This issue covers:
- Faulty adaptors prompt safety warning
- An integrated approach to electrical safety testing
- Electrical appliance fire risk warning
- Appliance safety risks highlighted by fire and rescue services
- Counterfeit electrical products pose a growing safety problem
- Importance of using correct test instrumentation
- PAT provides all round safety management tool in prison
- Local authority electrical safety campaign
- NAPIT pushes for formal safety checks in private rented sector
The safety risks of non-compliant electrical accessories have again been highlighted with hundreds of dangerous electrical items being seized by trading standards officers in North Tyneside.
Officers from the council’s trading standards team found hundreds of power adaptors in a warehouse intended for use to charge Apple devices, as well as universal travel adaptors for charging laptops and mobile phones overseas.
Some adaptors, imported from China, were tested and found to be dangerous, with a high risk of an electric shock. Trading standards officers removed all the devices and are now carrying out enquiries into their importation.
A spokesman for trading standards added: “These were dangerous products. The AC adaptors breached safety regulations because the manufacturer’s name or brand was not displayed; there was inadequate insulation between the primary and secondary circuits – this greatly increases the risk of electric shock; the electrical conductors were only connected via solder; and the three pins were too long.”
“The universal travel adaptors breached safety regulations because the manufacturer’s name or brand was not displayed; the input frequency was not displayed; and the three pins were too long.”
An integrated asset management system with electrical safety testing at its core is helping a leading supplier of technical services to outdoor events and festivals meet its quality control and safety compliance obligations.
Figure of Eight Events has recently equipped itself with a Seaward Apollo 600 appliance tester to verify the safe operation of all electrical items, distribution equipment and cabling.
The team behind Figure of Eight Events Ltd provides technical services and support for public events including the supply of power, sound and lighting systems, in addition to staging, rigging and set design.
With thousands of assets, Figure of Eight Events uses the Apollo 600 with PATGuard 3 software to test all electrical items and keep a computerised register of all equipment. This software tracks the maintenance, test status and location of all electrical items utilised by the company. The software is also used to keep records of ladder inspections and rigging equipment.
Rich Rayner, director of Figure of Eight Events, said: “Our reputation in the industry relies on the effectiveness of our quality control procedures and on going compliance with various legislative requirements. We test extensively onsite with the equipment in its environment, carrying this out combined with routine PAT testing gives us an exceptionally reliable product.
“Our events calendar grows each year to the extent that we do not stop until early January when we remove winter ice rink projects. This puts even more pressure on us to clean, check, test and document our assets before the next event season begins. The Apollo 600 coupled with the Test n Tag printer allows us to do this incredibly efficiently with minimal fuss and maximum options.”
A local news report has highlighted a spate of “freak” fires caused by faulty domestic machines that left Shropshire householders reeling and prompted fire chiefs to warn consumers against buying potential “killer bargains”.
The article highlighted routine domestic chores that turned into nightmares for some families as dryers and washing machines caught fire, causing thousands of pounds in damage – and untold heartache for home owners.
In response local fire and rescue services issued a warning with a checklist of do’s and don’ts to prevent further misery after it was revealed there were an unprecedented 254 accidental domestic fires in the county in the past year.
The majority of house fires started in the kitchen with cookers being top of the “hit list” with a recorded 86 blazes from April 2015 to the end of March 2016. Second came tumble dryers and washing machines (28) equally divided at 14 fires each; followed by faulty cables (20); toaster and grills (19); microwaves (18) and heating devices (13). Candles, cigarette lighters, dishwashers, fridge freezers, computer equipment and hair dryers caused the remainder.
John Das Gupta of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We aim to reduce domestic fires by 20 per cent in five years from an average of 248 a year down to 186. It is a massive challenge and we have failed so far in reaching the target.”
The report said that a rise in single households, more over 65’s living alone, and an increase in internet shopping to buy cheaper white goods may be partly to blame. There has also been an increase in computer use, with cheap electrical chargers, overloaded sockets and frayed wiring also causing fires. The full article is available here
A number of newspaper reports around the country have again highlighted the fire risks posed by faulty electrical appliances.
In the Daily Telegraph an online news story reported how ‘hundreds of thousands of families’ are at risk of fire from potentially deadly dishwashers, ovens and washing machines.
The appliances have been linked to dozens of fires in British homes and according to NFU Mutual, a household insurer, ovens and dishwashers were the leading cause of household appliance-related fire in 2015, each causing more than twice as many fires as tumble driers.
White goods manufacturer Whirlpool is in the process of fixing and replacing 4.3 million tumble dryers across the UK, after customers were notified of a widespread safety defect last October.
London Fire Brigade’s head of fire investigation, Charlie Pugsley, said: "While recent years have seen fires in the home steadily falling, fires caused by electrical goods are falling at a much slower rate. We strongly believe a single, publicly accessible register of recalled goods would make all the difference."
In separate stories East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service issued a safety warning after crews attended an electrical fire in a tumble dryer and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service highlighted the risks associated with electric blankets after the death of a caravan owner in a fire caused by an electric fault.
The extent of the risks associated with potentially unsafe appliances has been illustrated by Electrical Safety First (ESF).
In its latest survey into consumer attitudes towards counterfeit electrical goods, ESF has revealed that around 2.5 million people in Britain have, knowingly or by accident, purchased a counterfeit product in the last 12 months – double the level of the previous year.
