Electrical faults

Electrical faults – the most common cause of fire in the workplace. Electrical faults cause a large proportion of non-residential fires, often with serious consequences. Fires that start in this way can often begin suddenly and unexpectedly and can spread to their surroundings with alarming speed. A range of electrical appliances and machinery is needed for most jobs and it’s vital that all equipment is safe, checked regularly and in good working order. Poorly maintained electrics and wrongly used appliances can potentially cause a problem. Overloaded plug sockets, for example, can quickly overheat and become a fire hazard. Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) is often an insurance requirement. Whilst not actually a legal requirement, these tests, undertaken every year, will ensure that your electrical goods stay in good working order and are fit for purpose. Fixed wiring installations must be checked by a competent electrician every 5 years.
For a full Compliance assessment of your workplace, contact us for a quote.

Fixed Wiring Electrical Inspection


Fixed wiring in-service electrical inspections, why they are necessary and how they can

benefit your business.

Helping you to understand your responsibilities

Electrical Test Midlands  – sharing technical expertise

It’s a near certainty that your business uses electrical power in

some way. Therefore, in order to manage risks and comply with

the law, your fixed wiring needs to be inspected regularly. Meeting

this requirement effectively, and ensuring that the benefits

outweigh the costs, requires you to be familiar with the concept of

fixed wiring inspection, and to know what approach to take.

Bear in mind, according to the HSE’s website (www.hse.gov.uk/

electricity), about 1,000 people per year have an electrical

accident and about 25 of those are fatal.


The independent safety inspection industry tends to categorise

electrical equipment and systems as follows:

  • PAT – Portable Appliance Testing – for items like kettles.
  • Plant – for items such as motors, welding equipment, fans and

air conditioning units

  • Fixed wiring – all the equipment required to distribute electrical

power safely from the origin to all the plant, equipment and

appliances at the relevant site. Fixed wiring includes conductors

(e.g. cables and cords), connections (e.g. distribution boards),

switching devices, protective devices (e.g. fuses, circuit breakers

and residual current devices – RCDs), enclosures and, where

applicable, fire barriers.

Fixed wiring’s broad definition means that its inspection can

encompass little or much. At its simplest, the inspection is a

non-intrusive visual check of accessible components such as

distribution boards, sockets, cables, cords and light fittings.

At its most thorough, it could comprise the following:

? An appraisal of the job, featuring:

  • Job-specific risk assessment
  • Survey and testing of the installation’s earthing,

continuity, insulation, polarity, layout and

accessibility arrangements

  • Enquiries to determine the degree to which parts

of the system can be isolated

  • Review of available documentation

? Visual check of all accessible components

? Labelling, i.e. unique identification of circuits

? Functional tests to check whether all the relevant

components do what they are supposed to do

? Thermographic testing to quickly detect hidden defects as

‘hot-spots’ in the system

? Clear reporting – publishing circuit diagrams, all test

results and a summary of any defects with actions

recommended to make safe.


Electrical Test Midlands  sharing technical expertise

A balance always has to be struck between inspection and

maintenance. Too little inspection/repair, and the risk will be too

great; too much inspection/repair and the cost will be too great.

Of course, the more preventative your maintenance, the lower

the reliance on in-service inspection and repair to control risks

in the first place. You will need to strike a balance between

inspection and maintenance (repair) activities that you are

comfortable with.

Another important consideration is whether you use the same

inspectors for maintenance or perform maintenance independently.

You will also need to choose whether to subcontract or go

in-house, the depth and frequency of the inspection (and

maintenance); and the degree of detail in the inspection reports.

You may simply wish to add electrical inspection to whatever

in-service inspection arrangements you have for other items,

such as your lifting equipment.

Deciding on the depth and frequency of inspection, and the

detail of reports, may be more difficult. The decision needs to be

based on a potentially complex interaction between inspection

activities, maintenance activities, production requirements, and

stakeholder expectations.

In our view: if you are not already doing so, you should make use

of risk-based inspection (RBI) techniques to determine the approach

that you take for the in-service inspection and maintenance of your

fixed wiring.

You should not be too daunted by the thought of applying RBI. The

rigour applied to the RBI assessment should be commensurate with

the scale of the electrical risk at your premises and it might not take

too much effort to complete.

Generally, the benefits of RBI outweigh the cost. RBI delivers a

specification for an inspection and maintenance regime that is

suitable and sufficient and optimises the risk-control-per-unit cost.

