Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 & BS7671: 2008 – Inspection & Testing
What is the purpose of the Regulations?
The purpose of the regulations is to require precautions to be taken against the risk of death or personal injury from electricity, in work activities. These regulations are the law of the land. They are general and written in simple language and provide the basic requirements for electrical safety.
The fundamental reason for inspection and testing an electrical installation is to determine whether new installation work is safe to be energised, or on an existing installation is safe to remain in service. In addition, the following aspects are to be taken into consideration;
- Safety of persons against shock and burns
- Evidence that the installation is not damaged or has deteriorated so as to impair safety
- Safety demands of the insurance company
- Defence of the duty holder in event of criminal proceedings for an offence consisting of a contravention of relevant regulations
- To improve the efficiency of maintenance by constituting accurate records
Absolute & Reasonably Practicable – Do I have to do comply?
The regulations contain obligations which are either:
ABSOLUTE: The requirement of the relevant regulation must be met regardless of cost or any other consideration.
REASONABLY PRACTICABLE: Assess on the one hand, the magnitude of the risks associated with a work activity, against the cost, in terms of the physical difficulty, time, trouble and expense involved in taking steps to eliminate or minimise those risks. The greater the degree of risk, the less weight that can be given to the cost of measures needed to prevent that risk.
The Defence Regulation, 29
Unlike other laws, the onus is on the defendant to prove his innocence as he is presumed guilty, unless, it is evident that he has taken all reasonably practicable steps to comply with the regulations.
In any proceedings for an offence consisting of a contravention of regulations 4(4), 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16, it shall be a defence for that person to prove that he took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid commission of that offence.
Who are Duty Holders?
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EaWR 1989) are made under the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The act imposes duties principally on employers, the self-employed and employees. The prime responsibility is placed on employers, directors and managers. Management are deemed to have the resources and the authority necessary to ensure a safe place of work. In order for a duty holder to discharge his responsibilities, those responsibilities must be under his control. According to the HSE,
“Action is focused on Duty Holders who are responsible for the risk and best placed to control it”.
What does the Regulation state – Reg 3?
- It shall be the duty of every;
- Employer and self-employed person to comply with the provisions of the regulations in so far as matters which are within his control.
- It shall be the duty of every employee while at work;
- To co-operate with his employer so far as is necessary, to enable any duty placed on that employer by the provisions of these regulations to be complied with; and
- To comply with the provisions of these regulations in so far as they relate to matters which are within his control.
As a Duty Holder – What is my decision making process?
- Understand your position in the ‘Duty Holder Hierarchy’ or ‘Chain of Command’
- Clarify your responsibilities within your health and safety or engineering structure, taking into account the requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
- Take a measured response – In other words, do your research, ensure you employ competent individuals and companies and plan out carefully, the work required to discharge your responsibilities
- Regard compliance as the 3 building blocks of safety:
- Safe Places
- Safe People
- Safe Systems
How can I define competence, relative to inspection & testing?
Regulation 16 of the ‘Electricity at Work Regulations’ 1989 states that:
“No person shall be engaged in any work activity where technical knowledge or experience is necessary to prevent danger, unless he possesses such knowledge, or is under a degree of supervision as may be appropriate having regards to the nature of the work.”
The object of Regulation 16 is to ensure that people are not placed at risk due to a lack of skills on the part of themselves or others when working on or near electrical equipment. It is therefore implicit that the duty holder has a responsibility to ensure electrical inspectors are appropriately qualified and that there is a safe system of work in place, which must be adhered to.
Competence is a ‘cocktail’ of items which includes knowledge of electricity, experience of electrical work, understanding the system being worked on, understanding all the hazards and precautions and ability to recognise danger and when it is safe to work.
Typically, in respect of electrical testing a ‘competent person’ should have the following qualifications and experience:
- Formative years as an electrical apprentice; craft, maintenance or mining, with the associated qualifications of that era
- BS7671:2008 – 17th Edition Qualification – C&G 2382-10
- Inspection, Testing & Certification of Electrical Installations – C&G 2391-10
- Design, Erection & Verification of Electrical Installations – C&G 2391-20. This qualification is not essential but demonstrates a more in depth knowledge necessary when testing complex installations
- Ideally, previous experience & knowledge of testing in a particular type of environment
Only YOU, the employer can declare an individual ‘competent’.