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Maintaining portable electrical equipment

​Introduction

The regulations require employers and the self-employed to make sure that electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger. They don't specifically say how this should be done or how often.

Employers should take a risk-based approach, considering the type of equipment and what it is being used for.

It’s a widely held myth that every portable electrical appliance in the workplace needs to be tested once a year.

Definition of portable electrical equipment

Portable electrical equipment covers all equipment that can be connected to the mains supply (or to a locally generated supply) by means of a flexible cable (lead) and either a plug and socket or a spur box (direct connection).

Examples include:

  • tools and extension leads used in the construction industry 
  • floor cleaners 
  • electric kettles 
  • toasters
  • hairdryers 
  • white goods 
  • computers 
  • printers 
  • hedge trimmers 
  • electric fans

Maintenance

The maintenance of portable electrical equipment usually includes a combination of:

  • regular visual user checks, for example, daily or before use 
  • formal inspections by a suitably trained person 
  • combined inspection and tests, which can include PAT testing, by an electrically competent person 

Inspections and testing

Anybody carrying out inspection and testing of portable electrical equipment must be competent to do so, but they don't necessarily have to be a trained electrician.

Where electrical equipment only requires a formal visual inspection, eg equipment used in a low-risk environment such as an office, this can be carried out by somebody in-house providing they have a basic level of electrical knowledge and the necessary training.

Where electrical equipment requires combined inspection and testing, for example equipment used in a higher risk environment, such as construction sites, a higher level of electrical competence and training will be required.

There are a number of specialist companies offering inspection and testing services locally. Details are available in the yellow pages of the telephone directory.

Legal requirements

There is a requirement under the Health and Safety at Work (Jersey) Law 1989 to maintain any portable electrical equipment and appliances used in a workplace, or by somebody at work.

It places duties on:

  • employers
  • self-employed people
  • employees

This is a general duty and extends to all matters including the provision and maintenance of portable electrical equipment to ensure that it does not pose a risk. 

These obligations extend to the provision of a workplace which is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to all persons including employees, members of the public etc.

The Electricity at Work (Jersey) Regulations 1983 apply to all work activities involving electrical equipment, and place duties on employers, employees and the self-employed to control risks arising from the use of electricity.

Regulation 5(2) of the regulations requires all electrical systems to be maintained, so far as is reasonably practicable, to prevent danger. 

The definition of ‘electrical system’ given in the regulations covers all items of electrical equipment including fixed, portable and transportable equipment.

Although this regulation doesn't specifically mention inspection and testing, the only way to ensure the system is maintained in an efficient state is by inspecting and, where necessary, testing it. The need for inspection and testing of portable appliances is implicit in the requirement for it to be maintained in an efficient state. 

Meeting the legal requirements

An initial level of safety can be achieved by:

  • correct selection and use of equipment and its connectors and cables
  • ongoing and effective regular inspection and maintenance
  • keeping an inventory of all equipment and giving each item a unique identifier (this is particularly important where there are identical items)

In addition to the user checks, which should be carried out on all equipment, you will also need to establish which equipment requires:

  • formal visual inspections only and which requires combined inspection and testing
  • the frequency of these inspections
  • the frequency of testing will depend on the type of electrical equipment, how it is used, and the environment in which it is used

The appropriate frequency should be determined by a competent person, with the required knowledge and training. 

Guidance is available which sets out the recommended frequency of inspection and, where necessary, testing for different types of equipment and environments and may be particularly useful if you're setting up a maintenance regime for the first time. 

With practical maintenance experience, it may be possible to extend the frequency between inspections and, where necessary, testing, if few faults are found. 

If faults are common, however, it may be necessary to reduce intervals, or take other action to improve maintenance and reduce risk.

You should follow up these procedures by monitoring the effectiveness of the arrangements for maintenance and taking action where faults are found, particularly when faults are frequent.

Training courses

It's important that you check that any course is suitable for your requirements. You will require a good working knowledge of electrical safety before undertaking any such course.

The Health and Safety Inspectorate does not provide approval or recommendation of any particular courses.

Further information and guidance

Comprehensive guidance on maintaining portable electrical equipment, including recommended initial maintenance intervals, are provided within the publication produced by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) titled ‘Maintaining portable and transportable electrical equipment’ HSG 107. This is currently being revised.

This publication is considered appropriate to illustrate the standards required to meet the general requirements set out in the HSW law and EAW regulations. 

A copy can be downloaded free of charge from the HSE website or purchased in hard copy from HSE Books.

Specific guidance on maintaining portable electrical equipment in low risk environments, such as offices and hotels and tourist accommodations, is also available. 

Information on inspection and testing of electrical equipment has also been produced by the Institution of Electrical Engineers. 

This document gives guidance both for those with management responsibility for electrical maintenance, but who have little technical knowledge, and for those who actually carry o​ut the inspections and tests. This can be ordered from Elsevier.

You can also contact us at the Health and Safety Inspectorate.​​

Maintaining portable and transportable electrical equipment (HSG 107) on the HSE website 

Maintaining portable electrical equipment in low risk environments (INDG236)  on the HSE website

Elsevier website

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