Fire Risk Assessment

The need

Fixed Wiring Inspections typically take place every five years and PAT testing every one or two years. There is still scope for dangerous electrical situations to occur between these inspections and it is up to property owners to take steps themselves to avoid this.

Be vigilant

Whenever you, your cleaner or your agent visit the property it is important to keep an eye out for any damage to electrical items both fixed and portable. The fact is that you can have your PAT testing done today, and tomorrow a visitor can drop the iron, crack the case and leave it in a dangerous state. It is also a good idea via your welcome folder to encourage guests to report any breakages to you or your agent right away and not to use any damaged items they might find.

Certain hand held items like hair dryers and irons are much more likely to get damaged than say a microwave that just sits on the worktop. So pay particular attention to those items when you are checking.

Test the Residual Current Device(s) RCD

An RCD or Trip Switch as many people call them is a protective safety device fitted to most modern domestic electrical installations. It detects current leakage which could start a fire or cause an electric shock. It is advisable to test the RCD using the test switch at least once a quarter to ensure the RCD is still working correctly. When your Fixed Wiring Inspection is carried out by a qualified electrician, they will perform a more rigorous set of tests using a special test meter to ensure that the RCD is disconnecting the supply quickly enough. For example, a 30mA RCD as shown in the picture below should trip within 40 milliseconds at an operating current of 150mA.

Test the RCD 

Test the RCD

Extension leads are only supposed to be temporary

The following picture shows an extension lead, badly routed through a storage cupboard where it is likely to get damaged. Extension leads are not supposed to be a permanent solution. They tend to be used a lot in older properties that haven't been re-wired for a while and therefore don't have sufficient conveniently located socket outlets.

Extension lead

Don't entrust repairs to your relative "who is good with electrics"!

Since the introduction of Part P of the Building Regulations, there is actually very limited scope for the DIY electrician. In a holiday cottage, you have a legal responsibility to your customers so it is always advisable to get any electrical repairs done by a qualified electrician. If there is ever a problem your Insurer is bound to ask who completed any repair work and you need to be able to show that things have been done properly.

Damaged immersion

The above picture is a good example of a sudden failure that needs immediate repair before any more guests arrive.

Buy new appliances from reputable retailers

In our experience, second-hand items are a false economy. They need PAT testing right away and don't always last very long. With the price of electrical goods at an all time low, it is always best to buy something new, put the receipt in your file and save yourself a lot of worry.

We once came across a tumble dryer that had been bought from eBay. The cleaner was concerned because the plug got hot whenever it was used (well done to her for spotting and reporting this). The rating plate on the tumble dryer showed it was rated at 4700 watts and yet somehow it was fitted with a 13 amp plug that can supply a maximum of 3000 watts! This could easily have resulted in an electrical fire.

Another online-auction "bargain"

This SMEG Fridge/Freezer looked very nice until the taped join in the cable was spotted. The black part is actually from a computer lead. At the time it failed its PAT test, the owner had only just bought it.

PAT test failure

Further reading

Maintaining portable electric equipment in hotels and tourist accommodation