Portable Electrical Equipment in Low Risk Businesses

Peninsula Team

September 30 2013

Peninsula’s BusinessSafe Consultants and 24 Hour Advice Service are regularly questioned about the need for the routine testing of portable and hand held electrical equipment. Infrastructure service companies, maintenance and electrical contractors all press for frequent regular inspection and test, PAT testing, of this equipment; but this is not what the law requires. The regulatory requirement is that all electrical equipment used at work, whether supplied by the business or brought in by workers, must be properly maintained to protect from danger. What that maintenance should be and its frequency is not specified and has to be determined on the basis of hazard and risk. Where the risks are high the inspection and testing will need to be frequent and may need to involve a competent electrician. Where the risks are low a much simpler regime will be appropriate. This is recognised by the enforcing authorities who accept that simple and sensible precautions are appropriate in low risk business environments, such as offices, shops, some parts of hotels and residential care homes. In these places not every piece of electrical equipment needs a portable appliance test. In many cases a simple user check and visual inspection will be sufficient, e.g. a user check for loose cables or signs of fire damage and, if possible, checking inside the plug for internal damage, bare wires and correct fuse. Some equipment may need a portable appliance test, e.g. kettles and floor cleaners, but not necessarily every year. Portable equipment is equipment that can be moved and either connected or disconnected from an electric supply; it will usually have a flexible power cable and a plug. Portable equipment will include; ·     Kettles, vacuum cleaners, fans, portable heaters, desk lamps, projectors, television sets, irons, hair dryers, kitchen equipment and similar devices. ·     Larger items that can be moved but are rarely moved in practice, such as, photocopiers, printers, fridges, electric beds, personal computers, vending machines, washing machines and the like; ·     Hand held equipment, such as a hairdryer or iron, that is wired-in (but large items such as water boilers that are wired in are not portable appliances because they are not designed to be moved). ·     Extension leads, adaptors and mobile phone and other battery charging equipment, but not the phones or battery powered devices themselves. The HSE suggest that suitable intervals for a portable electrical checking regime would be –
Equipment and environment User Checks Formal visual inspection Combined inspection and testing
Battery operated at <40 volts No No No
Extra low voltage at <50 volts No No No
Desk top computers, VDU screens No Yes, 2-4 years If double insulated No, otherwise up to 5 years
Photocopiers, fax machines, equipment not held and rarely moved. No Yes, 2-4 years If double insulated No, otherwise up to 5 years
Double insulated Class II equipment not hand held and moved occasionally No Yes, 2-4 years No
Double insulated Class II equipment, hand held e.g. some floor cleaners and kitchen equipment Yes Yes, 6-12 months No
Earthed equipment Class1 e.g. kettles, some floor cleaners, some kitchen equipment and irons. Yes Yes, 6-12 months Yes, 1-2 years
Cables leads and plugs connected to the above and mains voltage extension leads and battery charging equipment. Yes Yes, 6 months – 4 years depending on the type of equipment it is connected to. Yes, 1-5 years depending on the type of equipment it is connected to
Source: HSE Maintaining portable electrical equipment in low-risk environments.INDG236(3)
Basic user checks before use will have employees should be looking for ·     Cut, scuffed or frayed power leads, ·     Damaged plugs – signs of burning and bent pins, ·     Taped joints ·     Cables trapped under furniture or in floor boxes ·     Dampness or wet ·     Visible wires where the cable enters the plug, and ·     Damage to switches on or the appliance itself. Visual inspections don’t require an electrician but the person doing the inspection must know what they are looking for and be able to avoid danger to themselves and others. Simple training can prepare a member of staff with basic electrical knowledge to be competent to carry out a visual inspection. The inspection must include- ·     Looking for signs of internal damage such as overheating or water damage, ·     Use of a correctly rated fuse ·     Wires, including the earth, where fitted, are correctly attached to the correct terminal ·     The terminal screws are tight ·     The cord grip is securely holding the outer sheath of the cable ·     No bare wires are visible other than at the terminals. The inspection should also consider whether the circumstances of use have changed, any issues raised by the user and whether the equipment is being used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for the purpose specified. Where a portable appliance test is required it does not need to be carried out by a qualified electrician. However the person making the test will need a higher level of knowledge and experience than for visual inspections. They will need to have access to test equipment, know how to use the tester and how to interpret the results. Simple records of visual and PAT tests should be maintained. These need be no more than basic details of the equipment and test date with only the detail of failed inspections being kept. Employers who follow this simple regime will avoid spending money on needless testing. At the same time they will have an effective system for ensuring safety and maintaining their equipment. BusinesssSafe clients requiring further information about any of the issues raised here should contact our 24 Hour Advice Service and speak to one of our trained and qualified consultants.

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