Fixed installation testing
Electricity has consistently been the second largest cause of fire in the UK. The risk of fire can be reduced if the installations are properly designed and installed in the first instance, but invariably installations are subsequently modified or extended, sometimes in a manner not anticipated in the original design which may increase fire hazards. Installations can also deteriorate due to age, misuse or adverse environmental conditions.
It is therefore essential that all installations are properly installed, maintained, inspected and tested if the dangers of fire are to be avoided or minimised.
The following is a brief summary of the recommended retesting periods:
- Industrial, agricultural and horticultural premises - 3 years
- Commercial premises, educational establishments and hospitals - 5 years
- Buildings open to the public including leisure complexes, restaurants, hotels and theatres - 1 year
- Special installations including launderettes and petrol stations - 1 year
Portable appliance testing
There is a duty under the Electricity at Work Regulations to maintain such equipment. Portable equipment refers to any equipment that is not part of a fixed electrical installation.
Inspection and testing need to be differentiated, as they are two separate activities. Inspection is purely an external examination of the apparatus, its lead and plug, and can be done by a relatively unskilled person. Testing involves a full inspection of the equipment followed by an appropriate electrical test, which needs to be carried out by a suitably trained person.
The frequency of inspection and testing is not defined in the regulations and the responsibility for this rests with the Employer. It should be determined by a risk assessment based on the type of equipment usage and nature of the environment.
The more frequent or heavier the use, the more risk there is of damage occurring. Experience will show what inspection and testing frequencies are suitable.
Insurers will typically look for Fixed Installations to be tested at the recommended intervals, although it is likely if an installation was due to be tested during the Covid-19 lockdown, some leeway will be given, to ensure availability of appropriately approved contractors.
Availability of contractors
It is likely that many electrical contractors who would normally undertake fixed electrical testing will cease operations during the lockdown, or have prioritised work at essential businesses, meaning that securing a suitably qualified contractor to undertake testing once the lockdown has ended may be problematic during the early stages following lockdown. Look to make arrangements for any deferred work sooner rather than later. If arrangements can be made to get testing and certification completed during the lockdown, this will be one less thing to worry about when restarting operations.
Contractors’ safety on site
To help protect engineers and other contractors who are required to come to site, companies should consider the following guidance:
- Ensure arrival times have been agreed with the engineer. Do they know where to report to and who they are meeting?
- Ensure the engineer is aware of all new site rules before they attend the site. What segregation measures have been introduced? Do you have new PPE requirements? Are there now areas that the contractor will not be permitted to enter (i.e. canteens)?
- Ensure the engineer has the required PPE / cleaning materials with them before allowing them to start work
- Ensure the site induction is recorded in some way
- Ensure your staff are made aware of the presence of a contractor on site
- Where possible, limit the area the contractor can work in, or segregate them from your workforce
- Where possible, clean the work area and equipment before and after the engineer has undertaken work
Remember, contractors will be instructed by their employers to carry out a dynamic risk assessment when they reach your premises. If they feel that you have not undertaken sufficient measures to protect their health, they may refuse to carry out the work.
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