Electric Equipment - User Check and Visual Inspection


The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require that electrical equipment used at work be maintained in a safe condition. The Health and Safety Executive advises that for offices and low risk environments it is generally sufficient for this 'maintenance' to take the form of a visual inspection of the equipment. Supplementary electrical testing should also be carried out at less frequent intervals or if a problem is suspected. (See 'Maintaining portable electrical equipment in offices and other low-risk environments' IND(G)236L HSE Books)

Can I do my own visual inspection?

To carry out a visual inspection you don’t need to be an electrician, but you do need to know what to look for and you must also have sufficient knowledge to avoid danger to yourself and others.

Simple training can equip you (or a member of staff) with some basic electrical knowledge to enable you to carry out a visual inspection competently.

Basic user checks

These should be carried out before most electrical equipment is used, with the equipment disconnected. Employees should look for:

  • damage to the lead including fraying, cuts or heavy scuffing, eg from floor box covers;

  • damage to the plug, eg to the cover or bent pins;

  • tape applied to the lead to join leads together; coloured wires visible where the lead joins the plug (the cable is not being gripped where it enters the plug);

  • damage to the outer cover of the equipment itself, including loose parts or screws;

  • signs of overheating, such as burn marks or staining on the plug, lead or piece of equipment;

  • equipment that has been used or stored in unsuitable conditions, such as wet or dusty environments or where water spills are possible; and

  • cables trapped under furniture or in floor boxes.

As part of the visual inspection, you should consider whether:

  • the electrical equipment is being used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions;

  • the equipment is suitable for the job;

  • there has been any change of circumstances; and

  • the user has reported any issues.

The visual inspection should include the checks carried out by the user and, where possible, will include removing the plug cover and checking internally that:

  • there are no signs of internal damage, overheating or water damage to the plug;

  • the correct fuse is in use and it’s a proper fuse, not a piece of wire, nail etc;

  • the wires including the earth, where fitted, are attached to the correct terminal (see Figure 1);

  • the terminal screws are tight;

  • the cord grip is holding the outer part (sheath) of the cable tightly; and

  • no bare wire is visible other than at the terminals.

For equipment/cables fitted with moulded plugs only the fuse can be checked.

Click HERE to download our FREE Electrical Equipment Checklist

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