Looking specifically at where counterfeit sales are being made, it’s clear that a new marketplace has emerged with 7% of people reporting that they have bought counterfeit electrical products through a social media advert. Online retailers still account for the majority of counterfeit purchases, with 60% of all counterfeit electrical purchases taking place online.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, cost is the most influential factor on those who consider purchasing counterfeit electrical items, with one in twelve people admitting they would buy a suspected fake electrical product if it was cheaper than the original.
In terms of the safety risks, over half of people who had bought a fake electrical product said they had experienced a problem with the item, compared to just 39% a year ago.
In tests carried out on popular counterfeit electrical products such as e-cigarettes and blenders, ESF found that while many items appear sophisticated on the outside, even those with small fake internal components are at risk of exploding, leaving consumers open to serious injury or property damage. More details at www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk
The importance of ensuring the competency of electrical test engineers and the use of correctly rated test instrumentation has been highlighted in a recent court case brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The case resulted in an engineering company based in Birmingham being been fined after two workers suffered severe electrical burns. Walsall Magistrates’ Court heard how the company was contracted to dismantle and remove redundant electrical cable and equipment at the former industrial site in the Midlands.
However, while workers carried out an electrical check on switchgear, the electrician accessed the live bus bar. There was an electrical arc and discharge with both men suffering severe electrical burns.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident found that the current at the terminal was 6,600 volts. The tester in use by the electrician was only suitable for use on 240-410 volt equipment. In addition the electrician was not suitably qualified to carry out work on high voltage systems.
The company concerned pleaded guilty to the charges against it and was fined £50,000, with additional costs. Details are here
Following last year’s transfer of facilities management services at a number of prisons to Carillion, the FM team at HM Prison Winchester is using a Seaward Apollo 600 tester to combine electrical testing with a range of other workplace safety tasks.
To meet its health and safety responsibilities, the in-house facilities management team at Winchester has established rigorous inspection and testing procedures to ensure that all prison equipment and systems remain safe for use by both staff and prisoners.
Importantly, as well as the safety of all electrical equipment and appliances used on the prison site, this includes the regular testing of water systems for Legionnaires disease, the condition of emergency lighting systems and fire alarm control panels.
To help the team meet its responsibilities, the focal point of the prison’s health and safety inspection and testing programme is the multi-purpose Apollo 600 tester, supported by the PATGuard 3 Elite software program.
Together, the specialist tester and comprehensive software provides an all-round health and safety management tool that combines appliance testing with a universal risk assessment capability, sophisticated data collection, and the ability to produce a wide range of reports, certificates and other safety documentation.
Jeff Foster, FM services manager for Carillion at HMP Winchester, said: “With the huge variety of equipment and appliances in use in the prison, there is considerable time saving in being able to identify items, carry out tests, record results and make any notes as part of a fully streamlined process.
“Having all non-electrical inspections alongside the results of traditional PAT tests, in the same system and in the same format, also means that reports and certificates can be produced quickly and easily.”
In total some 6,500 items are tested each year, with the weekly testing of all new equipment being supported by comprehensive annual inspections and testing of everything in use across the complete site.
As well as portable appliances, the electrical team also carries out emergency lighting system checks, with the plumbing team being responsible for Legionnaires testing on the water supply.
A local authority in Scotland has launched a programme to reduce the risks to residents posed by unsafe electrical devices in their homes.
North Lanarkshire Council is urging its residents to think about their household safety and help reduce the numbers of deaths and serious injuries involving unsafe electrical devices in the home. The council, responsible for around 37,000 homes, is reminding tenants to allow its appointed electricians access to their homes so wiring, devices and installations can be checked.
Des Murray, the council’s assistant chief executive, said: “We carry-out vital checks in our tenants’ homes to ensure installations and wiring is in a safe and serviceable condition. If they are found to be faulty we will fix the problem.
“The consequences of using older or faulty devices can be devastating. Faulty equipment should normally be replaced or repaired if possible and it is important to get your devices regularly checked to make sure they remain safe to use. If in doubt – throw them out. The risks just aren’t worth taking.” Full story is here
The NAPIT Trade Association has welcomed steps taken via the Housing and Planning Act to give the Government the power to “impose duties on a private landlord... [to ensure] that electrical safety standards are met”.
This clause allows the Secretary of State to set requirements for electrical safety in private rented properties through secondary legislation, such as new regulations, if deemed necessary.
Requirements to verify the electrical safety of a privately rented property are an area of uncertainty in England and Wales. Although the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 requires landlords to keep the installations in the dwelling-house for the supply of water, gas and electricity in repair and proper working order, there is currently no requirement for landlords to undertake regular electrical safety checks in the private rented sector.
Frank Bertie, NAPIT chairman, said: “With research undertaken in 2014 showing 16% of private rented sector tenants in England experience problems with electrical hazards and DGLG statistics showing that 12% of accidental fires last year were caused by electrical distribution systems, resulting in 419 casualties and 18 fatalities, electrical safety remains an area of serious concern. It is therefore welcome news for all concerned that the Government are looking to provide clarification on this crucial issue.
“Scotland is leading the way in this area and The Housing (Scotland) Act 2014 already requires an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) to be carried out at least every 5 years by a competent person in all privately rented homes. We are hopeful that the English Government will follow suit.” More at www.napit.org.uk.
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