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Don't overlook fixed wiring electrical testing

Published: 12/04/2016

Just over three years ago the HSE reissued guidance on portable appliance testing (PAT testing) to combat what they called misleading advice. This followed a government commissioned review that concluded that the legal requirements for electrical appliance maintenance were “applied too widely and disproportionately”. Regulation 4(2) of the Electricity at Work Regulations therefore requires duty holders only to ensure electrical equipment is maintained “at regular, appropriate intervals” to prevent danger. And so some might say this was a win against the health & safety 'gone mad' world that we live in. However, whilst we've all got our PAT testing under control, as your insurance broker, we need to stress the importance of having your fixed wiring, in a commercial or residential building regularly tested and maintained.

The danger is that over time electrical connections become loose, the resulting resistance to current causes an increase in temperature. If left unchecked overheated connections can melt and cause fires. As well as loose connections electrical systems suffer load imbalances, corrosion and underrated components.

A satisfactory electrical test certificate is obtained by having a qualified electrician to fully test all of the installed wiring and ensure that any defects are attended to. Until any C1 or C2 defects are dealt with, only then can a satisfactory test certificate be provided.

Code C1 ‘Danger present’. Risk of injury - Immediate remedial action required.

Code C2 ‘Potentially dangerous’. - Urgent remedial action required.

Code C3 ‘Improvement recommended’.

The fact is that nearly all major insurers require, for commercial businesses, a satisfactory electrical test certificate and for the fixed electrical wiring to be checked and certificated on a regular basis, which averages about every 5 years.

Where an electrical certificate is not a strict policy requirement, it is always, in our experience, a requirement of any risk survey that is carried out by insurers. Failure to provide a satisfactory test certificate, during a risk improvement process, will lead to insurers withdrawing cover.

The fact that you have a test certificate proves to insurers that your business is well run, has a reduced risk of major catastrophes, such as fires caused by electrical failings or by risk to the public or employees by electrocution and the like.

The need for regular fixed wire testing ranges across all classes of business; one of our clients, a well-known London restaurant, had not carried out wire testing since a major refurbishment in the 90’s. At Flint's recommendation the appropriate checks were undertaken, with initial findings showing a number of potentially dangerous faults. Fortunately this is a professional business and the failing was dealt with as a matter of urgency. Within within a week or so all of the required work had been completed and a fully satisfactorily test certificate provided. This enabled us to prove to their current insurers that their risk is reduced and their business is well run and managed. Furthermore, when due for renewal we can place their business to the market under a more favourable light with a whole range of insurers.

Flint was delighted to recently be appointed insurance broker for a major East Anglia building merchants company. Our first job was to place their business on favourable terms with a major insurer, but it was subject to risk improvement surveys. Their head office site ranges over a number of acres and had grown from the original premises over the last 120 years. Unfortunately the survey showed that no electrical testing had been carried out for quite a while, with no current electrical test certificate in place. The requirement for carrying out the improvements was therefore going to be both expensive, time consuming and disruptive to the business. However, we managed to successfully negotiate with a major insurer reasonable time scales for our clients to undertake the work, whilst maintaining insurance cover. However, this has been a major financial outlay for our client and although disruption to the business has been minimised by the negotiated extended schedule it has still consumed much management time; taking tremendous effort to bring the electrical installations on these premises up to current standards.

In short, we cannot stress enough to our clients the need to have their fixed electrical wiring regularly tested and maintained to a satisfactory condition.

In the event of a claim the ability to provide insurers with a current and satisfactory test certificate is vital for early claims resolution.

Maintaining your electrical installation in a good condition and dealing promptly with any recommended action can prevent damage or injury and any resultant disruption to your business.

This information has been put together by Jim Tuhey, who is a consultant within our specialist Claims & Risk Management team. Jim works directly with commercial clients, whilst maintaining close liaison with commercial account handlers. You can call Jim on 0344 247 7361 or email: jimtuhey@flintinsurance.co.uk

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