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. Other legislation of specific relevance to electrical maintenance - the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.
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, earth leakage.
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 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 advise 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 advise offered by a specialist test company can assist in helping the employers determine the correct course of action for their own electrical safety needs.
Due diligence must be proved in any proceedings for an offence in contravention of the EAWR. Detailed test records are the most effective method for the duty holder to prove that appropriate measures have been taken to avoid accidents.
Electrical Safety and You English