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Preventing electric shocks

At a glance

  • Cost cutting during the financial crisis may have seen some electrical inspection regimes lapse, but there is a danger businesses are exposing themselves to significant risk
  • The HSE has been keeping a close eye on non-compliance with Electricity at Work regulations
  • Zurich engineers can provide individually tailored maintenance inspection regimes for businesses and offer full compliance with the latest electricity regulations

For belt-tightening companies desperate to keep their heads above water in recent years, one area that may have been scaled back is that of the periodic testing of electrical equipment and installations.

But with maintenance and inspection regimes hit there may be a risk that companies have missed faults in ageing electrical equipment, which could be exposing their employees to significant risk of injury and their businesses to significant disruption and possible fines

The Electricity at Work regulations impose a duty of care on employers, employees and self-employed workers to ensure that all electrical equipment or systems are safe to use. It also requires that “so far as is reasonably practicable, you must make sure that electrical equipment and installations are maintained to prevent danger”.


It is an area that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been keeping a close eye on with firms being handed down large fines for non-compliance.

The regulations apply even at the lowest end of the spectrum. There are no voltage limits, only the criteria of whether ‘danger’ may arise.

Danger is defined as the risk of injury and can include burns and those caused by explosions – not just those more usually associated with electric shock.

The quality and frequency of maintenance regimes must be sufficient to avoid danger, according to the regulations, which also require regular inspections as part of those regimes.

The HSE is quick to act when it feels inspection and maintenance regimes have failed to protect workers.

Inspection and testing regimes

For larger employers, maintenance programmes might mean a comprehensive inspection and work package carried out by its own staff or those of a facilities management contractor. Both of these could be expensive.

An alternative option would be to carry out periodic inspection and testing under the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s BS7671 Wiring Regulations, which are seen as the UK standard for low voltage electrical installations.

These tests and inspections should verify the integrity of the installation, identify damage and ensure the system has been correctly selected and erected. The inspection should also cover tests to determine the condition of the installation and ensure that protective devices operate properly.

With the frequency of periodic inspection dependent on a number of variables – including the quality of previous maintenance, type and use – the Guidance Note 3 to BS7671 Wiring Regulations help indicate periods between inspection and testing for different businesses with the competent person carrying out the regime recommending the next inspection date on completion of the first Electrical Installation Condition (EIC) report.

As a UKAS-accredited Type A independent inspection body, Zurich engineers can provide individually tailored maintenance inspection regimes and detailed EIC reports covering potential defects, areas of concern and recommendations for each installation.

These reports are presented in hard copy to the client but are also available through Zurich’s online reporting tool, Crimson.

The Crimson portal enables clients to counter reference all reports across all legislation that Zurich has carried out for them; ensuring they keep on top of inspection regimes and recommendations and providing an auditable trail to help ensure companies remain up to date with their requirements.

Image © Getty

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