How to identify and protect your business against counterfeit electrical goods

smartphone-2568602_1920

A report by the European Commission once revealed that the total value of counterfeit goods detained in the EU during 2015 was €642 million.

That huge figure neatly illustrates how big an issue this is, but counterfeiting in the electrical goods sector remains a particularly troubling problem.

iPhone chargers are a classic example. They can be made in China for as little as 3p and bought on the internet for under £1. Unfortunately, due to poor construction and zero compliance with modern regulations, such devices are liable to overheating and consequently causing significant harm to their owners.

Branded iPhone chargers pose a much lower risk, because they’re designed specially for each device, but the price of counterfeit goods and the deceiving ways in which they’re marketed and packaged is enough for many people and businesses to opt for the cheaper version.

With that in mind, what measures can be taken to combat this potentially lethal threat?

Common sense

Not to labour the point, but much of the vigilance against counterfeit goods should come from good, old-fashioned common sense.

Generally speaking, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is, but we can all rely on the following tactics when purchasing electrical goods for the home or business:

  • Only buy from reputable suppliers
  • Check all packaging and labelling on delivery; does it look suspicious or as though it has been tampered with?
  • Check online reviews before purchasing – previous buyers may indicate if goods are possibly counterfeit
  • Go on gut instinct; even the ‘feel’ of an item can indicate that something isn’t quite right

Education and PAT testing

When it comes to business, it’s vital that staff are properly educated and trained in what it takes to identify counterfeit goods.

Equally, regular and efficient PAT testing (Portable Appliance Testing) should be carried out and will help you weed out suspect devices.

The most common devices that are targeted by criminals should also be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Most commonly, these will be the aforementioned accessories such as smartphone chargers, but also higher ticket items including smartphones themselves and other expensive business equipment.

The technical giveaways

A counterfeit good might look entirely unsuspicious to the untrained eye, but to an experienced electrical engineer, the differences stand out a country mile.

Quite often, comprehensive electrical testing will reveal suspect devices for what they are, with polarity checks, non-standard cable points and overloading of sockets the most common areas of inspection.

If you’re unsure, leave it to the experts!

How to address safety surrounding counterfeit appliances

To protect the workforce from the dangers of counterfeit goods, businesses should adopt a safety-first culture.

This can be fostered by regularly scheduling maintenance and inspection of all electrical goods and ensuring the results are published for all to see.

In-house or external practical electrical training is also worth investigating, which, combined with experienced PAT testing will provide a far more robust approach to risk assessment and raise awareness potentially dangerous goods.

Final thought

Counterfeit goods are unfortunately going nowhere – they’ll forever be a hazard, but as the criminals get more sophisticated in their approach, your business can use the above tactics to became far more vigilant (and safe!).

Image credit

Posted in Electrical testing | Leave a comment

Back to basics: the most common questions about electrical testing, answered!

electrician-1080554_1920

The Electrical Testers engineers really do see some sights when out and about.

Check out this washing machine:

20170119_145557

Despite the inexplicably clean drum, no one would want an object as seemingly harmless as the humble washing machine to end up looking like that, would they?

And look at this plug (excuse the slightly blurred photo!):

20150401_085437

Visual inspection passed?! We’d love to know what state it would need to be in to fail!

If the two examples above aren’t enough to convince you that electrical testing is something every business and homeowner should invest in regularly, we’d like to let you in on some of the most common questions asked about this vital part of business or home ownership.

Do I need periodic electrical inspections?

Absolutely!

It’s recommended that periodic electrical inspections are carried out every five years, and should be focused on the entire electrical installation within the premises.

A lot can change in five years, therefore it really isn’t worth leaving anything to chance.

Can I carry out periodic inspections myself?

Unless you’re a qualified and electrically-competent engineer – no.

Leave this stuff to the professionals to avoid personal injury and ensure the testing is completely in-line with modern regulations.

Should I remove redundant wiring after a re-wire?

Although not entirely necessary, it’s always advisable to remove redundant wiring.

At the very least, it should be permanently disconnected from any electrical supply – that goes without saying.

As a landlord, what are my responsibilities when it comes to electrics?

There’s quite a few you’ll need to bear in mind if you intend to let out a property to a business or individual.

