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Electricity at Work

One in four workplace accidents involve electrical equipment. The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 [1,2] state that all electrical equipment in the workplace must be constructed and maintained to prevent danger so far as is reasonably practicable. This requirement covers all items of electrical equipment, including portable and fixed equipment.

Portable equipment is subject to checking, inspection and testing as follows:

User checks

Encourage staff to make basic visual checks for signs of damage to the plug, flex and socket outlet before using an appliance, and that cables are not trapped, kinked or trailing.

Report suspected faults to the person responsible for health and safety.

Unless specifically trained to do so, do not dismantle plugs.

Keep a record only if a fault is found.

Formal visual inspection

Inspection includes dismantling plugs to check connections, fuses and casing for signs of damage or overheating, and that no heavy furniture or equipment is on top of the cabling or blocking access to the socket. Visual inspection also applies to extension leads and their plugs and sockets. The frequency of inspection depends on how often the cable and plug are moved (e.g. vacuum cleaner or kettle: 6–12 months; visual display unit, fax or phone: 2–4 years)*.

Ensure formal visual inspections are carried out by a competent person (typically a member of staff with appropriate training).

Assess the need to inspect new appliances before use (e.g. items purchased from outwith the EU might have reversed polarity).

Keep records of results of all formal visual inspections.

Portable Appliance Testing (PAT testing)

PAT testing can be combined with the formal visual inspection process. It is usual to appoint an electrical contractor for PAT testing but this can be carried out by a member of the dental team if they posses the appropriate knowledge and equipment required for the job.

Appoint a competent person to carry out regular portable appliance testing (PAT) and record results.

Following PAT testing, ensure equipment is labelled and a safety certificate and report has been issued.

Keep records of results of PAT testing. Frequency of PAT testing ranges from 1-5 years*.

* NB: The law does not specify the frequency of inspection and testing of electrical equipment. Keeping records of the results of electrical inspections and tests will allow for monitoring and determining future inspection and testing intervals appropriate to the equipment in your practice, as well as demonstrating a commitment to maintaining the safety of electrical equipment which the law requires. Maintaining portable electrical equipment in offices and other low risk environments [3] provides more information on maintaining portable electrical equipment including suggested initial inspection and testing intervals.

Fixed equipment is subject to fixed wire testing (also known as periodic testing).

Arrange for an electrical contractor to inspect and test mains systems and electrical wiring; the contractor will advise on the necessary retest interval, depending on the state and age of the installation.

Sources of Information

  1. Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1989/635/body/made)
  2. Memorandum of Guidance on the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. Health and Safety Executive (2011) (www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/priced/hsr25. (PDF))
  3. Maintaining portable electrical equipment in offices and other low risk environments. Health and Safety Executive (2012) (www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg236. (PDF))