Nearly a quarter of all electrical accidents involve portable equipment. ‘Portable Equipment’ is defined as not being part of any fixed installation. However, when it is used it is connected to a fixed installation by means of a cable, plug and socket. This equipment can be hand held or resting on a stable surface. Portable electrical equipment used at work includes vacuum cleaners, kettles, computers, microwaves, battery chargers, PC projectors, hair dryers, food mixers, toasters, small TV’s etc. This includes items that are manufactured or purchased in-house. However, some equipment pose a much greater risk of shock, for example, electric drills. All portable equipment needs to be maintained according to the risk that is imposes. Employers have a duty to maintain any portable electrical equipment at work, whether it is the employees’ own or supplied by the business. The equipment should be used according to the manufacturer’s guidelines and made according to UK and/or EC product safety standards. Any hired equipment should have up to date certification.
Portable electrical equipment can be of two types, i.e Class I (earthed) and Class II (double insulated). Double insulated equipment is the safer of the two, as it has an extra insulation within the construction. Some electrical equipment may need a portable appliance test (PAT). For other equipment, a visual inspection, for example, checking the cables; may be all that is required. All portable equipment should be visually inspected at various intervals, how often depends on how the equipment is used and the environment it is used in. All equipment can be effected by mechanical damage, dusty atmospheres, corrosive conditions and natural hazards such as temperature or pressure. Damage to equipments can include visible wires, damage to the plug, signs of overheating or cables trapped under furniture. A PAT should be performed on equipment that is not double insulated. Damaged or faulty equipment should be removed from use and repaired by a professional. This should be a competent person who knows how to use the test equipment and interpret the results. Checks may need to be recorded, including any replacement parts and repair services carried out. All faulty equipment should be withdrawn from service and marked faulty until it is safe to use again. Some equipment will need a dated test label if it is the kind of equipment that needs to be tested periodically. If portable equipment is used outdoors a residual current device (RCD) should be used to provide enhanced protection against the effects of electric shock.
There are general requirements under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR). This applies to the use of electrical equipment within the workplace and imposes duties on persons who work with or near electrical equipment. All electrical equipment must be maintained to prevent electrical burns, fires, shock and explosions. Also, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) places duties on employers to ensure equipment is maintained in good working order.