Electrical safety is paramount in any workplace. It’s just as important as fire safety and evacuation procedures, as fires can easily be started by improper use of electrical equipment. We look at how both employers and employees can ensure everyone uses electrical equipment safely in their place of work.
Safety at work is primarily the employer’s responsibility, governed by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which sets out the employer’s duty of care to its employees. The Act also encompasses the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, a set of guidelines to ensure that every electrical device and installation used by employees in the course of their job is safe and fit for purpose.
The law doesn’t specify when checks should be carried out. However, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has recognised industrial guidelines, such as The IET Code of Practice for In-service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment, as well as Guidance Note 3.
It’s recommended that businesses have an EICR (Electrical Installation Condition Report) carried out on their fixed wiring by a suitably qualified electrician every five years (in some cases this can be more frequent). In addition, Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) should be carried out annually on any electrical equipment which has a cable, a plug and can be disconnected from its power supply and moved. Generally, PAT testing is carried out annually but the frequency of testing or inspection can vary depending on the appliance and the environment in which the item is located. It’s also good practice to keep records of when equipment was last checked, marking portable equipment with the date it’s next due for testing so employees can see that the employer takes their responsibilities seriously and encourages them to do the same.
Where are the main electrical hazards in the workplace?
The hazards are more obvious in an industrial environment due to heavy machinery and tools being in constant use. But, even in a seemingly benign office environment, there are risks of electric shock, power cuts or fires. These could occur if computers, IT and kitchen equipment are not maintained, tested or used correctly.
What is the role of employees in electrical safety?
Employees can do their bit to ensure their own safety and that of their colleagues by performing visual checks on electrical equipment before each use, while it is disconnected from the electricity supply. These inspections can often identify the majority of electrical faults, and should include looking for things such as;
- Loose, trapped, knotted or frayed cables
- Damage to plugs
- Damage to the outer cover of a device
- Burn marks which may suggest overheating
- Any exposure to damp or spillages
Whilst they may not be qualified to carry out any remedial action, they do have a responsibility to report any issues to their employer promptly rather than relying on the issue being identified at the next inspection. In addition, employees should avoid:
- Overloading plug sockets
- Touching electrical sockets or light switches with wet hands
- Using microwaves, toasters or any other equipment they think may be faulty
- Using equipment for any purpose other than that for which it was designed
Trust our skilled electricians
Point Electrical carry out EICR and PAT testing in and around the Hertfordshire area. Our electricians are skilled, positive people who are happy to help, whatever your needs. Find out more about our commercial and industrial electrical services or contact us for any query you might have.