Under the Landlords and Tenants Act (1985), you’ll need to ensure the electrical installation within the property is:

  • fully checked and safe;
  • maintained correctly during the tenancy; and
  • accompanied by an EICR (Electrical Condition Report) that certifies whether or not the electrics are safe and what (if anything) needs upgrading.

What should I do if I buy an electrical appliance which appears to be unsafe?

Start by returning the appliance – never install it.

It’s also worth considering contacting Trading Standards or Citizens Advice to register your concerns.

Should only the cabling that is exposed be tested?

Hiding behind the walls of most buildings are countless electrical cables that feed power outlets and send electricity to lighting and other devices mounted on the surface. Left untested, it could pose a serious threat.

Despite the upheaval this may cause, the benefits of electrical testing hidden wiring behind walls, within cavities and contained in trunking are numerous.

Often, it’s what you can’t see that could result in the biggest and most catastrophic electrical problem.

Do I have to have my appliances PAT tested?

PAT testing isn’t required by law, but that doesn’t mean you should shortcut it.

The Health and Safety Executive offers the best explanation:

“The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require that any electrical equipment that has the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition. However, the Regulations do not specify what needs to be done, by whom or how frequently (ie they don’t make inspection or testing of electrical appliances a legal requirement, nor do they make it a legal requirement to undertake this annually).”

Get that PAT testing booked!

Wrapping up

Electrical testing might be the last thing on your busy to-do list, but it can mean the difference between a safe workplace and one which is inherently risky for every member of staff.

Contact us if you think we can help with your electrical testing requirements!

Main image credit

Posted in Electrical testing | Comments Off

How to protect your business from arson

fire-1030751_1920

There are few thoughts more sickening as a business owner than that of arriving at your premises only to find them billowing with smoke or left in a giant, smouldering mess.

Fire destroys lives, businesses and careers, and when it takes place as the result of arson, the feeling of loss is even harder to come to terms with.

Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do as a business owner to protect your business from arson, and we’d like to take this opportunity to list a few of the most important.

Make fire vigilance a company mantra

Everyone within the business should be highly vigilant when it comes to protecting the building from arson attacks.

Suspicious behaviour should be reported and any unexpected visitors’ reasons for being on site fully investigated.

Don’t skimp on fire safety checks

Your fire alarm should be tested every six months, but don’t forget the emergency lighting within your premises (that’ll need regular testing, as well).

Skimping on fire safety checks will not only result in the business falling foul of regulations, it’ll also put it at a much higher risk of suffering badly from arson attacks.

Lock away all flammable materials

Whether it be rubbish or materials used to create products, you need to ensure they’re locked away until required.

A pile of cardboard boxes left haphazardly at the entrance, or discarded product materials left piling out of rubbish bins in the back yard will be prime targets for arsonists.

Keep it hidden!

Ensure windows remain locked when the premises are unoccupied

A closed window isn’t enough to deter someone who fancies setting alight to your business.

Make sure staff are aware that every window and door needs to be locked whenever the last person leaves.

It’s also worth considering installing metal letterbox containers that will prevent people attempting to start fires via that method.

Ensure key holders are aware of their responsibilities

We alluded to this above, but anyone who is tasked with locking up the building at the end of a working day (or night) has to be ultra vigilant.

Beyond locking windows and doors, they should perform extra safety checks to ensure there are no flammable materials in sight and that there isn’t any suspicious activity taking place within the grounds.

Most importantly, it should be made clear that these people must always seek help from the authorities if they spot something concerning; the police and fire services are far better versed at tackling such activity.

Install CCTV

Once a luxury, CCTV is now a default safety application for businesses of all sizes.

The technology has come on leaps and bounds, too, which has in turn reduced the cost required to implement a capable CCTV system.

If you can, try and opt for one that enables remote access to cameras, so that stakeholders within the business can tune in if suspicious activity is reported outside of working hours.

Wrapping up

The above strategies aren’t foolproof, nor will they guarantee that your business won’t be subjected to an arson attack, but they will give you the peace of mind that you’re doing all you can to protect your staff and the organisation’s most valuable asset.

