HOW TO FIGHT THE INFLUX OF COUNTERFEIT ELECTRICAL GOODS
According to a report* into fake products by the European Parliament, more than five million counterfeit goods were seized by customs authorities during 2015, a worrying increase of 15 per cent over the previous year. In addition, more than a quarter of these were electrical goods, the majority of them from China.
Take iPhone chargers. These can be made in China for as little as three pence and bought on the internet for less than £1. As different devices require different levels of charge, using a generic charger risks putting too much energy into a device, which in turn can cause the battery to overheat.
Branded – or “original equipment” - chargers, being designed specifically for each device, pose a much lower risk.
So, what measures can be taken to combat the potentially lethal threat to people and businesses from fake electrical appliances?
There are a number of precautions that can be taken, such as only purchasing from reputable suppliers, checking the packaging and labelling: has the package been tampered with, is all the regulatory information present and are there any misspellings – which can be a real giveaway? Even the feel of an item or the extension cord might raise your suspicions. An obvious clue to look for is a kitemark: its absence should be cause for alarm, likewise it could be a poor imitation of a genuine mark.
Educating and training staff on how to spot counterfeit products and false packaging is advisable. In addition, regular and efficient Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) can weed out the faulty electrical appliances if they have already infiltrated a business.
Domestically, criminals are targeting electrical goods - from household appliances to high-end handheld devices - with items sold from very convincing websites and even using seemingly authentic packaging and conformity marking. Yet many of these fakes can lack even the most basic of safety features that purchasers take for granted.
They may look like the real deal but fake goods are particularly risky as they often contain faulty parts, are of poor quality and in most cases dangerous. Most common are chargers for mobile phones - Hawkesworth has failed over 12,000 chargers and AC Adaptors due to being floored and/or fake – as well as laptops, computers, heating appliances, air conditioning units and kettles, in fact anything that requires a plug.
There are a number of giveaways that any electrical engineer worth his or her salt will be able to tell fake appliances from the real McCoy. Comprehensive testing, including a polarity check, will identify the tell-tale signs of potentially hazardous faults such as physical damage, non-standard cable joints, loose connections, missing screws, overloading of sockets or over-heating.
There are other obvious signs for spotting dodgy electrical appliances, like earth pins having part or full insulation, meaning the product is without doubt a fake. No earth pin should ever be insulated – only the live and neutral.
To address safety concerns surrounding counterfeit appliances and protect their workforce, businesses should adopt a rigorous regime of checking electrical items. Regular maintenance, inspection and testing can expose hazardous electrical goods and minimise the risk of potential harm to people and damage to property, which could run into millions of pounds.
This can be achieved either in-house, by organising practical electrical training for members of staff and purchasing testing equipment, or through external support with the services of an experienced PAT testing company, which can import good practice by offering a more robust approach to risk assessment to ensure you comply with Health and Safety legislation. It is often the case that companies want to complete their electrical maintenance internally, however, they often do not get around to carrying out this task or put it on the back burner due to time restraints.
Businesses and landlords alike should demand a full check on appliances brought in from overseas, which may appear to be suitable for UK use but could be deadly due to faulty wiring or plugs: phone chargers and foreign power leads are particularly high risk.
The advantages of efficient testing are numerous; a cost-effective, reliable and systematic approach ensures legislative compliance and provides a safer environment for all users of an office, factory, college or university – in fact any premises in private, public and third sectors.
Author: Lucy Davison, Technical and Compliance Manager at Hawkesworth Appliance Testing Ltd
*Source: The Parliament Magazine
With over 24 years’ experience in PAT testing for a range of sectors, North Yorkshire-based Hawkesworth is fully accredited to ISO9001/ISO14001 and BS OHSAS 18001 and can provide out of hours’ services at no extra cost, as well as unique ID labels backed up by full asset register and certification.
Hawkesworth is the largest independent, dedicated PAT testing company in the UK and Ireland.
The company works with some of the world’s leading brands and organisations in a wide range of sectors including automotive, manufacturing, construction, retail, hospitality and education.
Its engineers are City and Guilds (2377) qualified in Portable Appliance Testing and undergo Enhanced Disclosure checks with unplanned audits carried out on a daily basis throughout the country to ensure the very highest standards are maintained.
Hawkesworth Appliance Testing abides by the IET Code of Practice and ISO 9001/ISO14001 and BS OHSAS 18001 standards, providing bespoke quotations for specific environments for a sensible and sustainable tariff, delivering genuine value for money and ultimately reducing the stress of keeping businesses running safely.
The strategic placement of engineers is paramount in providing Hawkesworth’s clients with an affordable, reliable and efficient service.
Technical and Compliance Manager
Hawkesworth Appliance Testing Ltd
York Road, Thirsk,
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