Health & Safety: Low risk environments: To PAT or oPAC?

The law requires employers to assess health and safety risks and take appropriate action to maintain electrical equipment if it can cause danger, however, it does not stipulate how or when. HSE has published new guidance to help businesses based in low-risk environments (eg. offices and shops) maintain their portable appliances more cost effectively. This factsheet is a quick reference to hopefully save you some time checking you are up to date with the latest help on the how and when.

What is PAT?

PAT: Stands for Portable Appliance Test/ing
A Portable Appliance: Is any electrical equipment which can be moved for use in different locations. A most obvious portable appliance is a floor cleaner but also included are large items such as photocopiers and vending machines and, on the flip side, extension leads and battery charging equipment.
The Test: Checks for electrical evidence that the appliance may not be safe to use. It must be completed with the correct testing equipment by someone who knows how to use it and how to interpret the results (an electrician is not necessary).

HSE advises that not every item needs a PAT and that some items may be sufficiently maintained with other portable appliance checks (I\’m calling these oPAC for short). PAT only gives an indication of possible faults inside an appliance so oPAC are also required for all PAT items too.

What are oPAC?

oPAC: other Portable Appliance Checks; HSE identify two types: user checks and formal checks

User (Employee) Checks: Looks for exterior physical evidence that the equipment may not be safe to use. Employees are to be encouraged to carry out these checks before equipment is used (the equipment should be disconnected).

Indications that the appliance is not safe to use and requires maintenance:

  • Fraying, cuts or heavy scuffing on the lead or the lead trapped under furniture or in floor boxes
  • Damage to the plug cover or bent pins
  • Coloured wires visible where the lead enters the plug or tape applied to join leads together
  • Damage to the outer cover of the equipment itself, including loose parts or screws
  • Signs of overheating; burn marks or staining on the plug wires or cover of the equipment
  • Signs that the equipment that has been used or stored in unsuitable conditions, such as wet or dusty environments or where water spills are possible

Formal (Visual) Checks: Looks at fitness for purpose as well as double-checking the user checks and, where possible, inspecting inside the plug for evidence that the equipment may not be safe to use. It must be performed by someone with sufficient knowledge to avoid danger to themselves or others (an electrician is not necessary).


  • The user checks above should be repeated, has the user reported any issues?
  • Is the equipment being used correctly and in an appropriate environment (in accordance with the manufacturer\’s instructions) and is it suitable and safe for the job
  • Inside the plug check that:
    • There are no signs of internal damage, overheating or water damage
    • The correct fuse is in use (in moulded plugs this is the only check that can be made)
    • The wires are attached to the correct terminals and the terminal screws are tight
    • The cord grip is holding the outer part of the cable tightly and there is no bare wire visible other than at the terminals

Who is responsible for PAT & oPAC?

You are responsible for: equipment you or your employees supply for use by your employees at work
You have joint responsibility for: equipment leased or provided by a contractor for use by your employees
You are not responsible for: equipment both provided and used by a contractor

When does PAT or oPAC need to be done?

Checks should be done periodically to ensure unsafe portable appliances are not being used. You should decide the level of maintenance needed according to the risk of an item becoming faulty, and how the equipment is constructed (if it is earthed or doubled insulated). The table below shows the suggested checks to make and initial intervals between checks for types of equipment as given by the new HSE guidance. You may notice over time, from the amount of problems being found, that the tests are required less, or more often.

Battery operated or less than 50volts AC eg. telephone equip. and low voltage desk lamps: No tests required. Not handheld items rarely or occasionally used eg. fans, computers, photocopiers and vending machines: Formal visual checks every 2-4years and Class I(Earthed) items combined oPAC and PAT tests up to every 5 years. Handheld equipment more than 50volts AC eg. kettles, irons and floor cleaners: User checks, formal visual checks every 6months-1year and Class I items combined oPAC and PAT tests every 1-2years. Leads and plugs connected to the above and battery charging equipment eg. cables, mains voltage extension leads and battery chargers: User checks, formal visual checks every 6months-4years based on equipment connected to it and both Class I and Class II items combined oPAC and PAT tests every 1-5years based on equipment connected to it.

