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Electrical Safety in the Workplace: what are you obligated to do?

The maze of regulations and rules surrounding businesses can be blinding at the best of times, but the last thing you want to do is break a rule that is easy to put in place. Whether you’re a new business owner, or manager of an established business with new equipment, electrical safety in the workplace is one requirement that can be easily fulfilled.

While the law does not require electrical testing to be carried out, it does require your electrical equipment to be safe at all times.
Electricity will always find the easiest path to earth. Any faults or weaknesses within your electrical installation or portable appliances can go undetected. In the event of another fault developing, this could lead to serious risk of fire, electrocution or death. For example, a 13-amp ring-main without earth continuity could render all metal parts of appliances plugged into it “LIVE” if one item on the ring developed a fault to earth.

In 1989 The Electricity at Work Regulations came into force, which clarifies the need to maintain electrical systems safely. Regulations require that “all electrical tools and equipment used by construction workers must be safe to use” and that “any electric tools hired out to end-users must be safe to use”. In the workplace the regulations specify that employers take steps to limit the risk of harm from electricity and electrical systems, and this includes both electrical installations and electrical equipment.
These regulations apply to most electrical equipment – consumer, commercial and industrial – operating between 50 volts and 1,000 volts AC or between 75 volts and 1,500 volts DC.

The only way to ensure every effort is made towards a safe workplace, and to ensure you can back up your hard work if things go wrong, is to have regular electrical testing carried out on all the electrical equipment at your workplace. This will accurately identify faults, their locations and usually the recommended solution.

Increasingly, insurers are insisting that inspection and testing be carried out on a regular basis. If you suffer an avoidable accident, then under law if found guilty you will be deemed to have committed a criminal offence. Insurers will not pay fines or compensation for losses suffered resulting from a criminal offence

Compared to the hassle and possible costs of a problem developing, getting your installations and appliances tested is easy and normally quite affordable.

The IEE recommend that Electrical Installations are tested every 10 years (for domestic), 5 years (for commercial) or 3 years (for industrial). Depending on the risk-rating for a particular item, Portable Appliance Testing should be carried out every 3-24 months. High risk items include site equipment and workshop equipment, often involved in heavy workloads under arduous conditions, and far more likely to develop a fault in a shorter period of time than office equipment.

Worries over power-interruptions and work disruption can be eased, as electrical testing rarely causes such delays. A short power outage can be expected on each circuit within the system as testing is carried out, but because most of the testing is carried out whilst the system is still live, these outages can be planned around your daily activities.

When choosing an Electrical Testing Surveyor or other contractor to carry out your tests, ensure they charge by circuit numbers and not floor space (which has no bearing on how much circuitry there may or may not be in any given square foot). Also ensure you are going to receive proper and elaborative reports and paperwork for your reports, to give you ample documentation for your efforts.
It is also a good idea to look for a company that holds a certificate from the UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service), ensuring they are accredited with the appropriate qualifications and standards fo r the job.
Finding such a qualified professional to carry out your electrical testing satisfies all of the legal requirements for your workplace, and covers you and your employees for the future in the eyes of the law – subject, of course, to any remedial work requirements being addressed as identified by testing.

About the Author: Electrical Testing Surveyors Ltd are a well established and fully qualified electrical installation and portable appliance testing company, able to provide testing to companies and organisations all over the UK. You can reach them at enquiries@electrical-testing.co.uk and find more information on the website at www.electrical-testing.co.uk.

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