If someone offers you a free compliance check, a just-to-be-on-the-safe-side sort of thing, odds are they will find something wrong that you will have to pay them to correct.

Vijay Patel got in touch after being pestered by a company which said it did a lot of work with the local authority’s health & safety department (in his case, in north London’s Camden area). He forwarded the company’s email to me and it was scaremongering to say the least: ‘Health and safety offences Act 2008need for a PAT (portable appliance test)increased finesimprisonmentno insurance cover in the event of electrical evidence’. It certainly didn’t spare the rod and suggested that, if Vijay didn’t sign up for the electrical checking service, he would be reported to the local authority.

I resorted to Ian Hughes, affinity development manager with Bluefin insurance group, who said: “The pressure this company is exerting on Vijay is totally disproportionate, and they are using the ‘fear’ tactic to persuade him to sign up. There are elements they are correct in pointing out to Vijay. He does need to have his electrics tested every five years, and also, even with just three staff, needs to have PAT testing biannually.”

His insurers do not need to see such certificates up front, but if there is a claim and a certificate cannot be produced, it could affect a payout, especially if it were caused by an electrical fault the email is correct in stating that there is a duty of care on the part of every operator to ensure they are acting safely and within the law. But, due diligence does not require the input of an outsourcing company.

Vijay can do a self- assessment on www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/index.htm and, except for the electrical inspections, none of it needs to cost him a penny.What’s your experience?