By Gemma Childe on 11th May 2012
Firms could save £30m a year after being told it is not essential to carry out annual safety tests on all electrical equipment in the workplace.
The government has said Portable Appliance Tests on items like kettles and computers are “unnecessary”.
Under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, employers must ensure all electrical equipment is safe - but the Health and Safety Executive has stressed that the law does not say how this should be done, or how often.
Employment Minister Chris Grayling highlighted new guidance from the HSE on PAT rules at a recent meeting with business leaders at the Enterprise Forum.
He said: "Of course we have to protect people against death and serious injury in the workplace, and we won't do anything to risk this, but if we stifle their employers with unneeded rules and regulations, those people won't have a job in the first place."
The overhaul of “health and safety red tape” has been welcomed by The Federation of Small Businesses in reducing the regulatory burden on small firms.
Professor Ragnar Lofstedt wrote about the confusions over PAT rules in an independent report into health and safety legislation published last year.
He said that while electricity posed a risk, with about 1,000 accidents reported at work each year, many businesses were having their kettles and microwaves tested each year "which is both costly and of questionable value" - and was not required under the law.
HSE chair Judith Hackitt said "low-risk companies" were "being misled over what the law requires when it comes to maintaining portable electrical appliances, and many are paying for testing that is not needed".
However, Paul Kenny, head of the GMB union, criticised changes to requirements which meant firms did not have to report injuries at work where employees were off for up to seven days, saying it would do "nothing" to make workplaces safer.
In addition, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health is apprehensive about how the government can halve the total number of health and safety regulations without putting people at risk.