The Office Safety Company

Electrical Safety

Regulation 4(2) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 states that:

As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger.

The word “maintained” does not require complex electrical testing of every piece of equipment. Visual inspections will identify most risks.

Trailing cables can create some quite serious risks of slips and trips but the main risks relate to damaged leads and plugs (or less likely the equipment itself). These can lead to potentially fatal electric shocks or fires.

Portable appliances in the office

Portable appliances are usually those that can be transported easily and that have a cable and a plug such as video equipment (TV’s, projectors etc,) desktop computers, printers, fax machines, photocopiers, desk lamps, heaters, fans, desk lamps and kettles.

All this type of equipment needs testing periodically. Only battery operated equipment does not need testing.

Visual Inspection of Portable Electrical Appliances

A nominated and trained person/s should be designated to carry out visual checks at set and regular intervals of a full inventory of all portable appliance equipment in the office. This should take place every 6 months to 4 years depending upon the type of equipment.

All electrical appliances need to be disconnected from their mains before the visual inspection begins.

Equipment needs to be evaluated for signs of damage to the cable or plug, look for cracked casing, exposed wires, twisting or cuts to the cables, loose screws and bent pins. Also look for hand made efforts of insulating like masking tape over connections.

The plug needs to be opened up and checked to see if there is a proper and working fuse installed. The cord grip needs to be checked to see if the grip is holding the outer part (sheath) of the cable tightly; and that the wires (including the earth where fitted) are attached to the correct terminals and that no bare wire is visible other than at the terminals. The terminal screws should be tight; and there is no sign of internal damage such as burnt plastic or fusing scalds on the surrounding casing. Signs of moisture, dust or dirt should also be checked. Note that with molded plugs only the fuse can be checked.

Extension leads should also be checked although these should not be necessary — there should be a sufficient amount of sockets so that adapters do not have to be used.

Procedure for Portable Appliance Testing in the Office

The residual current on a device can be tested. This will either involve pushing a test button if fitted or alternatively this can be tested using a Portable Appliance Test kit. Only a trained and appointed person can carry out this function. This should take place every 1-5 years depending upon the nature of the device.

Electrical dangers

All staff need to be trained to be aware of the potential dangers of electrical risks and to report electrical equipment which is not working properly to their manager/supervisor.

If equipment continues to be faulty after the basic inspection procedures are carried out, an authorised electrician should be contacted.

In case of an electrical accident the appointed first aider should be trained in how to deal with a potential electric shock incident.

Further Info

Health and Safety Executive leaflets on electrical safety:


Disclaimer: The Office Safety Company have provided the ‘Quick Guides’ on the basis that the content and advice contained within these documents is to the best of our knowledge accurate at the time of publication. The Office Safety Company does not accept any liability for the accuracy of the information provided in the ‘Quick Guides’.