Electrical inspections and safety
01 May 2019
According to the London Fire Brigade*, in the last nine-year period there has been a 900% increase in fires of an electrical origin.
What are my responsibilities?
Where employees may be present the law requires a system of inspection, testing and maintenance of electrical systems, including wiring, switchgear, any fixed machinery and portable electrical appliances should be in place to prevent danger.
- Commercial property owners are duty bound by the requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAW) made under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to undertake periodic inspections of electrical systems.
- BS7671: Requirements for electrical installations is endorsed by the Health & Safety Executive as the best way to comply with EAW and includes periodic inspection as part of the requirements.
- Duty Holder: the person on whom statutory or other duties are imposed.
- Competent Person: someone who possesses sufficient technical knowledge and experience for the nature of the electrical work undertaken.
Frequency of testing
The recommended maximum period between inspection and testing is defined in BS7671 with examples given in the table1 below. However the age, use and condition of a system should be taken into consideration and may mean testing is required more often.
Type of premises
Maximum period between inspections and testing
|Churches, commercial, offices, shops, restaurants, hotels, residential, educational and village halls||5 years|
|Industrial, public entertainment, leisure, theatre and agriculture||3 years|
|Swimming pools||1 year|
Records of inspection and maintenance should be kept throughout the life of an electrical system as this will enable the condition of the installation to be monitored.
Fixed electrical installation inspections
An independent inspection and test of the installation by a Competent Person will help identify hidden problems and deteriorations in a system before they cause serious problems. Employing an inspection company with UKAS accreditations to ISO17020 is highly recommended as they are independent of installation and maintenance services and can therefore provide an impartial report. Alternatively you can use a fully qualified electrical contractor.
- National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC)
- The Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) or
- The National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT)
Portable electrical appliance inspections (PAT Testing)
Portable electrical appliances (defined as any electrical appliance capable of being carried and connected to a mains supply) should be inspected and tested by a competent person on a regular basis. This doesn’t have to be a qualified electrician, however they should have suitable electrical knowledge and experience, understand the equipment to be tested and able to recognise if it presents a hazard.
Electrical problems need diagnosis from a professional, and many problems may remain hidden unless inspected and tested. A few common warning signs may include:
- Frequent circuit breaker tripping or fuse blowing
- Flickering lights
- Receiving a mild electric shock or a tingle from appliances or the distribution system
- Scorch marks or overheated parts; particularly common on high current use appliances like kettles, heaters, toasters, etc.
- Unusual buzzing or hissing sounds, or smells from apparatus or the electrical distribution system
- Malfunctioning light or power switches where the switch throw does not have a clear ‘click’.