You should make sure that electrical equipment used for work is safe. Here are a list of actions that should be taken to ensure this is so:
Many faults with work equipment can be found during a simple visual inspection:
If you are concerned about the safety of the equipment you should stop it from being used and ask a competent person to undertake a more thorough check.
Additional information on the visual inspection of electrical equipment is in the free guidance note Homeworking.
Additional regular inspections may be required where a risk assessment indicates this is necessary (such as where equipment is used in a harsh environment). These inspections should be performed by a competent person using suitable equipment, and often enough to ensure equipment does not become unsafe between the inspections.
The table below gives a list of suggested initial inspection intervals for different types of equipment. The combined inspection and test could be a Portable Appliance Test (PAT), or a detailed test with a more sophisticated instrument. You should make sure that the person carrying out the tests is trained and competent to do so. See the guidance booklet Maintaining portable and transportable electrical equipment for more information.
You may need to change how often inspections are being carried out if there are indications that equipment may become unsafe before the next inspection.
|Type of business||User checks||Formal visual inspection||Combined inspection and test|
|Equipment hire||N/A||Before issue/after return||Before issue|
|Construction (see Electrical safety on construction sites for more detail)||110 V – Weekly 230 V mains – Daily/every shift||110 V – Monthly 230 V – weekly||110 V – Before first use on site then 3 monthly 230 V mains – Before first use on site then monthly|
|Light industrial||Yes||Before initial use, then 6 monthly||6 months to 1 year|
|Heavy industrial/high risk of equipment damage||Daily||Weekly||6 months to 1 year|
|Office information technology eg desktop computers, photocopiers, fax machines||No||1 to 2 years||None if double-insulated, otherwise up to 5 years|
|Double insulated equipment not hand-held, eg fans,table lamps||No||2 to 3 years||No|
|Hand-held double insulated (Class II) equipment, eg some floor cleaners, kitchen equipment and irons||Yes||6 months to 1 year||No|
|Earthed (Class I) equipment, eg electric kettles, some floor cleaners||Yes||6 months to 1 year||1 to 2 years|
|Equipment used by the public, eg in hotels||By member of staff||3 months||1 year|
|Cables and plugs, extension leads||Yes||1 year||2 years|
Make sure that the electrical equipment you are intending to use is suitable for the electrical supply to which you are connecting it. Check the voltage is correct and that the supply can deliver the current required by the equipment (the power requirements of the equipment will be shown on its rating plate).
You should be sure that the electrical supply is safe to use. Regular tests performed by a competent person, using suitable equipment are a good way of reducing risks. Where there is evidence that the supply may not be safe, such as damaged equipment or wiring, the supply should not be used until work has been done to correct this. Some simple user checks can be carried out on electrical socket outlets using an electrical socket tester, but it is essential that the correct type of tester is used . If any doubt remains regarding the safety of the electrical supply, a competent person should be consulted.
A Residual Current Device (RCD) can reduce the likelihood of an electrical injury but a shock can still cause very serious or fatal injuries, so an RCD should only be used as a secondary means of reducing the risk of people being injured by electricity. RCD’s are not designed to prevent the ignition of an explosive atmosphere and should not be used for this purpose.
The best place for an RCD is built into the main switchboard, as this means that the electrical supply is permanently protected. If this is not possible, an electrical socket outlet incorporating an RCD, or a plug in RCD adaptor, can also provide additional safety.
If an electrical socket outlet incorporating an RCD, or a plug in RCD adaptor is used it should be tested, by the user, prior to use by operating the Test button. Faulty RCDs should not be used and either removed for use or labelled as faulty.
An RCD detects some, but not all, faults in the electrical system and rapidly switches off the supply, reducing the potential for injury caused by a common type of electric shock. To reduce the likelihood of injury to people the RCD should have a tripping current of not more than 30 milliamps (mA). RCDs with a higher tripping current are used to protect against fire.
An RCD is a valuable safety device, never bypass it; if the RCD trips, it is a sign there is a fault. Check the system before using it again; if the RCD trips frequently and no fault can be found in the system, consult the manufacturer of the RCD; the RCD has a test button to check that its mechanism is free and functioning. Use this regularly.
If lighting circuits are protected by the same RCD that also protects other equipment, a fault that causes the RCD to trip will also result in the loss of lighting that could give rise to a number of risks (such as trips and falls or the dangers from moving machinery). You should perform a risk assessment to identify the effect of fitting an RCD to electrical circuits.