The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
Puts a duty of care upon both employer (sections 2, 3 and 4 etc) and employee (section 7) to ensure the safety of all persons using the work premises. This includes the self-employed.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
State: “Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of:
a. the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work, and
b. the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking”. (Regulation 3(1)).
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) cover most risks that can result from using work equipment . With respect to risks from electricity, compliance with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1998 is likely to achieve to achieve compliance with PUWER regulations 5-9, 19 and 22.
PUWER only applies to work equipment used by workers at work. This includes all work equipment (fixed, portable or transportable) connected to a source of electrical energy. PUWER dose not apply to the fixed installations in a building. The electrical safety of these installations is dealt with only by the the Electricity at Work Regulations.
State: “As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger”. (Regulation 4(2))
” ‘System’ means an electrical system in which all the electrical equipment is, or may be, electrically connected to a common source of electrical energy and includes such source and such equipment”. (Regulation 2(1))
“Electrical equipment includes anything used, intended to be used or installed for the use, to generate, provide, transmit, transform, rectify, convert, conduct, distribute, control, store, measure or use electrical energy”. (Regulation 2(1))
Scope of the legislation
It is clear that the combination of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 apply to all electrical equipment used in, or associated with, places of work. The scope extends from distribution systems, be they 400KV or simply those in building, down to the smallest piece of electrical equipment such as a hairdryer, a VDU, a telephone or even in some situations battery-operated equipment.
Who is responsible?
Everyone at work has their responsibilities including, in certain circumstances, trainees. However, because of the all-embracing responsibilities of all persons this does not minimise the duties of particular persons. Regulation 3 of the Electricity at Work Regulations recognises a responsibility (control) that employers and many employees have for electrical systems.
“It shall be the duty of every employer and the self-employed person to comply with the provisions of these Regulations in so far as they relate to matters which are within his control.
It shall be the duty of every employee while at work:
a. to co-operate with his employer so far as is necessary to enable any placed on that employer by the provisions of these Regulations to be complied with; and
b. to comply with the provisions of these Regulations in so far that as they relate to matters which are within his control”.
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 requires every employer to ensure that equipment is suitable for the use for which it is provided (Regulation 4(1)) and only used for work for which it is suitable (Regulation 4(3)). They require every employer to ensure equipment is maintained in good order (Regulation 5) and inspected as necessary to ensure it is maintained in a safe condition (Regulation 6).
Regulation 4(2) of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 states:
“As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger.”
Regulation 5 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states:
“Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and good repair.” (‘efficient’ relates to how the condition of the equipment might affect health and safety; it is not concerned with productivity.)
The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 include a specific requirement that where the safety of work equipment depends on installation conditions, and where conditions of work are liable to lead to deterioration, the equipment shall be inspected (Regulation 6).
State: “Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adapted as to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided”. (Regulation 4(1)).