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Electrical Safety

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 apply standards of electrical safety to all workplaces and the electrical equipment used in them. They require precautions to be taken against the risk or death or personal injury from electricity in work activities.

They impose duties in respect of SYSTEMS, ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT, CONDUCTORS and the COMPETENCE OF PERSONS in respect of work activities on or near electrical equipment. Put simply, those at work must make sure that everything that uses or carries electricity in the workplace is safe, that people do not interfere with or abuse anything electrical that has been supplied for their use or bring into the workplace anything electrical that is unsafe.

One of the most important facets of electrical safety is the regular routine visual inspection of electrical equipment. The visual checking of electrical leads to appliances etc. should be made part of every employee’s work habits. To comply with the Regulations you may also need to make arrangements to ensure that portable electrical appliances which are themselves high risk eg. electric drills, or used in a high risk environment for example outside or in wet environments eg. electric mowers, are inspected by a competent person on a regular basis. Keep a record of all maintenance, including test results, throughout the working life of each appliance. You may find it helpful if small sticker noting the date of inspection is attached to each piece of equipment or a register of equipment is drawn up, detailing when it was last tested.

The use of multi way adapters is not recommended. There should always be sufficient socket outlets provided to supply any portable appliances used. A wall socket is designed to have sufficient strength to cater for a single plug; when an adapter is used with a number of plugs, the weight of the assembly and its leverage increases the mechanical stress on a socket contact. There is also the danger of electrical overload as the combined loads may exceed the rating of the socket outlet.

The danger of metal work becoming live may be reduced by the use of a residual current device (RCD) designed to operate rapidly at very small leakage currents (typically not exceeding 30mA) although these devices do not eliminate the risk of electric shock. RCD’s should be considered only as providing a second line of defence. They should be tested regularly using the trip button and a record of the test kept. Miniature circuit breakers which are increasingly being used to replace wired or cartridge fuses in fuse boxes (consumer units) do not offer protection against electric shock.

95% of faults to electrical equipment can be detected by a thorough visual inspection.

Identify your equipment, where it is normally used and how it is used. It is recommended that you keep a record of this but it is not a legal requirement. Switch off the equipment, UNPLUG IT AND LOOK FOR THE FOLLOWING:

  • Cable damage e.g. cuts, breaks, burns etc in the outer cable cover.
  • Plug damage e.g. cracked casing, bent pins or signs of burning.
  • Temporary joints – e.g. taped joints, terminal blocks.
  • Loose cable grip. The outer sheath not gripped where it enters the plug or equipment. Often the coloured earth, neutral or live wires are showing.
  • The equipment has been or is being used in a condition which is not suitable e.g. wet, damp or dusty environments, or exposed to mechanical damage it is not designed to withstand.
  • Damage to the outer cover of the equipment or signs of loose parts or screws.
  • Signs of overheating – burn marks, staining or melted parts.
  • Periodically the plug top should be removed and the interior checked for the following:


  • a suitable correctly rated fuse must be used;
  • the cable grip must hold the outer sheath firmly;
  • the wires must be attached to the correct terminals and be undamaged;
  • the terminal screws must be tight;
  • there must be no sign of internal damage overheating or accumulation of liquid, dust or other material.


Extension leads and plugs should also be inspected. Equipment will need more frequent inspection if it is exposed to heavy use or more unfriendly environments.

Remove damaged equipment immediately and ensure it cannot be used until repaired and tested by a competent person.

For further information, contact Environmental Health. You can also visit the HSE website


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