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Cold Calling Cons - The Truth About PAT Testing

Friday 2 July 2010, 09:46
By Mandy Cochrane

Mandy Cochrane, The Office ElfIt's inevitable that small businesses get the odd unsolicited sales call. As someone who had a short stint in telesales myself, I'm usually tolerant enough to let sales callers get to the end of their script before saying "No thank you".

However I was recently on the receiving end of a particularly unscrupulous hard sell from a salesman trying to sell his company's PAT testing services (the testing of electrical appliances for safety in the workplace).

He told me that every electrical appliance in my office had to be PAT tested. When I demurred, he said I was breaking the law by not having it done. He spouted all sorts of Health & Safety rhetoric but I remained unconvinced. After all, a sole trader such as I, working from a home office with no employees, was hardly putting the corporate masses at significant risk! He then changed tacks, informing me brusquely that without regular PAT testing, my office insurance would be void.

After enduring his pushy scare tactics a little longer I hung up on him and decided to find out for myself what the rules really are regarding PAT testing. I was lucky enough to come across Bob Grainger, an experienced and qualified PAT tester who has carried out over five hundred jobs and tested over thirty thousand items. Bob kindly offered to set the record straight for us:

"At the risk of doing myself out of business here, let me clear up one misunderstanding: There is absolutely no legal requirement for anyone to have PAT Testing done. It's a myth. For PAT Testing to be a legal requirement, an Act of Parliament would need to have been passed stating such; no such Act has ever been passed. True, there have been several Acts passed concerning electrical safety at work, but no, none of them mention PAT Testing being a legal requirement.

PAT Testing"If you really like reading this sort of thing, then you might like to Google the following:

  • The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
  • The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)
  • The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994

"Between them, these Acts make it very clear about the use of electricity in the workplace, and this can be summarized as follows: It is a legal requirement that all electrical appliances in the work place (including those brought in on a temporary basis, such as contractors tools) plus all electrical appliances that have been ‘supplied' (such as by a landlord) 'are safe, well-maintained and suitable for the purpose for which they are being used'. The point that I'm making is that it's not the inspection and testing that is the legal requirement, but the fact that the electrical equipment (work place / landlord-supplied), at all times, must be 'safe, well-maintained and suitable for the purpose for which it is being used'.

"I would imagine that businesses and landlords have PAT Testing carried out primarily for three reasons:

  1. Due to mis-information, they believe that it's a legal requirement;
  2. They know it's not a legal requirement, but they feel a commitment to the health and safety of their workforce (or tenants);
  3. If something goes wrong, and there's an accident, then the Health and Safety Executive might treat the company in a better light – for taking H&S seriously. I would like to think that my clients fitted into the second category.

PAT Testing"Finally, there is the other question: "How often should PAT Testing be carried out?" Well, of course, from a legal point of view, the answer would be ‘Never - it doesn't have to be done at all'. However, from a more practical and safety point of view, I can only say that I myself generally go along with the recommended cycle for testing of office-based or landlord-supplied equipment: generally once a year should be often enough to pick up on equipment that has been previously tested. I find that if I carry out PAT Testing for an organisation that has never had it done in the past, or at least not for some years, then I normally find unsafe items."

After receiving this advice from Bob, I contacted my office insurance provider, Hiscox, who stated categorically that there is absolutely nothing in the wording of my insurance policy that requires PAT testing. Although they could not state with utter conviction that NO insurance company would require PAT testing, they said it was very unlikely but that any concerned business should check the details of their own insurance. It's certainly impossible to make such a sweeping statement as "your insurance is invalid if you're not PAT tested."

If I'd been listening more closely to the name of the company when they first called, I'd be reporting them to Trading Standards right now. I'll be well-armed with information the next time they call. I'm quite looking forward to it!

With thanks to Bob Grainger and Hiscox Insurance for their very helpful responses to my enquiries.

If you would like more information about PAT testing, Bob Grainger's web site: is a very good place to start.

Mandy Cochrane
The Office Elf
The Office Elf, virtual office assistant


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