For the full HSE guidance booklet:

Factsheet: H&S- Low risk environments: To PAT or oPAC?
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

Human Resources Factsheet: Grievance Flowchart

  • Ensure grievances are given importance and investigations are carried out promptly to lessen the likelihood of hearsay and facts becoming blurred.
  • Let the person raising the grievance know the outcome and be given the chance to appeal what has been decided.
  • Timescales will differ from case to case, ensure sufficient time is taken to confirm the facts and investigate properly.
  • Inform the person raising the grievance of the delay if the process is running longer than expected. Do not let the process slip just because other tasks have taken unnecessary priority.

informl and formal grievances: meetings to investigations to reports and resolutions

Factsheet: HR – Grievance Flowchart
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

Employment Law Changes April 2012

Changes in April 2012; Employment Tribunal procedure reformed, Qualifying period for Unfair Dismissal increased, Statutory payments increased, RIDDOR reporting periods increased, Pension Auto enrolment new rules coming Oct 2012 – checks needed now.

Statutory payments Increased:

Important changes have been made to statutory weekly pay. For full details see HMRC.

  • Maternity, paternity and adoption pay – effective 1 April 2012 – Increased from £128.73 to £135.45
  • Sick pay – effective from 6 April 2012 – Increased from £81.60 to £85.85

RIDDOR reporting period Increased:

Amendments to the RIDDOR Procedure outlined below now applies as of 6 April 2012.

  • the period of incapacity before an occupational injury or accident is required to be reported by an employer has increased from more than 3 days to more than 7 consecutive days.
  • the period before the employer is required to submit the report has increased from 10 to 15 days.

Employment Tribunal Procedure Reformed:

Amendments to the Employment Tribunal Procedure outlined below now applies to cases submitted to an employment tribunal on or after 6 April 2012.

  • the maximum expenses which a tribunal may order a party to pay, increased from £500 to £1,000 and may also include covering costs incurred by a witness in attending a tribunal to give evidence
  • the maximum costs that a tribunal may order an employer to pay increased from £10,000 to £20,000

A separate amendment also applied from 6th April enables unfair dismissal proceedings to be heard by an Employment Judge alone unless they direct otherwise.

Qualifying period for Unfair Dismissal Increased:

For employees starting on or after 6 April 2012, the qualifying period of continuous employment required is increased from one to two years (see The Unfair Dismissal and Statement of Reasons for Dismissal Order ):

  • for the entitlement, on request, to a written statement of reasons for dismissal
  • to acquire the right not to be unfairly dismissed, some dismissals are still automatically considered to be unfair. (see ACAS )

Pension Auto enrolment new rules coming Oct 2012:

Check your staging date on the timeline now, as it applies to the number of employees on 1 April 2012, regardless of any changes between then and October 2012. From their given ‘staging date’, employers are required to auto-enrol all eligible employees in a pension scheme. The ‘staging date’ for employers is based on the number of employees in their PAYE scheme on 1 April 2012 and ranges from October 2012 into 2017. For detailed guidance see The Pensions Regulator.

Factsheet: HR – Employment Law changes April 2012
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

Human Resources: Preparing your business for upcoming events

This factsheet can be used while preparing your business for events countrywide or local, to aid you as a check list for impact assessment. Use it for plan and action to reduce negative effects and to enhance the positive effects to ensure your business is at its fittest for success throughout!

HR Checklist:

Communicate with employees (as simple as a quick email) to find out if anyone is a volunteer or intends to have tickets for the event

Collate information on holiday requests for the event period (including how long and when) to confirm if there may be any times where staff shortage may be an issue

Put into action any cross-training, temporary recruitment or movement of staff from other premises. Consider overtime to cover temporary staff shortages

Make any changes to policies to cover the adjustments from the normal running of your business (for example adding a HR policy to cover overtime or adjusting the unauthorised absence policy for better effect)

Communicate the changes in policies to all employees and where necessary reaffirm policies such as those for holiday requests and unauthorised absence. The importance of communicating clear policies and processes to all involved in advance is crucial. Employees need to know what is expected of them and the sooner they know the sooner any problems can be raised and addressed

HR Impacts to address:

More holiday requests than the business is used to handling in a short space of time for participation either as volunteers or spectators

Change from normal staffing hours required to deal with a reduction or increase in footfall that may require consideration of overtime and/or flexible working

Increased chances of unauthorised absences, not only from staff forgetting to register a holiday day and then hoping the day off will be overlooked but also from post celebration malaise

Difficulty in travel arrangements due to increased traffic or closed/restricted access.

Chances of lost productivity as employees attempt to sneak glimpses of the event when not being overseen, and consideration for those that don’t want to be involved and resent others having special privileges.

