The importance of electrical inspection and testing

21 May 2018

Electricity is an essential form of energy in a modern society, but like all forms of energy, it must be controlled safely and effectively. Some of the key reasons which lead to the necessity for a regime of inspection and testing are:

  • Contact with electricity can be dangerous to humans and animals.
  • Electrical faults and overloads can cause fires, explosions, and arcs.
  • Electrical equipment can deteriorate, be damaged and malfunction and danger can arise when faults develop or power fails.
  • Electrical equipment can be designed or installed incorrectly and create danger.
  • Data and communication systems can be corrupted when power quality is poor.
  • The need for replacement, rewiring, or refurbishment can be identified and planned.
  • Unplanned and emergency repairs or replacement can be minimised.
  • Condition based maintenance programmes can be developed based on evidence.
  • Reliability of safety systems.

Legal obligations

The law as stated in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and its associated Regulations makes it a statutory obligation to provide and maintain safe places of work, and establish and monitor safe working practices.

In particular, the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 sets out the specific requirements relating to the use of electricity. Contravention of these regulations may lead to prosecutions, enforcement notices (improvement or prohibition), fines and imprisonment, depending on the severity of the case.  Individuals as well as companies can be held to account and culpability will be judged on the basis of the level of control an individual has concerning the event.

Since 2010, fines levied on companies and individuals are calculated on the basis of culpability, harm, turnover or personal circumstances, aggravating factors, and mitigation factors.

Commercial considerations

Apart from imposed fines, equipment failure often has a financial consequence in terms of lost production, down time, loss of customer confidence and loyalty. Timely replacement or repair is usually more cost effective than run to fail regimes.

Types of equipment

All types and voltages of electrical equipment can fail and cause injury or loss as described above. This ranges from high voltage (HV) generation and transmission, low voltage (LV) distribution, industrial equipment, small fixed or portable equipment, DC systems through to extra low voltage (ELV) control systems.

PAT testing is something of a misnomer, partly because it stands for Portable Appliance Testing testing (sic) but also because it incorrectly defines what is the purpose of the process. All equipment requires routine checks whether portable or fixed to a wall. Portable equipment is just more vulnerable, more heavily used and is often hand held, thus increasing the risk of damage and puts persons more at risk than from fixed equipment. The checks which are primarily based on visual inspection, often supplemented by testing, can usually be carried out by a suitably technically skilled person, not necessarily an electrician. These checks are carried out at frequencies determined by risk assessment by a competent person.

LV electrical installations should be inspected and tested by qualified electricians at intervals as recommended in IET guidance notes or as determined by a competent person. Generally, for industrial installations the recommended interval is 3 years but this should be in parallel with routine visual checks and a culture of reporting of unusual or defective operation.

Record keeping

Records of inspection and testing are important tools for managing the safety and health of electrical systems and can assist in demonstrating compliance with legal requirements in the event of legal procedures.

For more information, and how we can provide independent electrical inspection and testing services, contact us at info@chsservices.com or +44 (0)1245 496281.