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.