A suite of test methods and required outcomes are specified in

detail in the British Standard BS 7671: 2008, often referred to as

the IEE Wiring Regulations. In fact, the requirements of this

standard are not regulations in the legal sense.

The frequency and scope of your in-service fixed wiring

inspections should always be determined by an assessment

of the risks.

BS 7671: 2008 does provide guidance on both frequency and scope

of inspection for low voltage installations (less than 1,000V a.c.

or 1,500V d.c.), based on criteria like the type of premises:

e.g. ‘Three-yearly for a factory and five-yearly for offices.’

Note: this British Standard does not cover the public electricity

supply, electricity on vehicles, nor fixed wiring in quarries, mines

and other hazardous areas (where there is an explosion risk).


Electrical test midlands – sharing technical expertise

Repairs and conflict of interest

Regarding repairs, the in-service inspection contractor may be

prohibited from undertaking repairs. For example, Etm is a electrical compliance company.

The risks and benefits

A few mA of electrical current can be fatal and the

mains voltage (230V a.c.) should always be considered

potentially fatal.

The principal hazard associated with fixed wiring is electric shock.

However, other hazards should be considered, including burns,

arcing (which can damage the eyes) and ignition – setting fires or

creating explosions if flammable/explosive materials are present.

What is at stake, of course, is the health and safety of people and

significant financial and business losses. So the benefits are clear:

control the risk to control the cost.

The law

The law says that all employers must safeguard the health and

safety of all people affected by their undertaking and, in the UK,

it is a criminal offence to fail in this duty of care.

Fundamentally, employers are required to assess the risks associated

with their business and manage those risks at a tolerably low level.

More specifically, employers are required to comply with applicable

regulations; often a large number of them.

For fixed wiring, the specific regulations are the Electricity at Work

Regulations, 1989 (EAW). The HSE has issued a very useful

document, which is freely available to download from their

website, entitled ‘Memorandum of Guidance on the Electricity

at Work Regulations, 1989.’

You will note that this guidance is non-prescriptive,

in keeping with the goal-setting format of the

regulations, which means that maintenance is a

statutory requirement, but the scope and frequency

of maintenance and inspection should be risk-based:

i.e. suitable and sufficient.

In spelling-out the requirements of the EAW regulations, the

HSE guidance makes it clear that fixed wiring shall be maintained

so as to prevent danger (so far as is reasonably practicable) and

that regular in-service inspection is an ‘essential’ part of

preventative maintenance.

For prescription, you can turn to the British Standard mentioned

above (BS 7671: 2008). Remember: This British Standard is

comprised of non-statutory regulations.


For more information

Should you require any further guidance, please contact:

(Etm) Electrical Test Midlands on 01922 710014





Electrical Report, what’s next?

fixed wire testing header

Electrical Report, what’s next?
Your insurance company wants you to have a report carried out on your electrical installation. You contact three companies to get competitive quotes. You accept and the work is carried out, report submitted and invoice paid. Six months later you get a knock on the door by the HSE and now you find that you are being prosecuted. What went wrong? Your insurance company is happy, you’ve have had your electrical report carried out. So why are you being handed improvement notices?
The reason for this is that with many people having these services carried out, once the report has been completed they simply file it away at the bottom of a draw and never act upon the recommendations inside. The report could have a thousand observations on it but you could probably put money on them never being touched, the faults highlighted staying put for the next time the building is tested and the report never seeing the light of day. I say time and time again, “A report does not make your complaint, it is what you do with it afterwards that matters the most.” With all reporting services they are the first step to ensuring a safe working environment, not the final stage.

electrical safety testing

One good reason for carrying out electrical safety testing on your building. Loose connections found wile carrying out electrical safety testing at one of our clients site.

Loose connections could cause a fire, this fault would be classed as a C1 Fail Code -Danger Present. Risk of injury. Immediate remedial action required.

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989-Reg 4(2) state “The need for maintenance to be done to ensure safety”. As such all commercial premises must be electrically tested and certified to ensure they can continue to be used safety.

BS7671 wiring regulations to the latest edition sets out the requirements for all electrical installations in the UK. The Institute of Engineers and Technology (IET) produce guidance notes to enlarge on the wiring regulations and set out guidance on how compliance can be achieved. Guidance Note 3 covers the Inspection & testing of Electrical Installations.

An electrical installation should be periodically inspected by a qualified electrical engineer. ETM (Electrical Test Midlands) are experts in this field and will advise any customer who may be unsure of the periodicity or scope of the Inspection & Test.

For more information on electrical testing please phone us on 01922 710014

or use our free phone number 0800 066 3227