Electricity at Work

Electricity is a familiar and necessary part of everyday life, but electricity can kill or severely injure people and cause damage to property.

There are simple precautions when working with, or near electricity that can be taken to significantly reduce the risk of electrical injury to you and others around you.

Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 gives the requirements that workplaces must follow.

From a simplified health and safety point of view we normally divide electricity into two areas:

  • Portable appliances; and
  • Fixed


Any appliance using a plug is classified as portable in that, no matter their size, they can be unplugged and moved to another place.

The inspection regime will depend on their usage and especially their mobility, so the more they get moved around the more often they should be inspected, ie a kettle in an office get moved more than a PC and should therefor get inspected more often.

However, in order not to have too many different inspection dates etc most offices will have their portable appliances inspected every one to two years.

Inspection normally takes basis in one of two forms;

PAT testing involve, a suitable trained person using a calibrated PAT tester, plugging the appliance into the PAT tester, which will then test the appliance and give either a pass or fail result. The person performing the PAT test must be suitable trained but do not have to be an electrician.

The other method is getting a suitable qualified person, normally an electrician, to physical examine/inspect the appliance, this is normally a slower and more expensive process hence must companies use PAT testing.


Fixed electric appliances are wired directly into the mains normally though an isolator of some kind. Due to the nature they are not portable and as such should not be as likely to get damaged.

Inspection / testing will normally be undertaken by ad electrician (also called a ‘periodic inspection’). The frequency depend of the nature of the business but the suggested frequency is given in the table below;

Type of Workplace Suggested Period between Visual Check Suggested Period between Inspection & Testing
Commercial 1 year 5 years
Educational establishments 1 year 5 years
Hospitals 1 year 5 years
Industrial 1 year 3 years
Residential accommodation 1 year 5 years
Offices 1 year 5 years
Shops 1 year 5 years
Laboratories 1 year 5 years
Agricultural / Horticultural 1 year 3 years
Cinemas 1 year 3 year
Leisure complexes (excluding swimming pools) 1 year 3 years
Restaurants / Hotels 1 year 5 years
Theatres 1 year 3 years
Public houses / Bars 1 year 5 years
Marinas 4 months 1 year
Laundrettes 1 year 1 year
Petrol stations 1 year 3 years
Construction sites 3 Months 6 Months


This overview of Electricity at Work is very basic and simplified, for further information have a look at this PDF.


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