Employers must take all practical steps to ensure the safety of their employees while they are at work. Employers should therefore ‘test and tag’ all electrical appliances or fittings in use, or available for use, within their workplace.

The Electrical (Safety) Regulations 2010 outline that a fitting or appliance will be deemed to be electrically safe if it has a current tag issued in accordance with the testing standard. This provides employers with a set of safety inspection and testing protocols which they can easily enact within their workplace to ensure that they fulfill their electrical safety requirements.

Under the testing standard, employers must regularly inspect and test equipment for damage, wear or other conditions which might render equipment unsafe. This includes:

  • Checking for obvious damage and for any discolouration;
  • Checking that flexible cords are effectively attached to equipment, plugs, connectors and cord extension sockets;
  • Checking that flexible cords are not damaged. For example, inner cores should not be exposed or twisted;
  • Checking that warnings on electric portable outlet devices (EPODs) are intact and legible;
  • Checking that any operating controls are secure, aligned and appropriately identified;
  • Checking that covers and guards are secured and working;
  • Checking that ventilation inlets and exhausts are unobstructed;
  • Checking that the rating of the plug is consistent with the rating of the equipment;
  • Checking that the live connections in rewireable plugs, rewirable connectors and rewireable cord extension sockets are correctly ordered;
  • Checking mains and welding leads for damage or excessive charring;
  • Testing portable isolating transformers, power supplies and residual current devices which are permanently wired to terminals in equipment;
  • Undertaking protective earth continuity tests on equipment like EPODs, cord sets, and cord extension sets; and
  • Undertaking a leakage current test or an insulation resistance test on insulation.

Inspection and testing should be carried out by a competent person. The individual is not required to be a registered or licensed electrical practitioner but should have some practical skills or knowledge in the area.

Inspection and testing should occur every 3 months to every 5 years, depending on a business’s circumstances. For example, factories, workshops and places of manufacture, assembly, maintenance or fabrication, should check and test their equipment every 6 months. Equipment used for commercial cleaning should also be tested every 6 months. In other places of work, equipment that is subject to normal use or is open to abuse or is in a hostile environment should be tested every 12 months. Alternatively, equipment that is not subject to normal use or is not open to abuse or is not in a hostile environment should be tested every 5 years. Residential areas of work such as hotels, halls and hostels should test their equipment every 2 years, while hire equipment should be tested and tagged every 3 months. If the workplace is a construction or demolition site and has a temporary power connection then all appliances must be tested every 3 months.

Any non-compliant equipment should be appropriately labelled and withdrawn from use. Employers may choose whether to remedy the equipment or dispose of it. Compliant equipment should be fitted with a durable, non-reusable, non-metallic tag that records the name of the person or company who performed the test, the test or inspection date, a retest date, and a reference to the relevant testing standard.

Employers will be held strictly liable under the Electrical (Safety) Regulations, if an employee is injured by an appliance or fitting that does not meet the safety standards.