Worker received shock whilst using a pressure water washing machine

A worker received a 240 Volt electric shock whilst using a pressure water washing machine. An investigation found the company had failed to: a) maintain the washer, b) provide a safe system of work and c) notify the existence of the factory to HSE. There was a high potential for serious injury from contact with 240 Volt electricity supply when using water washing equipment.


The company was prosecuted under The Factories Act 1961 (except section 135), Section 137, Sub Section 1, The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (No 4) paragraph 2, and The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (No 4) paragraph 1, and fined.


All work equipment should be regularly checked to ensure it is safe to use. A visual check each day, or each time the equipment is used is likely to identify many of the potential electrical faults. Work equipment should also be thoroughly tested regularly. This should be done frequently enough that there is little chance a fault will develop that will lead to danger.

In general, equipment used in harsh environments such as building sites or outdoors will need more regular testing than equipment used in an office environment. It is a good idea to note down your decision on the frequency of testing for each item of equipment and then ensure the tests are carried out. It is also a good idea to note down the results of each test so that deterioration can be spotted as early as possible.

You should regularly review your frequency of testing and change it according to the number and type of defects found.

The downloadable leaflet Homeworking offers guidance on how to perform visual checks on work equipment. The downloadable HSE booklet Maintaining portable and transportable electrical equipment provides guidance on equipment maintenance. The downloadable leaflet Do you use a steam/water pressure cleaner? and the downloadable HSE booklet Electrical risks from steam/water pressure cleaners provide guidance on the safe use of pressure washers.

It is possible to do simple checks on your installation using an electrical socket tester. This is a device that can be plugged into a socket outlet, and can identify if there is a wiring fault. However, be aware that many types of socket tester cannot detect certain types of fault, and could indicate the socket is safe when it is not. Read the information provided by HSE on Electrical Socket Testers.

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Updated 2023-04-12