The UK has a decent track record of electrical safety, but there are still over 30 deaths and nearly 4000 injuries from electrical accidents per year, as well as nearly 8000 fires in homes and buildings.
Most of these can be chalked up to faults in, or misuse of, portable and fixed appliances, flexes, plugs and connectors. Dangers to health include burns, electrical explosions, arcing, fire and electric shocks.
There are many causes for these problems, including deterioration of the installation, broken accessories and equipment, misuse of the installation, vandalism and inconsistent maintenance programmes.
It is absolutely critical to the health and safety of people in any sector for facility managers and other responsible parties to maintain vigilant measures against electrical equipment problems.
Despite the vote of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, the UK remains a part of the EU until negotiations are completed. This means that all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in place. While this process continues, the government will negotiate, implement and apply EU legislation.
EU Directive 2014/35/EU, on electrical equipment designed for use at low voltages, was adopted by the European Parliament in 2014. The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016 turned that Directive into UK law. This means that all new electrical equipment intended for supply in the UK since 2016 must comply with the requirements in the Regulations.
What is the scope of the new regulations?
These Regulations can be considered an addition to the Electricity at Work Regulations of 1989. The Regulations apply to all electrical equipment designed for use between 50 and 1,000 volts (Alternating Current) and 75 and 1,500 volts (Direct Current). This covers domestic electrical equipment intended for use in the workplace, but not to equipment placed on the market prior to 8 December 2016.
Responsible parties prior to actual installation
Under the 2016 Regulations, four major groups of people are responsible for the correct distribution of electrical equipment. These are manufacturers, authorised representatives, importers and distributors.
- Before putting any equipment on the market, the manufacturer must ensure that it has been designed and produced in accordance with safety objectives. These objectives are set out in Schedule 1 to the Regulations, but effectively say that all equipment should be as safe as possible, or should not be considered a successful product.
- A declaration of conformity must be drawn up and attached to the product.
- The documentation should be kept for 10 years after the equipment has gone onto the market.
- The product must be labeled with the registered name or trademark, have an affixed CE marking, serial number or batch type, and provided with easily understood instructions in the correct language. (For example, if the product is intended for the UK, the language should be in English.)
- If any complaints are received, testing must be carried out to ensure there is no risk to the consumer, and all complaints must be logged.
- Action must be taken where equipment is not in compliance with the Regulations.
- Cooperation with relevant authorities is obligatory where the equipment is deemed to be faulty or at risk.
Manufacturers have the ability to appoint authorised personnel to perform tasks on their behalves. However, these personnel have the following obligations:
- They must comply with all of the duties imposed on the manufacturer, as seen above. The manufacturer still remains responsible for the performance of the authorised personnel.
- All duties and penalties that are given to the manufacturer are implicitly given to the authorised personnel too.
- The importer must ensure that any equipment they place on the market is in conformity with the safety objectives set out in the Regulations. If there is a risk, the importer must inform the manufacturer and market surveillance authorities.
- The importer must ensure that conformity assessments have taken place, the technical documentation has been drawn up, the CE marking has been affixed and that the Declaration of Conformity is present.
- The importer must keep a copy of the Declaration of Conformity and technical documentation for at least 10 years after the equipment goes onto the market.
- The importer must leave all relevant identification, including contact details, as well as easily understood instructions in the relevant language.
- That all electrical equipment is safely stored and transported.
- Must carry out testing and investigations into any complaints about equipment, and keep a register of these complaints.
- Action must be taken if there is reason to believe the equipment is not conforming with the Regulations.
- Importers must cooperate with authorities fully when applicable
- A distributor must ensure that the equipment conforms to the safety objectives before making it available on the market. This includes checking for the CE marking, the required documentation, instructions and that the manufacturer/importer have complied with their obligations.
- If the distributor finds that the above has not been properly done by the manufacturer/importer, they must not put the equipment on the market until conformity is met.
