Electricity at Work Regulations – General Legislative Requirements

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require employers to assess the work activities which use electricity, or which may be affected by it, and to put in place safe systems of work.  There are also requirements in relation to the safe maintenance of electrical equipment and installations. Under the regulations, employers should ensure the following in relation to electrical equipment.

  1. No electrical equipment is used in a manner that will exceed its strength and capability.
  2. Where electrical equipment is likely to be used in hazardous or adverse conditions, it is constructed or protected to prevent danger in such conditions.
  3. There is a means of protecting systems from excess current.
  4. There is a means of cutting off the supply and isolating the current.
  5. Suitable precautions are taken to work on live systems.
  6. Anyone carrying out a work activity involving or near to electrical systems must be competent so as to prevent danger.

Portable electrical equipment

Portable electrical equipment can be described as equipment that is not part of a fixed installation but is intended to be connected to a fixed installation, or a generator, by means of a flexible cable and either a plug and socket, or a spur box, or similar means.

When using portable electrical equipment, employers should ensure the following.

  • Employees are trained in how to use the electrical equipment safely.
  • Employees are capable of checking for signs of hazards and danger and can stop work if necessary.
  • Enough sockets are available and are not overloaded.
  • The use of extension leads is reduced to the minimum.
  • There are no trailing cables that can cause people to trip or fall.
  • Appliances are switched off and unplugged before cleaning or adjustment.
  • Any electrical equipment brought to work by employees, or hired or borrowed, is suitable for use and remains suitable by being maintained as necessary.
  • A residual current device (RCD) has been considered for use between the supply and the equipment, particularly when working outdoors, or in wet or confined conditions.

Employees using the equipment (including extension leads) should be encouraged to look at it critically and check for signs that it may not be in sound condition.

Fixed electrical installations

Fixed electrical systems in new buildings have to comply with relevant building standards and controls and many now have integral safety features, such as residual circuit breakers. BS 7671 (IET Wiring Regulations, 18th Edition) sets the standards for electrical installation in the UK.

It is a legal requirement that all electrical work should be carried out by competent persons. A successfully completed electrical apprenticeship, with some post-apprenticeship experience, is one way of demonstrating technical competence for general electrical work.

Inspection and Testing

Fixed installations and portable electrical equipment should be subject to a maintenance regime. This information should be kept by a H&S Representative.

Formal visual inspections should be undertaken by a suitably trained person. Periodic combined inspection and testing is the only reliable way of detecting certain faults, and should be carried out to back up the checks and inspection regime.

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