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PAT Testing News Round-Up - Issue 10

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Electric shock leads to HSE fine

A Hertfordshire contracting company and its managing director have been prosecuted for safety failings after a worker received an electric shock from a live junction box during poorly planned maintenance work in London.

Westminster Magistrates' Court heard that his employer Fras Contractors Limited could and should have done more to protect the worker as he attempted to repair an external flood light.

The Health and Safety Executive presented evidence that the routine job was flawed in a number of ways.

Firstly, a ladder was placed on top of storage boxes underneath the junction box unit. These should have been moved to make space.

Secondly, the cover of the junction box was removed before the electrical circuit within was isolated. As a result the worker received an electric shock when he touched the live junction box with his left hand.

Adam Fras pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 14 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 in relation to the incident following the HSE investigation. He was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs.

Fras Contractors Limited, of Station Road, Smallford, St Albans, pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £1,500 with costs of £1,000.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Jack Wilby said: "Adam Fras is a qualified electrician who really should have known better. He and his firm ignored the essentials, in this instance isolating the power and ensuring a ladder was used in a safe manner. As a result the worker was placed in totally unnecessary danger and he very nearly paid with his life.”

ESC reminds landlords of their responsibilities

As the number of people becoming landlords soars, with 13% of UK adults considering leasing out a property in the near future, research from the Electrical Safety Council (ESC) has found that misunderstandings between landlords and tenants over responsibilities for safety are exposing millions of people to life-threatening electrical dangers.

Electricity kills at least one person every week in the home and almost 1,000 are seriously injured every day. Electricity causes around 20,000 fires a year - almost half of all accidental UK house fires. The ESC has found that of all the people receiving an electric shock, private tenants are disproportionately affected: with 16% of the UK population living in private rented properties, they account for 20% of UK adults receiving an electric shock.

The ESC is concerned that the rise in inexperienced landlords – many of whom are finding it easier to rent out their property than sell it – will further compromise safety. More than one fifth of all private tenants (21%) already report concerns with the electrical safety in their home and three quarters of private tenants (75%) can’t recall discussing electrical safety with their landlord.

The ESC’s research also found that landlords and tenants are confused about their responsibilities whereby three in ten landlords and two-fifths of renters do not know who is responsible for electrical safety in their rented properties (29% and 40% respectively).

By law, landlords must ensure electrical installations and wiring are maintained in a safe condition throughout the tenancy . And tenants should feel obliged to flag electrical problems as soon as they appear, as well as maintain any electrical items they bring into the house.

In response to the statistics, the ESC has produced a simple guide for landlords outlining how to ensure the electrical safety of a property.

More details

Chief Fire Officers recognise fire risk from faulty electrics

In association with the Chief Fire Officers Association, and after an investigation by East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service into the frequency of fires originating at the electrical intake position in (mostly) residential properties, a safety proposal was put forward by the Electrical Safety Council.

They ESC has proposed to create warning labels and leaflets that warn householders not to store combustible materials close to the electrical intake equipment in their homes. The labels and leaflets are intended to be offered to householders during fire ad rescue services home safety visits. The label should be fitted near to the householder’s electrical intake position and the householder given the accompanying leaflet.

The ESC is making the labels and leaflets available to FRS across the UK.

HSE e-bulletin service

The HSE has set up a new e-news service to help everyone keep up to date with what’s happening in the health and safety world. The service can be tailored to suit your needs and interests – including those involved in electrical safety – and is completely free.

For further details and to sign-up for the new service, visit

Leakage testing Q&A

Q. I had a situation with a washing machine where the substitute leakage test gave 4mA, ie: a fail. So I repeated the test as a differential test by using a mains supply into the tester. This gave 1.8mA, which is OK. As it was a newish machine with electronic controls, inc On/Off, I presumed it is the RFI filtering on the incoming mains causing the leakage, thus the machine is OK.

Is my presumption a safe one and is my process of only using the differential test if the substitute test fails a safe one?

A.Substiute leakage is measured between both line and neutral and the protective earth conductor. It is similar to an insulation resistance measurement except that a test voltage of 40V/50Hz is used rather than 500V DC. The measured current is then automatically scaled by the tester to show the leakage that would present at mains voltage (i.e. scaled by a factor of 6).

If the appliance under test has filter components between both line-earth and neutral earth (as appears to be the case with the washing machine) the substitute leakage method will measure both leakage current. The IET Code of Practice includes the substitute leakage method but does not have limit values that take into account the additional leakage path between neutral-earth.

Differential leakage is measured at the normal supply voltage with a normal supply connection i.e. it is a true indication of the leakage under normal operating conditions and is therefore a much more robust measurement. If the differential leakage measurement value is less than the limits specified by the IET CoP then the appliance is OK

For more Q&As visit the PAT forum at

Saudi highlights electrical safety problems

Interesting comments from Saudi Arabia. At the opening of a symposium for electrical safety experts in Riyadh a government spokesman highlighted the cost of failure of implementing electrical safety standards.

Dr. Saleh Al-Awaji said during the last five years the Kingdom had incurred SR260 million in losses due to the lack of electric safety measures in public and residential facilities.

He said these accidents and losses occur due to weak commitment to safety requirements in the implementation of electrical wiring, errors in design and operation systems, power protection, short circuits, mishandling of electrical appliances and lack of awareness about the hazards of such mistakes.

"Due to this problem, we have also lost 185 lives and witnessed 1,466 people getting injured in various facilities during this period," Dr Al Awaji noted.

The official said the conference would highlight the importance of electricity safety and its role to cut the risks of fire and electric shocks in electric utilities and commercial, educational, industrial and health facilities, to protect people and properties and reduce losses.

The symposium, he said, would also introduce the decision made in Saudi Arabia to change the voltage in the Kingdom to 230/400 volts, and its impact on increasing the level of safety to raise the efficiency of the distribution network.



















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