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Health and Safety Services

Policy on inspection/testing of portable electrical appliances  (2012)

1. All items of mains-electrical equipment in use within Birkbeck shall be subject to a scheme of safety inspection/testing at the frequency specified in the attached schedule.

2. It shall be the responsibility of individual schools/departments to ensure that relevant equipment belonging to the school/department is inspected/tested in accordance with this policy.

3. Before being put into service, it is best practice for all new equipment to have an adhesive test record label placed on a convenient part of its casing and for the date of the item being put into service to be written on the label e.g. ‘New - 03/2012’.

4. Visual Inspection: According to the HSE, this process can find more than 90% of faults and is the most important part of maintaining appliances.  An informal visual inspection simply involves inspecting the appliance, the cable and the plug for any obvious signs of damage – see the checklist at the end of this document.  

An informal visual inspection of electrical equipment should be carried out as part of the annual school/department safety inspection though this would be limited to items visible at the time.  In addition, staff should carry out informal visual inspections of the equipment that they personally use or are responsible for, at least as frequently as set out in the schedule below.  Any obvious or suspected defects should be reported to a responsible person such as the local safety coordinator to arrange further action such as a Formal Visual Inspection and/or an electrical safety test commonly known as a portable electrical appliance (PAT) test and the item should meanwhile be withdrawn from service and marked 'do not use'.  Similarly, arrangements should be made for any equipment noted to have a PAT test label showing that it is due for a follow up PAT test/Formal Visual Inspection. 

5. Any equipment having undergone electrical repair or that has been damaged shall be withdrawn from service and marked 'do not use' until a PAT test/Formal Visual Inspection has been carried out.

6. The College has several very easy to use PAT testers and the College Health and Safety Officer can provide the necessary training to enable staff to make Formal Visual Inspections and PAT test their own equipment - see (9) below.  Alternatively, schools/departments can engage a commercial company to do this. The College Health and Safety Officer has details of companies that charge reasonable rates.

7. Each item PAT tested and/or subjected to Formal Visual Inspection should have the date and type of  test recorded on an adhesive sticker placed on a convenient part of its casing.  

8. Equipment failing a PAT test should have a ‘failed/do not use’ label fixed to it and be withdrawn from service immediately to await repair and retest or disposal.

9. All Birkbeck staff carrying out PAT tests/Formal Visual Inspections shall have received appropriate training and/or information approved by the Health and Safety Officer.

10. All companies supplying equipment such as games or vending machines for use on Birkbeck premises must be able to provide evidence that it has been subject to an adequate scheme of inspection and testing. The same applies to the equipment of building and cleaning contractors brought onto Birkbeck premises and also to equipment brought onto the premises by persons or individuals hired by Birkbeck or the Students' Union such as musicians' equipment. Birkbeck reserves the right to conduct its own electrical safety checks on equipment brought onto its premises.

11. Persons or companies hiring Birkbeck accommodation must be informed in the contract details that any electrical equipment brought onto the premises must be electrically safe and that they must be able to provide evidence that it has been subject to an adequate scheme of inspection and testing. Birkbeck reserves the right to conduct its own safety checks on equipment brought onto its premises.

12. All electrical equipment brought onto the premises by staff will be subject to this policy. 

13. The College reserves the right to remove any electrical equipment from use from anywhere within the College if it is considered by the Estates and Facilities Department or the College Health and Safety Officer to be an unacceptable safety risk by design, condition, use or location.  The owners of any personal equipment giving such concern will be instructed to remove the equipment from the premises.  Any items not able to be removed immediately will be placed in store for the owner to collect and remove. Such equipment not collected within one week may be disposed of.

14. Redundant equipment within schools and departments should be ruthlessly disposed of since hoarded items take up valuable space, pose an increased risk to electrical safety and add to the burden of inspection/testing.  N.B. Due consideration should be taken of the Waste Electrical Equipment Regulations when arranging disposal of electrical equipment.

#Inspection/test frequencies for equipment

Equipment/Environment
Visual check by user
Formal Visual Inspection
**BattPAT
Electrical Test
Battery operated <20V

No

No

No

>50V AC eg telephone equipment or low voltage desk lights

No

No

No

IT equipment - rarely moved

No

Yes, 4 years

Yes, 4- 5 years
Class I or II.

Photocopiers, fax machines: not hand held. Rarely moved

No

Yes, 4 years

Yes, 4- 5 years
Class I or II.

Class II (double insulated) equipment.Not hand held. Moved occasionally, eg fans, table lamps, slide projectors

No

Yes, 4 years.

Yes, 4- 5 years

*Class II (double insulated equipment. Hand held, floor cleaners, power tools.

Yes

Yes, 1 year

Yes, 2 years

*Class I (earthed equipment) - hand held or frequently moved items, electric kettles, fires.

Yes

Yes, 1 year

Yes, 2 years or sooner if visual inspection or other reason such as accident or repair gives reason

Class I (earthed equipment) - rarely moved items eg, table lamps, fridges.

No

Yes 2 years

Yes, 5 years or sooner if visual inspection or other reason such as accident or repair gives reason

*Cables/leads and plugs connecting to the above, mains extension leads.

Yes

Yes. At frequency of items connected to.

Yes. At frequency of items connected to or sooner if visual inspection or other reason such as accident, repair gives reason.

# - Based on HSE Guides HSG)107 & IND(G)236L.
* Some items subject to very robust treatment or used in wet environments will require six monthly checks
.**Class I items – earth continuity & insulation resistance will be tested.
**Class II items – insulation resistance only will be tested

Visual Inspection checklist – for equipment in use in an office or lab etc.

i)   Any damage to the casing, cable or plug?
ii)  Any signs of overheating on plug or casing?
iii)  Is cable securely held by the cable grip if fitted?
iv)  Proper fuse fitted where externally visible?   i.e. not an improvised one
v)  equipment positioned to avoid strain on cables?
vi)  ventilation points not obstructed?
vii) overloading of extension leads or multiblocs?
viii) cables creating trip hazards?
ix) cables located to avoid damage? e.g. not trapped by furniture or doors

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Health & Safety Services, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 020 7631 6218, email: k.ryan@bbk.ac.uk