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Understanding Risk Assessments and Test Frequencies

Risk assessments are a big part of the new changes in the IET Code of Practice, so let’s take a closer look at what risk assessing actually is.

Inside the new, 4th edition of the IET Code of Practice for In-Service Testing and Inspection of electrical equipment the IET has defined risk assessments as:

“A systematic process of evaluating the potential risks that may be involved in a projected activity of undertaking, considering what could go wrong and deciding on suitable control measures to prevent loss, damage or injury in the workplace. An assessment should include any controls required to reduce, minimize or eliminate any risk.”

In other words, risk assessments are now under the IET’s regulations as being the means to determine how often testing and maintenance procedures are performed.

It’s basically a method of determining the frequency between tests such as PAT testing, and by performing a full risk assessment on any relevant equipment the person responsible for overseeing risk assessment in that organisation can make judgements based on the findings.

Risk assessment is a wide procedure that is affected by a number of variables. For example, one appliance could be put under more stress than others, which means it is more likely to need to be tested or repaired more often. Since this is the case, the IET has defined a series of things risk assessment duty holders should be looking out for when carrying out their assessments.

1)      The Environment – Depending on where the appliance or equipment is the more or less chance there is of it being damaged. If risk assessments are being carried out in an office, there’s significantly less chance or equipment being damaged when compared to dangerous environments such as construction sites.

2)      The Users – You must consider the people who will use the equipment and how this will potentially affect the overall safety of that equipment. For example, some people may feel inclined to report problems with appliances immediately, while others may just hope that they go away and don’t report them. Risk assessment must be adjusted accordingly depending on reported/non reported damaged goods.

3)      The Construction of the Equipment – Different appliances have different classes, and each class depends on different structural integrity to remain safe for operation. It is up to the duty holder to assess appliances for this integrity, and if it has been compromised, or will be compromised often due to stress, the time between tests should be adjusted accordingly. Again, this ties into environment, where a more dangerous environment means more chance of damage to equipment.

4)      The Equipment Type – In the Code of Practice appliances are given types such as handheld, fixed etc. Depending on the equipment types there’s a bigger chance of it being damaged, e.g. a handheld appliance is handled more often than a fixed appliance, meaning it is subject to extra stresses. Depending on this factor, risk assessment must judge how often the appliance is damaged and adjust testing frequencies accordingly.

5)      The Frequency of Use – Another important factor, the amount of time an appliance is used every day naturally affects its structural integrity and efficiency. If an appliance is used constantly, day in day out it is more likely to be damaged, and is therefore more likely to be a risk.

6)      The Installation Method – This mainly refers to fixed equipment, where different kinds of installations are used to fix the equipment in place. In these cases the type of installation must be studied.

7)      Previous Records – The final part of the test should look at any available previous records to study previous test frequencies and how often equipment needed maintenance. With the history of an appliance readily handy the risk assessment process become easier, but it should always include the other factors on this list as well.

As well as all these factors the IET has revised table 7.1 in their Code of Practice to include standard recommended frequencies between tests. Under the new guidelines these frequencies are not meant to be enforced, but are instead a starting guideline for users to study before carrying out full risk assessments.

In their own words:

“The future frequencies of inspection and testing should depend on on-going risk-based assessments, dependent upon the factors above, i.e., any circumstance that may affect the continuing safe condition of the equipment. Intervals between inspections and tests should be closely monitored and frequencies should be increased, decreased or kept the same, as a appropriate. It is the duty holder’s responsibility to decide whether to vary or not, as the case may be, the inspection and test frequencies; in doing so he or she may wish to take advice from the person doing the inspection and testing.”

After risk assessment corrective actions to increase the time between tests include replacement of devices with better equipment and training people on how to use it carefully and respect the elements of the appliance.

It is the hope that this new approach to assessing appliances will lead to less confusion about the inspection business, and also cut down on tests being carried out where there is absolutely no need for them to take place.