While the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR) governs the duties placed on employers to have periodic tests in respect of electrical safety, duty holders must look further to determine the frequency of their electrical inspection and testing intervals.
There are several different sources that duty holders must consider when determining inspection & testing frequencies, which include:
- The recommendations of published guidance documents such as British Standards
- The recommendations for specific types of installations that may be deemed ‘specialist’
- The results of any risk assessments and/or the recommendations from previous inspection & testing activities
- The conditions of their insurance contract which may enforce a more frequent inspection & testing activity
- The conditions imposed by a Licensing Authority
- Recommended frequencies in accordance with guidance.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has published guidance to assist duty holders with adopting electrical safety best practice and ensuring compliance with the act: the Memorandum of Guidance on the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 [HS(R)25]. This, in turn, recommends adherence to the Institute of Engineering and Technology’s Wiring Regulations (BS 7671) in order to achieve compliance with the EAWR.
The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) has issued Guidance Note 3 for Electrical Inspection & Testing, which sets out recommended frequencies for electrical inspection & testing for commonly found installation types. However, there are exclusions for specialist types of installations.
However, these are only recommendations and employers are always required to undertake a ‘suitable and sufficient assessment’ of workplace risks under the general safety duties imposed under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Electrical inspection & testing: do I have to test all my electrical circuits?
Rightly or wrongly, companies often view their electrical inspection & testing duties as burdensome. While your service provider should be able to work with you to reduce disruption to your business, there will inevitably be some downtime which can affect all kinds of business: from manufacturing plants wishing to minimise lost production revenue to hospitals looking to keep to operating schedules.
It is, therefore, unsurprising that we are often asked “Do I have to test all of my electrical circuits?”.
There is no simple answer to this, as certain factors need to be considered such as:
- What does my insurance contract stipulate?
- Is my installation deemed ‘specialist’ and governed by specific regulation?
- Does my installation require a Licence?
A better question would be “Do I have to test all of my electrical circuits during the same visit?”
The simple answer is: No, you don't. You can divide the number of circuits you have and undertake annual inspection & testing. For example, in a commercial property you can inspect and test 20% of your circuits on an annual basis.
Electrical Inspection & Testing: a risk-based approach
What is it?
The IET publication Guidance Note 3 Inspection & Testing, recognises that carrying out 100% inspection & testing in many installations is unrealistic, uneconomical and unachievable.
Risk-based electrical inspection & testing looks at the installation in a different way, taking due account of the makeup of the installation, its use, who uses it and the maintenance regime supporting it.
How does it work?
It’s important to differentiate between a contractor undertaking a percentage test and a risk-based regime. While a percentage test may be economical, there may not be any documentation provided by the contractor supporting the amount undertaken. Therefore, your responsibilities under the EAWR need to be considered.
At British Engineering Services, we do things differently. We produce a Risk Assessment based on our unique Risk Rating Tool for each area of the location, taking due account of a minimum of 11 different aspects of the installation. The Risk Rating Tool is bespoke and can be tailored to any installation.
The output from the Tool assists to produce the Risk Assessment. This then identifies the areas where more, or less, testing is required. The Risk Assessment is agreed with the client before progressing and a Scope of Works is subsequently developed to provide complete transparency.
Requirements and supporting services
Generally, a risk-based regime should only be considered where there is good maintenance and existing electrical documentation in place. However, where deemed necessary, we will advise that thermographic imaging is used to support intervals between periodicities.
Long Term Relationship
Similar to a percentage test, a risk-based regime effectively extends the periodicity of the electrical installation in terms of achieving 100%.
Stay up to date our Electrical inspection and testing guide to stay up to date with your legal obligation.