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Electrical safety matters

Despite increasingly high standards of installation, numerous church fires can attributed to faulty electric wiring or apparatus. It is therefore important that electricity should be treated with respect.

A system of inspection, testing and maintenance of electrical systems, including wiring, switchgear, any fixed machinery and portable electrical appliances should be in place in order to prevent danger.

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    Thanks to increasingly high standards of electrical wiring and installation, electrics are now generally safer than ever.

    However, this doesn’t mean that churches and other buildings aren’t at risk of the consequences that can occur from faulty wiring or appliances.  A good system of inspection, testing and maintenance is key to preventing danger.

    We recommend churches should make sure that fixed electrical installations are inspected and tested AT LEAST once every five years.

    Churches should also conduct regular, thorough physical examinations of all portable electrical appliances. Any defective or problematic appliances need to be fixed or removed from the premises.

    The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require all systems to be maintained so as to prevent danger, and the Work Equipment Regulations 1998 require work equipment to be maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair. These are just two pieces of legislation that you should be aware of.

    For purposes of legislation, it’s important to remember that churches and church halls are regarded as places of work.

    More detailed advice can be found in our guidance notes and also advice about periods for Portable Appliance Testing can be found at the Health & Safety Executive website.

More tips and advice for your church

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    Electrical installations

    Churches should have their electrical installations inspected and tested at least once every 5 years in accordance with the recommendations of the Church Buildings Council. The inspection and testing should be carried out in accordance with IET Regulations, Guidance Note No. 3 and an electrical installation and conditioning report issued in every case.

    Only electrical contractors with full scope registration or membership to work on commercial installations with the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC), The Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) or The National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT) should be employed.

    Electricians or electrical contractors who are only registered to undertake work on domestic installations under Part P of the Building Regulations are not acceptable to Ecclesiastical.

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    Portable appliance testing

    Portable appliances are generally classified as any electrical equipment which is connected to the mains by a lead and a plug.

    Churches should conduct regular, thorough physical examinations of all portable appliances and document their findings. The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require all systems to be maintained so as to prevent danger and the Work Equipment Regulations 1998 require work equipment (which includes portable electrical appliances) to be maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair. There are also general duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for employers to provide a safe place of work and plant and systems that are safe and without risks to health.

    There is no statutory frequency for inspection and testing, but the frequency should reflect the risk of the appliance causing damage or injury and this increases with the amount the appliance is used and the harshness of the working environment.

    Ecclesiastical suggests inspection and testing on an annual basis initially, reducing or increasing the inspection periods according to experience. Records must be kept of all inspections, examination and maintenance carried out.

    Inspection and testing must be carried out by a competent person – this is someone with electrical knowledge and experience who understands the equipment and the hazards which could arise.

Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.