A user check could save your life

Why you need to be doing in-house “User Checks”

A User Check is a very important safety precaution, formally missed by many but often carried out by most of us without even realising we’re doing it. 

A user check is something we all should be doing to make sure an appliance is safe before we use it, but few employers are even aware of the need for them to be done, so training is not passed on to staff. Staff should be made aware of the importance of checking an appliance before they use it. 

This check is an important part in the process of maintaining safe portable equipment, and is recommended by the HSE. 

User checks prevent accidents

The purpose of the check is to make sure the appliance is safe to use. 

Take a power tool for example; is the lead free of any cuts and abrasions, is the plug in one piece and pins not bent, is the tool itself in good order with safety guards in place? 

If anything is not right the tool should be reported for repair, marked not to be used and a replacement sought. 

Many faults can be determined through these checks; the user should be familiar with the appliance, especially if they use it often, making them the best person to spot any faults. 

Records don’t need to be kept of these checks. 

A benefit of this check is that potential accidents can be prevented as faults can be found before they become an issue. Some people would say that this is a ‘near miss’.

4 Top tips to improve workplace safety

Handy hints to improve safety:

  • Make sure power cables are long enough to reach the socket without being stretched
  • Cables should be kept clear of walkways
  • Drinks should be kept away from electrical equipment
  • Don’t overload extension leads

5 more top tips

If you notice any of these DO NOT use the appliance:

  • Brown marks on metal appliances suggest overheating (common on radiators)
  • Cracked or holes in casing
  • Inner wires exposed in cables
  • Damaged plugs
  • Insulating tape on cables

These are just some of the issues you may face when doing such checks; the best way to look at it is this – if you’re unsure, or if something doesn’t look right – report it. Let someone that knows what they are doing assess it.

See our user checks page for more info. 

User checks should be done by the staff using the appliance. In addition to user checks formal visual inspections, and inspection and testing should be carried out on the appliance. 

How to improve electrical safety

Get staff to do their own User Checks

  • Encourage employees to look at the supply cable to the electrical equipment before they use it (user check).
  • Encourage employees to look at electrical equipment before they use it (user check).
  • Make sure that all portable equipment is at least visually inspected by a competent person (e.g. a PAT tester from DRA PAT Testing) at regular intervals dependent on the type of equipment.
  • Arrange for equipment that is not double insulated to have a portable appliance test (including leads) at regular intervals dependent on the type of equipment.
  • Ensure that damaged or faulty equipment is recognised and removed from use and either repaired or disposed of

User checks, visual inspection and portable appliance tests

These should be carried out before most electrical equipment is used, with the equipment disconnected. Employees should look for:

  • damage to the lead including fraying, cuts or heavy scuffing, eg from floor box covers;
  • damage to the plug, eg to the cover or bent pins;
  • tape applied to the lead to join leads together;
  • coloured wires visible where the lead joins the plug (the cable is not being gripped correctly where it enters the plug);
  • damage to the outer cover of the equipment itself, including loose parts or screws;
  • signs of overheating, such as burn marks or staining on the plug, lead or appliance;
  • equipment that has been used or stored in unsuitable conditions, such as wet or dusty environments or where water spills are possible; and cables trapped under furniture or in floor boxes.