Legal Requirements

Legal Requirements

The legislation of specific relevance to electrical maintenance is the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 puts the duty of care upon both the employer and the employee to ensure the safety of all persons using the work premises. This includes the self employed.

The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states:

“Every employer shall make suitable and sufficient assessment of:

  • (a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst at work, and
  • (b) the risks to ensure the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him or his undertaking.”

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states:

“Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.”

The PUWER 1998 covers most risks that can result from using work equipment. With respect to risks from electricity, compliance with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 is likely to achieve compliance with the PUWER 1998.

PUWER 1998 only applies to work equipment used by workers at work. This includes all work equipment (fixed, transportable or portable) connected to a source of electrical energy. PUWER does not apply to fixed installations in a building. The electrical safety of these installations is dealt with only by the Electricity at Work Regulations.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 states:

“All systems shall at all times be of such construction as to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, such danger.”

“As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, such danger.”

“‘System’ means an electrical system in which all the electrical equipment is, or may be, electrically connected to a common source of electrical energy and includes such source and such equipment”

“‘Electrical Equipment’ includes anything used, intended to be used or installed for use, to generate, provide, transmit, transform, rectify, convert, conduct, distribute, control, store, measure or use electrical energy.”

Scope of the legislation

It is clear that the combination of the HSW Act 1974, the PUWER 1998 and the EAW Regulations 1989 apply to all electrical equipment used in, or associated with, places of work. The scope extends from distribution systems down to the smallest piece of electrical equipment.

It is clear that there is a requirement to inspect and test all types of electrical equipment in all work situations.

Portable Appliance Equipment

There are many European standards and guidance notes regarding portable appliances and equipment, though they do not establish a common and specific definition of such equipment. Even so, there does seem to be a consensus of opinion that such equipment is either hand held whilst being connected to the supply, or is intended to be moved whilst connected to the supply, or is capable of being moved without undue difficulty whilst connected to the supply.

It is usual for this equipment to be connected to the supply via a plug and socket, however this is not a requirement for electrical equipment to be deemed portable or transportable. It is common to define a portable appliance by saying that it is ‘anything with a plug top on the end of it’. This is a mistake as it may mean that there are some appliances in the system that are never tested.

The National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (napit) define a portable appliance as ‘any electrical item which can or is intended, to be moved whilst connected to an electrical supply.’

The IEE Code of Practice gives guidance on the various equipment types:

Portable appliance

An appliance of less than 18kg in mass that is intended to be moved whilst in operation or an appliance which can easily be moved from one place to another, e.g. vacuum cleaner, toaster, food mixer, etc.

Movable equipment (transportable)

This equipment is either:

18 kg or less in mass and not fixed, e.g. electric fire.
or
Equipment with wheels, castors or other means to facilitate movement by the operator as required to perform its intended use, e.g. air conditioning unit.

Hand Held equipment or appliances

This is portable equipment intended to be held in the hand during normal use, e.g. hair dryer.

Stationary equipment or appliances

This equipment has a mass exceeding 18kg and is not provided with a carrying handle, e.g. refrigerator.

Fixed Equipment/appliances

This equipment or an appliance which is fastened to a support or otherwise secured in a specific location, e.g. bathroom heater.

Appliances/equipment for building in

This equipment id intended to be installed in a prepared recess such as a cupboard or similar. In general, equipment for building in does not have exposure on all sides because one or more of the sides, additional protection against electrical shock is provided by the surroundings, e.g. built in electric cooker.

Information technology equipment

Information technology equipment includes electrical business equipment such as computers and mains powered telecommunications equipment, and other equipment for general business use, such as mail processing machines, VDU’s, photocopiers.

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