What are the Legal Requirements for businesses?
The law requires that all business owners, their directors, managers and employees comply with “The Electricity at Work Regulations”.
The law simply requires that all electrical systems must be maintained to be safe at all times. No system or part of it may give rise to danger during either normal operation or under fault conditions. Regulation 4(2) – “All systems to be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, danger”. “System” means the wiring of an electrical installation and everything connected to it.
Regulation (29) states: “It shall be a defence for any person to prove that he took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of that offence”
Test reports, together with other preventative maintenance documentation will form the basis of this proof and will provide your best defence against prosecution should the need arise.
Duty holders are responsible for setting up adequate maintenance programs and must assess the needs and frequency requirement of testing, maintaining and monitoring electrical systems and equipment.
Why do I need to have my wiring tested?
Electricity will always find the easiest path to earth. Any faults or weaknesses within your electrical installation or portable appliances can go undetected. In the event of another fault developing, this could lead to serious risk of fire, electrocution or death. For example, a 13-amp ring-main without earth continuity could render all metal parts of appliances plugged into it “LIVE” if one item on the ring developed a fault to earth.
Fixed wiring testing will accurately identify faults, their locations and usually the recommended solution.
Will testing cause a lot of disruption to the power?
A short power outage can be expected on each circuit within the system but because most of the testing is carried out whilst the system is still live, these outages can be planned around your daily activities.
Is electrical installation testing a legal requirement?
The law does not require electrical testing to be carried out. However, the law does require that you keep your entire electrical system safe at all times. The only effective means to that end is to have periodic testing and inspection carried out, together with action to remedy any faults found as a result of testing.
If an accident or fire does occur where electricity is suspected to have been the cause, then the duty is yours to prove that you did your best to avoid that accident (offence). Test data results together with preventative maintenance records will provide your best proof and defence.
Is electrical testing a requirement of my insurance company?
Increasingly, insurers are insisting that inspection and testing be carried out on a regular basis. If you suffer an avoidable accident, then under law, if found guilty, you will be deemed to have committed a criminal offence. Insurers will not pay fines or compensation suffered resulting from a criminal offence.
My insurers have recently carried out a site survey and they didn’t ask me to have electrical testing carried out.
A visiting inspector will not necessarily identify the need to maintain electrical safety at every inspection he makes, especially if there are other issues to be addressed. Because testing has not been specifically demanded does not mean that the legal requirements to comply with electrical safety do not apply.
Why have I not needed to have testing carried out before?
There has always been a requirement to satisfy Health & Safety legislation. In 1989 The Electricity at Work Regulations came into force, which clarifies the need to maintain electrical systems safely. So there has always been the need and test data results will form a major part of your defense should an accident occur which leads to prosecution.
My factory operates 24hs, how can you carry out testing if I can’t stop production?
We have a great deal of experience in working within the constraints of manufacturing environments. Because the majority of the testing involves carrying out live tests, we can schedule dead testing around pre-arranged windows of opportunity. Be these during holidays, breakdowns, process changes, cleaning or maintenance stoppages, shift changes or weekends.
I rent my business premises, is testing my landlord’s responsibility or mine?
You are responsible to make sure that you and your staff comply with Health & Safety legislation. However, it is usually dependent on the terms of your lease as to whether you or your landlord pays for testing to be carried out on the electrical installation. Usually, if you are on a full repairing lease then the cost will fall to you. Portable Appliance testing will always be at your expense.
I have been told that I only need to have a percentage of the system tested in order to comply.
As per the IEE Regulations, you can only rely on sample testing if you hold previous full system records, the installation is considered to be in excellent condition, no faults are found during sample testing and no undocumented alterations have been carried out since the system was new or last tested. This does not hold true for the vast majority, for which full inspection and testing should be undertaken.
What will happen if I don’t have testing carried out?
Unless or until you suffer an accident then probably nothing will happen. However, remember that maintenance of a safe electrical system is a legal requirement. Therefore a preventable accident could lead to prosecution, for which there will be no insurance cover.
You may also find that an insurance loss adjuster could make much of the fact that you may not have maintained the system adequately which could have led to the claim. Again, this could lead to an unsuccessful claim and a costly experience.
I am afraid that my electrical installation is quite old; won’t testing open a can of worms in terms of remedial work costs?
Because we accurately identify any faults found, the cost of remedy in most cases is not too great. The majority of problems found involve earthing deficiencies, which although potentially very dangerous are not usually hugely expensive to remedy.
How often should my electrical installation be tested?
The IEE guidance suggests the following test intervals: Domestic – 5 years/change of occupancy, Rented Accommodation/Commercial i.e. shops, offices, schools, hospitals, etc. – 5 years, Industrial, agricultural and horticultural – 3 years, Places subject to entertainment license, swimming pools, caravan parks, etc. – 1 year
All the views and opinions expressed on this page are given for guidance only and are our interpretation of hypothetical circumstances; we cannot accept any liability for any actions taken as a result of this guidance. We strongly recommend that all electrical work is designed, installed maintained and tested by a suitably qualified electrician.
As always with electrical installation work you should consult a suitably qualified person.