Image credit

Posted in Fire Safety | Comments Off

The 5 benefits of emergency lighting for your business

exit-1722888_1920

Light regularly guides the way in life, but when it comes to business, it can literally mean the difference between life or death.

That might sound a bit dramatic, but we’re of course referring to emergency lighting, which is so easily overlooked as a vital business asset.

Given it’s name, you won’t be surprised to hear that emergency lighting is principally there for when the worst happens, but it has other benefits too, five of which we’ve decided to cover in this blog post!

1. You’ll never be without lighting!

Lighting can fail for a number of reasons, but if it happens to go out during the winter months and during a working period for your business, productivity will take an immense hit.

Emergency lighting (when properly maintained), is always on and therefore something of a godsend if the main lights happen to go out when you need them most.

2. The investment will be recouped

There’s no getting away from the investment required to have emergency lighting installed, but that investment can be quickly recouped.

Although not guaranteed, you might find that your insurance premiums drop slightly with emergency lighting installed, and if the main lamps do go out, you can reduce the amount of expensive hours lost to non-productivity.

3. It’ll guide the way for employees

Should an incident occur that requires the premises to be evacuated, emergency lighting will ensure employees can make their way safely to the most appropriate exits.

Remember – those green exit signs we usually ignore are powered by emergency lighting and will guide the way for employees if something goes significantly wrong.

4. It’s a godsend if you suffer power outages

As noted in benefit one, emergency lighting means you’ll never be without lighting, and if you happen to work in a location that regularly suffers from power outages, you won’t have to ‘go blind’ at the same time.

5. It uses LED technology

Modern emergency lighting systems are usually powered by LED technology, which offers a number of fantastic benefits:

  • they’re less fragile and consequently have longer lifespans;
  • LEDs are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs;
  • they light up incredibly quickly and can be turned on and off frequently without damage being caused; and
  • LEDs don’t contain mercury and are therefore less toxic than their traditional forefathers.

Put simply, due to their significant environmental and energy efficiency benefits, LED lights are safer and will save your business a decent amount of money in the long run.

Wrapping up

Emergency lighting is required under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 for many commercial properties, but even if you for some reason fall outside of that remit, it’ll be one of the most important investments your business makes.

Image credit

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

What the Grenfell disaster tells us about PAT testing

grenfell-tower-fire16

It’s now two months since the Grenfell Tower fire that killed hundreds and left countless others without a home.

The disaster tore apart a community and swung the media spotlight onto the choice of cladding that allegedly caused the fire to spread so rapidly. Safety protocols were also highly criticised, following the discovery that Grenfell’s residents were told to stay inside their flats until rescued.

On 23rd June, the police confirmed that the cause of the fire was a fridge-freezer. And, while we can pontificate on exactly how it started the catastrophic blaze, the Grenfell tragedy is a stark reminder of how even the smallest of electrical faults can have dire consequences.

The importance of PAT testing

If you run a business, the thought of it potentially causing harm to employees and members of the public due to lack of electrical testing is rather unpalatable.

This is why portable appliance testing (commonly known as ‘PAT testing’) is so important.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that every electrical appliance within rentable residential and commercial premises are PAT tested annually.

When was the last time you conducted a PAT test?

What needs to be PAT tested?

Broadly speaking, employers should ensure that no danger can result from the use of equipment under the following circumstances:

  • appliances that are used by employees;
  • appliances that might be used by the public within places such as schools, hotels, shops and hospitals;
  • establishments from which appliance may be supplied or hired; and
  • in situations where appliances are repaired or serviced.

If your business or organisation falls into one or more of the brackets above, it’ll need to undertake PAT testing.

Each device you own, operate or loan will gain a sticker to confirm it has been tested, and the resulting certificate for the site itself will list all devices and detail whether they’ve passed or failed. You’ll also be given individual re-test dates for the equipment.

Can I PAT test the equipment myself?

Unless you’re a qualified electrical tester who has experience using PAT testers, PAT adaptors and PAT test kits – no!

PAT testing is a complex task which involves multiple examinations and knowledge of all the variables that need to be taken into account. This is why investing in the services of a qualified tester is absolutely the way to go.

Interim visual checks you can undertake

While it isn’t advisable to conduct your own official PAT testing, there are some visual checks anyone can undertake to identify equipment that may be dangerous.

