Like anything installed in a commercial environment, electrical installations deteriorate with age and use, particularly in ‘challenging’ environments where dust or other materials or even physical damage can affect the integrity of the wiring. Furthermore, wiring in a faulty or deteriorating condition is not easily identifiable. Regular inspection and testing of electrical installations and equipment therefore confirms that they are in a satisfactory condition for ongoing use.
Periodic inspections reveal whether electrical circuits or equipment are overloaded, they identify potential electrical shock risks or fire hazards, they highlight defective electrical work done previously and they can identify where there has been a lack of earthing or bonding.
What needs to be inspected and tested?
Inspection and testing requirements vary across a wide range of industries, but in general the following need to be on a roster of items that are looked at on a routine cycle:
Lighting, alarms, security systems and other electrical installations
Fixed wiring and associated panels
Switchgear and control gear
Portable electrical equipment
Testing should only be carried out by competent personnel who are qualified to 17th Edition of the IEE Wiring Regulations (BS 7671 Requirements for electrical installations). As a result, many companies sub-contract this out to independent and qualified parties such as Robinsons. The inspection and testing programme will involve understanding the legal requirements, safety procedures, understanding electrical drawings, knowledge of different types of testing equipment, inspection procedures, testing sequences, live testing procedures and completion of electrical certificates.
Three major sets of legislation have dictated how electrical inspection and testing schedules have become so important and these are the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and the Workplace (health, safety and welfare) Regulations 1992. These essentially place a duty of care on both the employee and the employer to ensure the safety of themselves and other personnel in the workplace, and this applies to all electrical equipment used in association with work.
Clearly, inspection and testing of fixed wiring installations and large scale switchgear etc will involve some disruption to normal proceedings, and this needs to be factored into the schedule, to ensure safe access is allowed by isolating equipment and panels. With regards equipment, a list needs to be drawn up of all portable items on site (essentially this is anything that has a plug on it, and can include items like fridges and cookers used in the workplace, that aren’t technically ‘portable’) with a view to designing a PAT Testing programme. This ensures that portable items are tested and inspected and identified as such, to enable them to be released for ongoing use in the workplace. Any remedial issues can be dealt with while the item is isolated from general use. Thermal imaging is an inspection technique favoured by many insurance companies, as it highlights issues with items like electrical motors or inside electrical panels that are otherwise difficult to identify. A thermal image clearly shows up ‘hot spots’ where problems are occurring, and remedial action can then take place. Again, thermal imaging will involve a roster of items in a workplace being identified and a schedule designed for ongoing routine testing and inspection.
Inspection and testing intervals vary depending on the risks involved in a workplace and the environment being worked in. Inspections can be annual or six-monthly on wiring installations, while full testing can vary between annually and every five years. PAT testing on portable items should be done at least annually, or six-monthly for higher-risk or higher-use items.
Robinsons have trained and competent personnel who are involved in electrical inspection and testing across many industries, and we are experienced in identifying your inspection and testing needs, and working with clients to establish a schedule that is affordable, practical and involves minimal disruption to the workplace. Find out more about our electrical services in Yorkshire here.