Recent figures suggest that around a quarter of all reportable electrical accidents involve portable appliances. The HSE report that in the five years between 1996/7 and 2000/01, 71 workers were killed and 2804 injured in accidents involving electricity. It is therefore important to ensure the safety of electrical equipment used in the workplace.
The Health & Safety At Work Act 1997 puts the duty of care on both employer and employee to ensure the safety of all persons using the work premises. The legal requirements relating specifically to the use and maintenance of electrical equipment are contained in the electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR).
The EAWR requires all electrical systems to be maintained to prevent danger. This requirement covers all electrical equipment included fixed and portable equipment. The regulation also adds that a suitable defence is proof that all reasonable steps and due diligence were exercised in avoiding unsafe situations.
Portable Appliance Inspection & Testing
Employers must maintain their electrical equipment in order to prevent accidents. The majority of equipment defects can be found by a detailed visual inspection. For example a detailed examination by a trained person is likely to eliminate hazards caused by plug or cable damage, or other signs that the equipment’s condition could create faults, or a danger to users. However, a visual inspection alone will not identify all dangerous faults; therefore a visual inspection needs to be linked to a testing program to reveal less obvious electrical faults such as earth continuity, insulation integrity, and earth leakage.
YOUR COMPANY INSURANCE
Take into consideration that you may have conditions placed on you by your insurers regarding appliance testing and safety. You will also need to check policies held if you have the ISO Standard
Do I have to keep records?
Detailed test records are the most effective method for the duty holder to prove that appropriate measures have been taken to avoid accidents. To comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations all portable electrical appliances should be routinely inspected and tested by a competent person. The regulations apply equally to small companies and the self employed. The requirements are based on principles of risk assessment and reasonable practicability.
Current Health & Safety Regulations.
The purpose of the Electricity at Work Regulations is to prevent death or injury to anyone from any electrical cause as a result of, or in connection with, work activities. Specific legislation relevant to electrical maintenance is a follows:-
- Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
- The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
- The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1992
- The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations1992.
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 state:
All systems shall at all times be of construction as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable danger.
As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent danger, so far as reasonably practicable, such danger.
The Health and Safety Executive memorandum of guidance HS(R)25 recommends that such maintenance be based on a regime of regular inspection and testing by a competent person.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992
This regulation requires an organisation to:
- Assess the risks to all persons associated with their electrical equipment, identifying the significant risks and make a record of the assessment.
- As appropriate, appoint a competent person to take responsibility for electrical maintenance including inspection and testing.
You may also want to check your insurance, as many companies stipulate “annual inspection and testing of electrical equipment” as do the ISO Standards.
Frequency of Inspection
An important and often overlooked aspect of portable appliance testing is the frequency of testing required.
Test frequency is dependant on the type of equipment, typical usage and the environment in which it is likely to operate. Advice on inspection and testing intervals are available in the HSE document ‘Maintaining Portable and Transportable Electrical Equipment’, this gives some broad advice based on business types.
The IEE provide a more detailed guide on testing frequencies based on equipment types and workplace locations in the ‘Code of Practice for the In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment’. However the individual circumstances will vary and it is here that the advice offered by a specialist test company can assist in helping the employers determine the correct course of action for their own electrical safety needs.
How do I determine the frequency my appliances need testing?
Conduct a RISK ASSESSMENT to ascertain how often your appliances need to be tested.
HIGH RISK areas e.g. KITCHENS where appliances are used dozens of times a day may need testing as often as every SIX MONTHS. Equipment that rarely gets moved e.g. SERVERS and COMMS ROOMS may not need testing for 48 months.