Total Business Magazine

Safeguarding Your Business with Equipment Maintenance

An employer has a duty of care over their workforce, and part of this duty includes ensuring the equipment their employees come into contact with is safe and fit for use. One of the many ways to maintain this is to run regular maintenance checks.

According to data from Electrical Safety First, 1,665 fatalities and injuries in 2015/16 were due to electrical fires in England and Wales. A further 598 casualties and nine fatalities in Scotland were caused by electrical fires in 2016 alone.

It is certainly an important matter to monitor within any business. This guide will cover the laws regarding electrical equipment maintenance, as well as checks you can do to for electrical equipment, and the process to follow if any electrical equipment draws concern.

The law

Electrical equipment maintenance is required by law. As a requirement found within the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, all electrical equipment should be maintained (so far as reasonably practicable) to prevent danger. Both portable equipment and installations are covered here, while the phrase ‘so far as reasonably practicable’ means that you are not required to remove every risk, but do everything expected to protect people from harm.

The law does not outline how you maintain equipment, nor how frequently it needs to be done. However, you can determine the level of maintenance which is needed by considering the risk which will be attached to the gadget becoming faulty. For instance, will the level of risk increase if an item that becomes faulty, meaning that it’s no longer suitable for the job? Or, is it being operated in a harsh environment?

The frequency of maintenance will depend on the item. Award-winning stair lift manufacturer Acorn Stairlifts states in its guide on caring for a stairlift that stairlift servicing should be performed at least once a year, for example, as this will help to prevent any serious problems from developing and also prolong the life of the equipment.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) give the following advice: “Electrical installations should be tested often enough that there is little chance of deterioration leading to danger. Any part of an installation that has become obviously defective between tests should be de-energised until the fault can be fixed.”

Types of checks

Checks should be carried out by an experienced electrician. Electrical Safety First has a great resource for finding a registered electrician in your area who is part of a government-approved scheme. There are a few suitable checks that you can carry out on the devices yourself though, such as a simple visual inspection. Here’s how to go about undertaking this particular check:

  1. Ensure the electrical equipment has been switched off and unplugged before carrying out any checks.
  2. Begin the checks by looking to see if the plug is correctly wired. The HSE has a handy visual of a correctly wired plug in its guide to maintaining portable electrical equipment in low-risk environments, though seek out assistance if you don’t feel competent doing this check.
  3. Consult either the equipment rating plate or the device’s instruction book to make sure that the fuse is correctly rated.
  4. Look to see if the plug is damaged in any way, as well as if the cable is not properly secured. No internal wires should be visible either.
  5. Ensure the electrical cable isn’t damaged. Take note that cables should not have been repaired using an unsuitable connector or insulating tape, while any damaged cable needs to be replaced with a new cable — the work of which must be performed by a competent person.
  6. Determine if the outer cover of the electrical equipment has been damaged in a manner that gives rise to either electrical or mechanical hazards.
  7. See if there are any burn marks or staining on the device. If so, these could indicate that the gadget is prone to overheating.
  8. As well as analysing the actual equipment as part of the visual inspection, also check that any trailing wires from the device aren’t causing a trip hazard. By eliminating this hazard, you’ll reduce the risk of the gadget becoming damaged.

The HSE also advises that: “Checks should be carried out often enough to ensure there is little chance the equipment will become unsafe between checks.

“It is good practice to make a decision on how often each piece of equipment should be checked, write this down, make sure checks are carried out accordingly and write down the results. You should change how often you carry out checks, according to the number and severity of faults found.”

Dealing with unsafe equipment

If electrical equipment is under question in terms of its safety, the first thing to do is make sure no one else uses it. Aim to switch off the gadget as well, but only if it’s safe to do so. From there, seek out help from a competent person so that they can carry out a more thorough check. Approved contractors are available from each of the following organisations:

If you don’t own the electrical equipment in question, contact the owner of the device. A contact telephone number is often attached to electrical distribution poles, pylons and equipment, for instance, though you can also get in touch with the HSE or a local authority for assistance.

Additional sources:

https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/about-us/policies-and-research/statistics-england/

https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/about-us/policies-and-research/statistics-wales/

https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/about-us/policies-and-research/statistics-scotland/

http://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/faq.htm#q2

http://www.hse.gov.uk/electricity/electricequip.htm#condition

http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg231.pdf

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