Report finds fault with UK hirers

By Murray Pollok31 March 2010

The Which? survey found faults in 14 of the 26 tools it rented, including this plug where tin foil w

The Which? survey found faults in 14 of the 26 tools it rented, including this plug where tin foil was used as a fuse.

Consumer rights organisation Which? has called for rental companies in the UK to improve their standards after a survey revealed safety faults in half of the tools it rented.

Which? - the largest consumer rights organisation in Europe - found faults in 14 of the 26 tools it rented from separate branches of Brandon Hire, HSS, Jewson, Speedy, Travis Perkins, HireStation (through Homebase's telephone hire service) and four independent hire shops.

Only HSS provided equipment with no faults. All three tools rented each from Speedy and Brandon were deemed faulty by Which?.

Faults included unearthed plugs, worn and broken blades, kitchen foil used as a fuse and damaged wires.

Which? said there were also concerns about the lack of safety equipment on offer at the point of hire by some shops. None of the four independent hire firms offered safety equipment and Speedy, Travis Perkins and Jewson were the worst performers in this category among the larger firms.

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive, Which?, said; "DIY enthusiasts trust these stores to provide safe, reliable equipment, but half the tools we tested failed our rigorous tests and some could have caused serious injury.

"We expect higher standards from hire companies. They need to consistently check tools - if the shops we visited had carried out effective basic checks, they would never have loaned out half of the equipment."

Which? Provided the following details for each of the companies that supplied faulty tools:

Speedy (3/3 tools with faults) A split hose in the wallpaper stripper was discovered - this could leak hot steam which could scald the user.

Jewson (2/4 tools with faults) With a loose earth screw on a tile cutter's transformer, electric shock was a risk.

Hire Station (2/4 tools with faults) A blown fuse was repaired with foil in a tile cutter transformer, this kept the current flowing but increased the risk of fire.

Brandon Hire (3/3 tools with faults) A cut in an extension lead cable left only basic insulation and could expose users to increased risk of electric shock.

Travis Perkins (2/4 tools with faults) A petrol hedge trimmer had a broken blade extension - the very part designed to reduce the risk of injury.

Independents (2/4 tools with faults) Faults included a circular saw without a riving knife - with this missing the blade could snag and kick back at the user.

The Which? report includes responses from each of the rental companies. Speedy told Which? that it couldn't verify the accuracy of the survey but that it had taken the three tools out of circulation for inspection; "A full range of safety equipment is available at all of our depots and our policy is to offer it - we are retraining and coaching our people".

Jewson said; "There was a failure to comply with the correct standards and we are putting measures in place to avoid any recurrence of this in the future, including staff recording that safety checks are carried out. All customers should be offered safety equipment; we are reminding staff of the importance of this."

Brandon said its own investigations "found that the hedge trimmer does have a nick in the extension cable but the basic insulation is intact. We found a small leak with the wallpaper stripper and while there was some movement with the saw blade there was no safety issue. Our record shows that you were offered protective equipment on all three occasions."

Travis Perkins said the two tips of the blade extension were broken "but they are level with the blade so are not a safety threat. We are disappointed to find that the water plug was missing and it shouldn't have been hired out. However, the tool can be used for dry cutting as well as wet cutting. We have robust systems in place to ensure tools are checked before hire."

Hire Station, meanwhile, acknowledged that "The fuse was a breach of our policy and we are ensuring that all branches follow procedures fully. The saw case is more subjective as it's impossible to guarantee new blades. We are introducing a system to ensure blades are fit for purpose. We are disappointed that your shoppers claim they were not offered the equipment required.'

Finally, HSS, the only renter to supply four tools without faults, responded to the report findings that safety equipment was only offered twice on the four hires; "‘We take safety very seriously... It is standard policy for our customers to be asked if they require any safety equipment.'

The full report, Hire Standards, can be found in the April 2010 issue of Which? magazine.

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