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The legal obligations of employers to maintain all Portable Electric equipment in a safe condition. (Electricity At Work Act Regulation 4 and 16, Health and Safety Executive Guidance Note GS27 and PM 32).

Is there anything electrical at your place of work? Is it safe?

Two fairly simple questions. The answer to the first question will almost certainly be yes. (Try to think of any workplaces or activity that does not involve some electrical equipment). The answer to the second question must be yes. Not just because it makes sense but it is the law. (The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989). Regulation 4(2) states that all (electrical) systems should be maintained to prevent danger to users. This regulation implies that the best way to determine a maintenance programme is to periodically perform inspection checks on appliances.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) clarify the situation by advising on the frequency of component checks. This was determined chiefly by the type of equipment and the environment in which it is to be used. What can you do to help make electrical equipment safe? Maintain, inspect and test it.

Further questions now crop up: How to maintain, inspect and test? When to maintain, inspect and test? How often to maintain, inspect and test? Where to maintain, inspect and test? Hold on for just a minute, this is getting a little more complicated! Some items are quite straight forward. For example, the battery operated office clock will need no inspection and testing (it could be dangerous if it fell off the wall and hit someone on the head!) - electrically it is not considered a potential hazard.

However, electrical equipment can be a lot more complicated than the office clock. Some possible points to consider when assessing an appliance's risk to a user may be how often the appliance is moved or may it have to perform in hazardous environments. A pistol drill on a building site or in a factory would require more attention than the kettle in the office kitchen.

It should be assumed anything with a lead and plug top must be included in a PORTABLE APPLIANCE TESTING (PAT) scheme. In many cases the risk will be greatest if there has never been a maintenance programme, or if a programme has been out of use for some time. OK, so you have decided you work with electrical systems and equipment and would like to seek some help. Help is available from friendly advice to a full technical appraisal and individual portable appliance testing system for your place of work - remember no place of work is exempt.

Electricity is a dangerous medium, so take time to reduce the risks.

Ask yourself the question once again:

Is my place of work electrically safe?

You may some day have to prove it.

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