Do you follow the Electricity at Work Regulations?
Posted on 13th July 2020
Business owners will know about their responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA).
However, the Electricity at Work Regulations add additional requirements for electrical safety.
Employers must make sure activities at work that use or might be affected by electricity are done safely. Any foreseeable risks must also be assessed and minimised, as far as possible.
The Regualtions aren't only about electric shocks. They are intended to prevent death or injury due to electrical causes while working or in the workplace. As well as electric shocks or burns, it includes electric arcing and fires, or explosions started or caused by electricity.
As an employer, you are responsible for the suitability, design, construction and installation of your workplace electrical systems. You must think about where electrical equipment is used and how you will provide protection to minimise danger.
Who is covered by the Electricity at Work Regulations?
Employers and self-employed people are covered by the Regulations, and employees must cooperate with their employers and do everything possible to meet electrical safety requirements.
What you should know
Here are some of the things you should know about the Regulations:
Preventing danger – to prevent danger you must make sure that your electrical systems are properly built, maintained and operated. If your risk assessment identifies the need for protective equipment you must provide it and make sure it is well maintained.
Capacity – your electrical equipment should only be used within its capacity and shouldn’t be overloaded. This also applies to faulty equipment.
Environment – you must make sure your electrical equipment is protected. You must take account of the environment where your equipment will be used. This includes the risk of mechanical damage, exposure to weather, temperature and pressure changes, as well as wet, dirty, dusty or corrosive conditions.
Protection – conductors in electrical systems must be insulated and protected. Where needed, you might also need to take other precautions to place them out of reach or to display warning notices, for example. Work should not take place on or near live conductors. If it’s unavoidable, then safety precautions and protective equipment should be provided.
Earthing – conductors in electrical systems must be earthed or suitably protected where they could become charged during use or due to a fault. This could include, for example, double insulation, voltage control and separated or isolated systems.
Connections – every joint and connection in a system must be mechanically and electrically suitable.
Excess current – every part of a system must be efficiently protected from potentially dangerous excess electrical current. While the Regulations recognise that faults and overloads can occur, measures must be taken to protect against short circuits or overloads.
Isolation – it must be possible to switch off the electricity supply to any piece of equipment if there is electrical danger. This could include manual switches, circuit breakers or stop buttons.
Space, access and lighting – there must be enough space, suitable access and lighting around electrical equipment. Any hazard must be illuminated so it can be seen clearly by anyone working in the area and there should be enough space to work safely.
Competence – only people who are fully trained or supervised should undertake work on electrical systems.
The most common use of the Regulations is portable appliance testing (PAT) for electrical devices used at work. This covers equipment that can be moved such as computers, kettles, printers and mobile phone chargers.
These tests should take place regularly, usually annually, by someone who has had the proper training. Once items have been tested a small sticker will be added with the date the next inspection will be due.
There are three parts to the testing:
Checking for visual signs of damage to cables, plugs and other components and making sure that the device is used in a suitable place, where it won’t overheat, for example.
Earth continuity between the plug and the device.
Insulation testing of the cable for weakness and faults.
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