The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 place a duty on employers to carry out risk assessments, which involves identifying hazards in the workplace, including those electrical.
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, which apply to all educational establishments, require employers to assess activities taking place on or near electrical systems that may lead to danger and/or personal injury.
These regulations make it clear that the maintenance and repair of electrical equipment must be carried out by competent persons under a planned programme of work (see inspection and testing below). Many local authorities undertake this work for their schools. ATL advises its members that they should not be required to carry out such work.
It may be reasonable, however, for teaching and non-teaching staff to undertake a primary and routine inspection of electrical equipment prior to use by them or by students. This is to establish that the equipment at least looks to be in good working order, eg examining a plug before connecting it to the power supply.
All staff should be fully trained in the use of any electrical equipment they will be operating.
All educational establishments should have a written policy specifically relating to electricity. It should also detail the visual checks to be conducted by all staff before using any electrical equipment.
Visual checks of electrical equipment
The following questions could be asked:
- Is there any obvious damage to the plug?
- Are there any loose or bare wires?
- Do any parts of the equipment appear to be missing?
- Is the equipment becoming hot when it is running?
- Is it becoming particularly noisy?
- Is there a smell of burning?
If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, the policy should advise the member of staff to report the problem and not to use the equipment until it has been properly examined and repaired.
Inspection and testing
The Health and Safety Executive advises the following.
- An inventory of all electrical equipment is prepared, which may be taken room-by-room or department-by-department.
- The inventory is periodically updated by a competent person who should examine the equipment. Obsolete, redundant or defective equipment should be taken out of service and be properly repaired or disposed of. If the latter, they should be removed from the inventory.
- Fixed electrical installations should be inspected and tested by a competent person at least every five years. More frequent inspections will be necessary when installations are subject to damage or abuse.
- A test certificate confirming the date and results of the inspection and test should be prepared - a copy of it should be retained by the school or college.
- All electrical equipment including socket outlets and other fittings such as lights, should be chosen bearing in mind the use and abuse to which they may be subjected. Remember, items which are close to where pupils/students sit may be interfered with.
- Temporary systems, such as stage lighting, should be tested and inspected initially and at least every three months thereafter.
- Portable appliances, such as drills, saws and irons should be routinely inspected and tested and a register be kept. Before the start of each term, the equipment should be visually inspected and any defects rectified.