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PAT testing must go further

There can be no doubt that portable appliance testing (PAT testing) saves lives - acting as an safeguard against the continued use of faulty appliances that may create shock or fire hazards. Dave Moore of Megger discusses the importance of testing in multi-occupancy buildings.

PAT testing must go further

Currently, the legal requirements that underpin PAT testing relate only to places of work, such as factories, shops and offices. Other premises, such as care homes, hospitals and hotels are also covered, but there are no requirements that relate to the PAT testing of appliances in domestic premises.

This omission is perverse. How can it be essential to ensure that electrical equipment in the workplace is safe to use, but unnecessary to verify the safety of what is often the same or similar equipment when it is used in the home? Does it not matter if persons receive electric shocks in the comfort of their own homes, or if a faulty appliance leads to a fire that burns their house down?

Of course, there are those who argue that what people do in their own home should be entirely up to them. If they choose to live with potentially hazardous electrical equipment, it is their business and nobody else’s. This position is, however, untenable.

Some individuals may not be concerned about the hazards created by faulty appliances, but what about their family and visitors to their homes? Unless they happen to live in a detached property, it may not only be their own homes that they are putting at risk – in these cases; a fire that starts in one property is most certainly going to affect the neighbouring properties.

Should anyone think that these issues are merely theoretical, it is worth bearing in mind the recent news reports about a fire in block of flats, which appears to have been started by a faulty television set. Six people died.

Of course, it is not possible to be certain that, even if this particular television had been PAT tested, the fault would have been found before it led to the fire. What is certain, however, is that PAT testing of domestic appliances would reduce fire risks – and other hazards - overall.

Too big a step?

Perhaps it is, at present, too big a step to insist that all electrical appliances used in domestic premises must be PAT tested, although it probably wouldn’t be difficult to find insurance companies that feel otherwise! There is, however, a strong case for requiring PAT testing for appliances used in multi-occupancy dwellings.

Enforcement of such a requirement may, at first seem problematic, but an initial move in the right direction would be for insurers to require PAT testing as a condition of cover on household building and contents policies. Since most multi-occupancy properties are rented, the requirement for PAT testing could also be written into leases.

Last but certainly not least, homeowners could be made liable for the costs incurred by the emergency services in dealing with incidents caused by faulty appliances for which no current PAT test certificate was available.

It has to be acknowledged that these measures do not add up to a perfect solution, but even if their adoption initially led to only 50% of appliances in multi-ownership properties being PAT tested, this would still be an important contribution to public safety and it is likely that, as a result, lives would be saved each year.

In recent years, we have seen more attention given to ensuring the safety of electrical installations in domestic properties with, for example, the introduction of Part P of the Building Regulations and the new 17th Edition of the IEE Wiring Regulations. These are important developments, but surely the time is now right to consider the safety not just of electrical installations but also of the appliances for which they provide power.

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