It’s advisable to occasionally take some time out to check the electrical health of your portable appliances. To find the more obvious faults, look for the following:

  • mechanical damage or signs of wear on the body of the appliance;
  • signs of overheating (too hot to touch or heat damage to the surface on which the device is placed are common examples);
  • obvious damage to cables (fraying, splits or knots);
  • intermittent supply of power;
  • unusual noises (buzzing, humming or clicking).

If you spot appliances exhibiting any of the above, you can make the job of a PAT tester far easier by pointing them out before the testing begins.

Wrapping up

It’s hard to get those images of the Grenfell Tower fire out of your mind, but the thought that it all started from something as simple and seemingly innocuous as an electrical appliance fire is sobering.

If you haven’t PAT tested your equipment yet or know your annual check-up is overdue, it’s time to take action.

Recommended reading: The HSE’s portable appliance testing FAQ

Image credit

Posted in PAT Testing | Comments Off

Electrical Safety Management – IET publishes Code of Practice

IET has released a New Code of Practice that provides best practice guidance and a systematic method for understanding the management of an electrical system.

The IET has identified that guidance to date has not been done so in a way that provides a process for managing electrical safety.

The new Code of Practice (CoP) is there to help the user take a systematic approach to understand the management of different aspects of an electrical system for their organisation, the aim is to create and implement an effective electrical safety management system or enhance an existing system.

The CoP applies to the buildings, facilities, equipment and environments including the industrial, commercial and the public sectors of different organisations.

The code of practice is applicable various job functions that include the management of the safety of an electrical system.

The publication is available to those who also wish to improve their knowledge of electrical safety.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

LED Products banned By EU Authorities

Twenty LED lighting products have been banned or recalled in the European Union so far this year due to risks of electric shock or fire.

There are suggestions that this amount items identified is only the tip of the iceberg.

Finland, spotted more than a third of the dangerous LED products dealt with in the whole of Europe – even though the country is home to barely one per cent of the EU’s population.

The products affected included floodlights, retrofit lamps, linear fittings and torches. Most were made in China. In the majority of cases the products were ordered to be recalled and withdrawn from sale.

The worst hit brand was China’s Jiage, which has had two of its LED torch products banned in Hungary because they could cause electric shocks, burns or fire.

Even some well-known brands such as Philips, Sylvania and LED Hut have voluntarily recalled LED products on sale in the UK and Spain in the last few months due to safety fears.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Concerns over electrical safety.

Halifax Home Insurance is warning of the importance of electrical safety following recent a survey showing that one-in-four second-hand electrical goods failed a standard safety check.

On average, 2,500 people are being killed or injured every year in electrical fires and Halifax Home Insurance confirmed that one fifth of household fire insurance claims are caused by electrical equipment.

The company’s senior underwriter, Vicky Emmott, commented: “We’re concerned that the nation’s renewed appetite of making money out of old items could lead to a slide in electrical safety standards.

“We are calling on anyone buying or selling second-hand electrical items to ensure that the goods meet the required safety standards. Failure to do so could not only leave the sellers open to prosecution but cause damage to the users’ home and put lives as risk.”

Halifax Home Insurance recommends the following advice relating to purchasing second hand electrical items:

* Ask for proof from the seller that the item meets legal safety requirements.
* Look for the CE mark, the BEAB mark, the BS safety mark or British Standard number when you buy electrical equipment.
* If you are unsure if goods are safe you should not buy them.
* If you have already purchased an item and an appliance appears faulty stop using it and have it checked at once.
* Distributors and retailers including second-hand dealers and auctions must only sell appliances that are correctly fitted with an approved plug with sleeved pins and the correct fuse.
* A seller should provide clear wiring instructions for the plug if it is of the rewirable kind.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Latest version of 17th Edition of the Wiring

The Latest version of 17th Edition of the Wiring Regulations BS7671:2008 (2011) has recently been introduced.
One of the principle changes has been the replacement of The Periodic Inspection Report for Electrical Installations.
Superceded by The Electrical Installation Condition Report the new format takes away any confusion over issues such as certification and the actual purpose of the report.
Our version of this document will still incorporate the easy to read features that our clients find so helpful.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off