Every business owner knows that the issue of safety at work is a minefield, with the maze of laws and regulations seeming to get more complex every year. However, owners also know that falling foul of any of these regulations can have very serious consequences, both for themselves and for their businesses, so it is essential to keep abreast of them. Among the most stringent are the rules on electrical safety in work premises, but they are also among the most clear cut and easiest to comply with.

Electricity at Work Regulations

The rules about workplace electrical safety are based mainly on the Electricity at Work Regulations which came into force in 1989, and detailed the requirements for maintaining safe electrical installations and equipment. Employers have a legal obligation to ensure they take steps to keep the risk of harm from electricity to a minimum, and are also responsible for ensuring their employees are aware of safety issues, and do not abuse or interfere with electrical equipment.

Electrical Installations Condition Report

The legislation does not state that electrical testing of workplace installations has to be carried out, but in practice this is the only way to ensure that the installations are safe. In addition, it is difficult, or sometimes impossible, for businesses to obtain insurance cover without being able to show this regular testing has taken place. For commercial premises, insurers usually require that an EICR (Electrical Installations Condition Report) should be carried out at a minimum every five years, and for industrial premises, every three years. As well as this, portable appliance testing needs to be performed every 3-24 months, depending on how high the risk rating is for the item. Items with higher risk levels include workshop and site equipment, such as electrical drills, as they are subject to heavier use and could develop faults in shorter periods of time, whereas office equipment can be left for longer.

Electrical Assessments

The electrician doing the inspection for the EICR will carry out an in-depth assessment of the condition of the internal wiring of the building, and identify any faults, which will probably not be evident in day-by-day use. For instance, if there is a 13-amp ring main or circuit with no earth continuity, metal parts of any appliance plugged into it could be rendered live if a fault developed in one item on the circuit. The inspection should also recommend improved safety procedures, such as installing sufficient socket outlets for all portable appliances, instead of using multiway adaptors.

When looking for a commercial electrician to carry out the inspection, check that it is someone approved by NICEIC or another regulatory body. You also need to make sure the electrician charges by circuit numbers, not by floor space, and will provide detailed reports and recommendations. This will keep you on the right side of the law, keep you insured, and most importantly keep your fellow workers safe.