Information by policy:

  • Holiday requests

    – HR policy on holiday requests can be as simple as on a first come, first served basis. However you deal with the policy, it is important to ensure that it is as fair as possible and that the policy is communicated as soon as possible to avoid grievances

  • Event Volunteers

    – There is no legal requirement for employees to be given holiday time off to volunteer so normal holiday requests and volunteering requests can be treated with the same value. Also there is no legal requirement for employers to pay their employees while

  • Overtime, temporary recruitment

    -Remember when calling on staff to do extra working hours or taking on temporary staff to cover absence that you made need to update your policies to cover these actions.

  • Unauthorised absence

    – If an employee thinks that all unauthorised absences will not be overlooked and that an enquiry will follow they are less likely to take time off without a proper cause. If your HR policy doesn’t include the regular use of ‘return to work’ interviews

  • Temporary flexible hours for events

    – Being more flexible with working hours for employees. Early start for early finish or longer lunches to allow participation in events can reduce the loss of productivity from employees during their working hours and may reduce the time they require off

  • Changes in Internet/TV/Radio usage policy – You need to be clear on any changes to policy or re-affirm a strict no usage policy for watching events to ensure all employees know what is expected of them during work. It may be worthwhile considering allowing event coverage to be watched at certain times (maybe for larger ceremonies) as this may have three positive effects: decreasing the need for staff to take time off for the event, decreasing the tendency of employees to drift away to catch some highlights whenever they are not being overseen and to bring the positivity of the events into your business.

Action to take – starting now:

  • What is your policy going to be – standard rules apply, or changes to support the event; flexible working times; temporary cover; screening of events; unauthorised absence & return to work interviews; planning holiday requests; don’t forget the lead up to the main event.
  • Send an email to all employees reminding them that the event is fast approaching and ask what plans they have for it. Remind them to get holiday requests in now to ensure their request can be considered. Also inform them of any enhanced support you are going to give such as event screening or flexible working times.
  • Once requests for absence have been received collate the information, allocate the time off and make plans for cover. Can you cover absences in-house via overtime or flexible hours, or is temporary cover going to be needed. Make arrangements now for how you are going to handle this.
  • Nearer the event re-email all staff to confirm the arrangements, and to re-affirm policies such as unauthorised absence; use of internet/TV/radios etc; flexible working.
  • Monitor the policies during the event to ensure things are working smoothly and everyone is working together to make sure the impact on the company is minimised.

Read more at ACAS on:

Factsheet: HR – Preparing for Events – March 2012
This information is provided for reference only – no liability accepted. All registered trademarks recognised. E&OE.

Health & Safety: and the Self Employed

Photo for highlighting Legislation for Health & Safety

The legislation

This factsheet briefly provides an outline of some of the basic legal Health and Safety requirements imposed upon the Self Employed. This is just an indication of some of the legislation that may apply to you, and further information should be sought:

Health & Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974, section 3

places a duty upon any self-employed person to carry out their business so as to ensure so far as reasonably practicable that they do not risk their own health and safety. This means that you must have regard to the level of “danger” which any of your activities may cause, and take steps to reduce that danger to an acceptable level – the more serious the danger, the greater time, effort and money you are expected to expend.

Management of Health & Safety at Work Reg. 1999

require every self employed person to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to their own health and safety whilst at work, and the risks to the health and safety others not in their employment arising out of or in connection with their work. Apart from yourself, consider who else could be harmed by your activities: Visitors – clients, suppliers, couriers, contractors.
Take members of the public into account, if they could be hurt by your work activities.
If you share a workplace with another business, you will need to consider how your work affects others and how their work affects you. Talk to each other and work together to make sure controls are in place.

Electricity at Work Reg. 1989

impose an absolute duty to comply with the Regulations for any electrical system or equipment over which you have control, you will be responsible for making sure it is appropriate for the nature of work for which it was intended and ensuring it is maintained in a safe condition, etc.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Reg. 1999 (COSHH)

apply to self employed persons, except the sections concerning monitoring; information and training provision and health surveillance. Hazardous substances must be used, handled, stored and disposed of safely.

Reporting of Injuries, Diseases & Dangerous Occurrences Reg. 1995 (RIDDOR)

Certain injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences due to work must be notified to the local health and safety enforcing authority (see It is your responsibility to notify HSE of any that happen to you or to others on your premises.

Provided by Holges Consulting – Feb 2012.
Produced by Holges Consulting – Guidence only. Further professional advice should be sought.