The Electricity at Work Regulations

The Electricity At Work Regulations require business owners/employers/etc. to maintain safety standards for every item of electrical equipment used for work purposes including every kettle, computer, photocopier, power tool, extension lead, etc. 

In order to comply with this regulation you need to maintain and be able to prove that each appliance is safe, the most recognised method is called PAT, or Portable Appliance Testing

Portable Appliance Testing however, as a phrase, causes confusion as the word ‘portable’ refers to the appliance being able to be unplugged from a socket; not whether you can move it easily. So we prefer to use the phrase inspection and testing of electrical equipment, but nobody outside the electrical industry knows what that means, so we call it PAT testing. PAT Testing is carried out on all electrical appliances up to and including those using 415 volt adaptors, whether they can be unplugged or not; as appliances that are fixed via a fused spur unit also fall into the scope of PAT. 

In addition to appliances with a plug, and those via a spur you also need to maintain safety standards of battery powered equipment, and equipment powered directly into the mains not via a spur; but neither of those would be carried out by us under normal circumstances. 

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 all relate to maintaining safe electrical equipment. 

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 puts the duty of care upon both the employer and the employee to ensure the safety of all persons using the work premises. This includes the self employed.

The IEE Code of Practice for In Service Inspection and Testing of Equipment sets out the standard to which each appliance is comprehensively tested and we use the very latest PAT testing equipment made by Seaward, the leading providers of PAT Testing equipment to carry this out.

 Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 came into force on 1st April 1990; their purpose is to require precautions to be taken against the risk of death or personal injury from electricity, in work activities.

In the main, the Regulations are concerned with the prevention of danger from electric shock, electric burn, electrical explosion or arcing or from fire or explosion initiated by electric energy.

All places of work covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act (offices, schools, factories, sports centres, hotels, shops, community centres, hair salons, etc.) are covered under the Electricity at Work Regulations.

The regulations convey principles of electrical safety, as applied to any electrical equipment, any work activity having a bearing on electrical safety – in other words they all apply to all electrical systems and equipment, in connection with work activities, whenever manufactured, purchased, installed or taken into use, even if its manufacture or installation pre-dates the regulations.

Who is responsible?

Duties rest with employers, the self-employed and employees to comply with the regulations and where the provisions relate to matters which are within their control, each becomes a ‘duty holder’.

The onus is on the ‘duty holder’ to assess the work activities which utilise electricity, or which may be affected by it. ‘Duty holders’ are required to have regard to all foreseeable risks (suitability, design, construction, siting, environmental effects, protection/precaution and installation) of electrical systems for specific tasks; not merely the prevention of electric shock.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 sets out the general duties which employers have towards employees and members of the public, and employees have to themselves and to each other.

These duties are qualified in the Act by the principle of ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’. In other words, an employer does not have to take measures to avoid or reduce the risk if they are technically impossible or if the time, trouble or cost of the measures would be grossly disproportionate to the risk.

What the law requires is what good management and common sense would lead employers to do anyway: that is, to look at what the risks and take sensible measures to tackle them.

The main requirement on employers is to carry out a risk assessment. Employers with five or more employees need to record the significant findings of the risk assessment.

Risk assessment should be straightforward in a simple workplace such as a typical office. It should only be complicated if it deals with serious hazards such as those on a nuclear power station, a chemical plant, laboratory or an oil rig.

Download your own copy of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 from the Health and Safety Executive website.

As well as the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 the ‘duty holder’ is expected to comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment 1998.