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Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

This legislation places legal implications on employers to ensure the safety of electrical devices in the workplace.

The regulations dictate that all portable equipment must be inspected regularly and tested to ensure that it is safe for use. 'Portable equipment' means any electrical item that can be moved, which means that this regulation covers items from computer systems and printers to kettles and televisions.

This is often referred to as portable appliance testing (PAT). There are three parts to the testing:

  • visual inspection
  • earth continuity test
  • insulation test

The testing should be carried out regularly (commonly every 12 months) and should be carried out by trained, authorised personnel. In many cases third-party electrical contractors carry out PAT testing.

The visual inspection looks at damage to the cable, damage to the plug, damage to the case, loose components and also that the environment the device is used in is appropriate. The visual inspection also examines the plug for wiring or fuse problems such as an incorrect fuse or loose connections.

The earth continuity test checks for earth continuity between the plug and the appropriate parts of the device.

The insulation test checks the cable for weaknesses and unseen faults. In most workplaces you will see evidence of the testing through a small sticker placed on the device detailing, among other things, the date of inspection and details of who carried out the test.

Next: SAQ on Safety Devices