- The distributor must take action if there is cause to believe that equipment they have placed on the market is not in conformity with the Regulations. They must also cooperate and provide information to authorities where relevant.
EWR Responsible Parties
The EWR of 1989 set out exactly who is responsible for the use and maintenance of this equipment at work. These are employers and self-employed persons, mine operators, quarry operators and employees. The specific definitions of each can be found in the Regulations.
There is a certain level of responsibility on the shoulders of professionals in the electrical trade who are expected to use this equipment regularly. Their responsibilities will be in accordance with the level of control they have over the electrical safety in particular circumstances.
Getting into specifics
While the above information relates to responsible parties, there are still relevant codes to adhere to with regards to portable appliance testing and fixed electrical installations.
Portable Electrical Appliances
This covers all equipment that is moved while in operation or that can be easily moved while connected to the power supply. There are two types; mains and battery powered. There are certain statutory compliance obligations.
- Where mains powered portable equipment is used, it should be suitable for the environment in which it’s used. However, this should be avoided as much as is possible.
- The equipment should be able to withstand a 1m drop or similar impact without compromising the casing, or exposing live terminals or battery connections.
- Equipment should not be left powered on when it is not being used. Preferably, it should be removed from the area if it has any relation to explosives.
- Only approved batteries should be used and the battery compartment must be inaccessible without the use of a tool.
- Changing or charging the batteries must be done outside of the area, when explosives are concerned.
- A maintenance schedule must be adhered to, with regard to the reliability and safety of the equipment.
Guidance should be as follows:
- Inspection, calibration or repairs must be done away from the explosives area.
- Maintenance must be in accordance health and safety guidelines, and all precautions should be taken to protect lives in the vicinity.
- Mains leads should be visually inspected before they are used.
- A Portable Appliance Test should be carried out every 12 months, and records should be kept.
- The PAT must be done by a suitably competent person or body.
- Pre-use checks should be carried out at suitable intervals.
- Risk assessments must be carried out on heavy use equipment at required intervals, and testing must be carried out when necessary
Electrical Installations and Equipment
This section refers to fixed electrical control panels. These are governed by the BS7671:2008 IET Wiring Regulations, but should also be compliant with the EWR of 1989. These panels require fixed installation testing and periodic inspections that outline any potential defects in the system that could cause harm.
- Visual and functionality checks should be done every 3-60 months. This is dependant on the type of equipment and the environment it is used in.
- Electrical Installation Condition Reports are required under the IET Wiring Regulations. The frequency of these will depend on the previous report and the recommendations made.
Penalties for non-compliance
In early 2016, the Sentencing Council published guidelines for how courts deal with health and safety, corporate manslaughter and hygiene offences. There are now much tougher penalties on culpable companies and parties.
There has also been a change on how culpability is determined, based on the probability of risk rather than the actual harm incurred. These are determined as ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’ risk.
The culpability of the company will be taken into account, on a scale of ‘low’ to ‘very high’. In the former scenario, the company has taken all relevant steps to ensure safety and compliance, and is hardly at fault as they have done their due diligence. In the latter, the company has done very little to rectify faulty equipment or make changes based on recommendations and is therefore liable for damages accrued.
The sentencing of guilty parties will be determined by their culpability, but penalties include massive fines and possible charges of corporate manslaughter and negligence.
There is a critical need for compliance with the EWR of 1989 and other applicable legislation to prevent injuries and fatalities in the UK. Voltix Services offers comprehensive maintenance of all electrical equipment, as well as periodic reports and recommendations. Voltix Services also offers inspections, testing and pre-use checks for all electrical equipment and portable electrical appliances used in the workplace. Contact Voltix Services today for all of your statutory compliance needs.
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/640829/nlf-electrical-equipment-regulations-2016-guidance.pdf – Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016
http://www.hse.gov.uk/pUbns/priced/hsr25.pdf – Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
BS7671:2008 IET Wiring Regulations