The law requires that electrical installations are maintained and kept in a safe condition. The following extract from the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, Regulation 4, places a duty on employers to provide safe systems for their workers:
Regulation 4 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
Systems, work activities and protective equipment
(1) All systems shall at all times be of such construction as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, danger.
(2)As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger.
(3) Any equipment provided under these Regulations for the purpose of protecting persons at work on or near electrical equipment shall be suitable for the use for which it is provided, be maintained in a condition suitable for that use, and be properly used.
The law requires that the operation, maintenance and testing of electrical systems and equipment should be carried out only by those persons who are competent for the particular class of work. The use of people who are properly trained and competent to work on live equipment safely is a legal requirement.
The following extract from the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, Regulation 16, defines competency:
Regulation 16 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
Persons to be competent to prevent danger and injury.
No person shall be engaged in any work activity where technical knowledge or experience is necessary to prevent danger or, where appropriate, injury, unless he possesses such knowledge or experience, or is under such degree of supervision as may be appropriate having regard to the nature of the work.
The requirements of BS 7671
One of the essential requirements of BS 7671 is stated in Regulation 130-01-01. This Regulation sets the scene for Chapter 13, Fundamental Principles. The requirements of Chapter 13 are intended to provide for the safety of persons, livestock and property against dangers and damage which may arise in the reasonable use of electrical installations. Risk of injury may result from shock currents, excessive temperatures likely to cause burns, fires, other injurious effects and explosion.
It is therefore a requirement to select the correct equipment and install in a suitable manner for the particular application. It is also a requirement that such installations be periodically inspected and tested to ensure ongoing safety.
Chapter 73 of BS 7671, Periodic Inspection and Testing, states that, where required, periodic inspection and testing of every electrical installation shall be carried out to determine whether the installation is in a satisfactory condition for continued service.
The frequency of periodic inspection and testing should be determined by taking into account the type of installation, the use and operation, the frequency and quality of maintenance and the external influences to which it is subjected.
Table 3.2 of The IEE publication Guidance Note 3 – Inspection and Testing provides guidance on the frequency of formal inspections of electrical installations as well as the routine checks.
The formal inspections should be carried out in accordance with Chapter 73 of BS 7671. This requires an inspection comprising careful scrutiny of the installation, carried out without dismantling or with partial dismantling as required, together with the appropriate tests of Chapter 71.
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