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Safety in electrical displays

Health and Safety Executive/Local Authorities Enforcement Liaison Committee (HELA)

Local Authority Circular

  • Subject: Electrical Equipment
  • Open Government Status: Fully Open
  • LAC Number: 18/4 (rev1)
  • Publication Date: 01/02/2011
  • Review Date: 01/02/2014

To: Health and Safety Enforcing Authorities

For the attention of: Local Authority Health and Safety Enforcement Managers, Health and Safety Regulators and others

This Local Authority Circular (LAC) provides technical guidance to enforcement officers and others on health and safety issues associated with electrical safety

Safety in electrical displays


1 This circular includes a Data Sheet which gives information about the standards required in retail electrical displays.

2 Enforcement officers are reminded that local authority circular 19/3 gives information on the requirements of the Electricity At Work Regulations 1989. Attention is drawn, in particular, to paras 1 and 2 of that circular in relation to the activities of enforcement officers and possible duties which may result.

3 The Data Sheet is intended as a working document for LA enforcement officers but it may be copied to employers and other persons.
Data sheet HSE/100/45

Safety in retail electrical lighting and appliance displays


1 This Data Sheet gives guidance on the safe display for sale of mains voltage lighting equipment and the demonstration of domestic electrical equipment in retail outlets. It is not applicable to extra low voltage lighting systems operating at 50 Volts or less from transformers.

2 The advice has been formulated to incorporate the provisions of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 where appropriate.

Competence of staff

3 All staff who are expected to carry out electrical work of any kind must be adequately trained for the level of work expected of them, or must be adequately supervised by a competent person during such work. All such staff should understand fully the hazards associated with electricity and the risks and necessary precautions associated with the particular task. It is essential that the limits of the work for which they are trained and authorised are also clearly understood. [***Authorisations should be made in writing, with a copy being given to the member of staff concerned for their personal retention and a copy being kept for record purposes. The authorisation should clearly state what work that person is permitted to carry out***].

4 This does not mean that a plug should only be fitted to an appliance by an electrician, but it does mean that any employee expected to fit a plug should receive appropriate training followed by an assessment of his/her competence.

Lighting displays

Display layout

5 It is strongly recommended that the electrical wiring to the display should be installed fully in accordance with BS 7671 Requirements for Electrical Installations (also known as the IEE Wiring Regulations). In addition it is recommended that, wherever practicable, the display is additionally protected by means of a Residual Current Device (RCD) suitable for protection against electric shock. Suitable types are often known as "30mA/30mS" devices.

6 Large displays should be sub-divided into smaller units, each supplied by its own circuit together with isolation facility and protective device (eg. fuse or miniature circuit breaker). It is essential to ensure that the protective device provided for each circuit is of the correct rating for the circuit wiring and loading:
Bulb wattage x Number = Current in amps
230 volts

Eg. Six 40 watt bulbs will draw a current of just over one amp.

7 The rating of the protective device should be selected to be appropriate for the value of the current that will flow in the circuit and for the current rating of the cables involved.

8 For most lighting displays it is a good principle to subdivide the circuits such that no protective device needs to be rated above 5 amps. In any event the fuse rating should be such as to protect the lowest rated cabling on the display. The cabling supplied with many lighting units is rated at 5 amps. The isolators and protective devices for each circuit should be clearly and unambiguously labelled and readily accessible at all times.

9 Units positioned at low level should not be connected to electrical power unless they are so protected as to present no risk to children.

Light unit connections

10 Each powered light unit on display should be connected to the electrical circuit by means of a properly constructed connector. The connector should incorporate an adequate cord grip which prevents the electrical cable being pulled from it.

11 A convenient method of wiring light fittings into a display with considerable flexibility is to use proprietary lighting track or festoon lighting. The connectors are usually moulded onto a flexible cable. It is necessary to provide an appropriate connector, such as a properly constructed plug and socket, between this cable and that connected to the light fitting. Where plugs and sockets are used, care is required to ensure that they are fitted with the exposed plug pins connected to the light fitting.

12 "Chocolate Block" type connectors (ie plastic terminal strips which may be cut to the appropriate length) are NOT considered acceptable for this type of application except where they are totally enclosed within a fitting and the fitting itself prevents mechanical stress being applied to the connector eg where the connector block and cable terminations are installed within the enclosure of the light fitting.

13 Where parts of the light fitting being displayed prevent access to exposed electrical conductors (eg bare brass terminals), all such parts should be properly installed before the power is turned on. Light fittings in which the conductors are shielded only when the bulb is in position (eg standard domestic bayonet fitting bulbs) should not be connected to the display without the bulb fitted.

Adjustments to displays

14 When adjustments are required to be made to displays, such as the addition or removal of individual light fittings, the system of work should ensure that no-one is subjected to electrical danger.

15 If individual light units are connected to the supply by means of properly constructed proprietary plugs and sockets, eg those to BS 1363 or BS EN 60320 (previously BS4491), only switched sockets should be used. The socket should be switched off before the plug is removed. Where a proprietary lighting track with removable connectors is used, a unit should only be disconnected after the track has been made dead, unless the track is designed to allow units to be removed safely whilst live. Even then, disconnection and isolation of the circuit is recommended.

16 Where individual light fittings are wired into the display and their removal requires access to the conductor terminals, that part of the display should be switched off and effectively Isolated. "Isolation" means that the circuit is disconnected from the power supply and that steps have been taken which prevent it being reconnected until it is safe to do so.

17 All isolators should be clearly labelled (to prevent errors in identification leading to danger) and be lockable in the off position. Any isolator on the display itself should be readily accessible and should be lockable even if in clear view of the person working on the display.

18 Reliance on the removal of fuses is not usually an adequate means of isolation as fuses are of standard designs and replacements are often available allowing accidental reconnection to be made (an exception would be the removal of a fuse followed by the insertion of a suitable lockable fuse way blocking device). Notices are also inadequate as they tend to be abused, accidentally removed, or left in position after use. Such abuse or neglect leads to a decline in the safety standards.

Routine inspection and testing


19 All display installations should be visually inspected at regular intervals to determine whether deterioration and/or damage has occurred. The periods between such inspections will depend on the use/abuse of the systems. Publication INDG236 Maintaining portable electrical equipment in low risk environments should be consulted to determine an appropriate initial  frequency of  visual inspection and how to determine inspection frequencies thereafter. It is recommended that the premises' electrical installation should be subject to an annual routine check and a formal inspection on a 5-yearly basis by a suitably competent person to ensure it remains in a safe condition. Guidance on the frequency of testing may be available from the installer. Any defects noted during inspections or tests should be rectified before the system is put back into use.

Domestic appliance display

20 The display and demonstration of domestic appliances should incorporate the principles set out above for lighting departments. The main difference is that the likely power needs will be much greater.

21 The power supply circuit should normally take the form of a domestic type ring main with the addition of suitable lockable isolation facilities, where necessary. Most displays of this type can use standard plug and socket connections and there should be no need to gain access to the supply circuit wiring.

22 The number of socket outlets provided should be sufficient for the number of appliances in the display without the need for adapters. Extension leads should always:

23. It is strongly recommended that the circuits supplying such displays be protected by a Residual Current Device with a maximum rating of 30mA/30mS wherever practicable.

24. All fault finding and repair work within appliances should be entrusted to a suitably competent electrician/service engineer. Electrical contractors who are members of NICEIC, NAPIT, ECA or SELECT should normally be 'suitably competent'.

Updated 2021-01-08