Electricity

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By ensuring that equipment is maintained and checked on a regular basis accidents are less likely to occur. Electric shocks from faulty equipment can also cause severe and permanent injury, not only due to the high voltage that they carry, but also if people are working at height. As any resulting shock may cause them to fall.

The Law

Electricity at Work Regulation's 1989

What do I need to do?

You must make sure that anyone working on electrical equipment is competent to do so. An indication of competency would be assurance and verification that the person you are using to carrying out these electrical works, is a fully registered member of the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC). They should also work to the latest edition of the Institute of Electrical Engineers’(IEE) Wiring Regulation's (BS7671:2001) (as amended) which is currently in its 16th edition.

Fixed Electrical Installations

Fixed electrical installations must be periodically inspected by a competent electrician to determine its’ condition in relation to the latest edition of BS7671 (above). This will identify, so far as reasonably practicable, any factors impairing the safety of the electrical installation, and to make appropriate recommendation's for remedial action. The electrician will issue a periodic inspection report on an existing electrical installation, which will (quoted from the NICEIC website):

  • reveal if any of your electrical circuits or equipment are overloaded;
  • find any potential electrical shock risks and fire hazards associated with your electrical installation;
  • identify any defective DIY electrical work; and
  • highlight any lack of earthing or bonding.
     

It is recommended that this periodic inspection and testing is carried out at least every five years for commercial installations, or before letting, selling or buying a new property. Periodic inspection and testing should be carried out more frequently for other types of electrical installations. For example:

  • 3 years for caravan sites;
  • 3 years for industrial premises;
  • 1 year for swimming pools; and
  • 3 months for construction sites.
  • Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)

This generally relates to equipment that can be easily moved from different location's and has a lead (cable) and a plug, e.g. vacuum cleaners, kettles, heaters, fans, televisions, desk lamps. However, this will also include equipment that could be moved, e.g. photocopiers, fax machines, and computers.

The most important monitoring technique for these types of equipment, is simply by looking at the cable and plug (after disconnecting it) for signs of (quoted from Maintaining portable electrical equipment in offices and other low-risk environments (INDG236)):

  • damage e.g. cuts and abrasions to the cable covering;
  • damage to the plug e.g. the casing is cracked or the pins are bent;
  • non-standard joints including taped joints in the cable;
  • the outer covering (sheath) of the cable not being gripped where it enters the plug or the equipment. Look to see if the coloured insulation of
  • the internal wires is showing.
  • equipment that has been used in conditions where it is not suitable, e.g. wet or dusty workplace;
  • damage to the outer cover of the equipment or obvious loose parts or screws; and  
  • overheating (burn marks or staining).

Formal inspection could include removal of the plug cover and checking that:

  • a fuse is being used (i.e it is a proper fuse - not a piece of wire/nail etc.);
  • the cord grip is holding the outer part (sheath) of the cable tightly;
  • the wires, including the earth wire where fitted are attached to the correct terminals;
  • no bare wires are visible other than at the terminals;
  • the terminal screws are tight; and
  • there is no sign of internal damage, overheating or entry of liquid, dust or dirt.