatory burden on small firms.

Mr Grayling highlighted new guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on PAT rules at a meeting with business leaders at the Enterprise Forum on Wednesday.

Under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, employers have to make sure that their electrical equipment is safe – but the HSE has stressedthat the law does not say how this should be done, or how often.

‘Being misled’

Confusion about Portable Appliance Testing was flagged up in Professor Ragnar Lofstedt’s independent report into health and safety legislation published last year.

He said that while electricity posed a risk, with about 1,000 accidents reported at work each year, many businesses were having their kettles and microwaves tested each year “which is both costly and of questionable value” – and was not required under the law.

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We need lower taxes and less red tape for business, or jobs will go elsewhere”

Chris GraylingEmployment Minister

HSE chair Judith Hackitt said “low-risk companies” were “being misled over what the law requires when it comes to maintaining portable electrical appliances, and many are paying for testing that is not needed”.

Mr Grayling flagged up the new guidance to businesses on Wednesday as evidence of “significant progress” by the government in cutting red tape on businesses – something he said was necessary to bring down the cost of doing business in Britain.

‘Myth-busting’

He said: “If we want people to have jobs, we have to recognise just how different and competitive the world has become. And that means we have to change in response. We need lower taxes and less red tape for business, or jobs will go elsewhere.

“That’s why we are cutting health-and-safety bureaucracy. We’re making good progress and I am determined to cut the number of health-and-safety regulations in half.

“Of course we have to protect people against death and serious injury in the workplace, and we won’t do anything to risk this, but if we stifle their employers with unneeded rules and regulations, those people won’t have a job in the first place.”

He also flagged up other changes – saying the government had already cut the number of health-and-safety inspections by a third and established “myth-busting” panels to give people a way of challenging “daft decisions”.

But some have raised concerns about the scale of some of the government’s measures on health and safety.

Paul Kenny, head of the GMB union, criticised changes to requirements on firms which meant they did not have to report injuries at work where employees were off for up to seven days, saying it would do “nothing” to make workplaces safer.

And the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health has raised concerns about how the government can halve the total number of health-and-safety regulations without putting people at risk.

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