The Legal requirement to inspect and test portable appliances begins with the supplier of such equipment. The term ‘supplier’s should’ be taken to mean the designer, manufacturer, importer or hirer, etc. THE HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK ACT 1974, SECTION 6 imposes a duty on all suppliers to ensure that the equipment supplied is designed and manufactured to be safe and that this safety is verified by means of suitable testing and examination. Where the supplier hires the equipment continues to be safe for each successive customer.
SECTION 2 OF THE HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK ACT requires that ’employers ensure the provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health’. This general requirement of employers to their employees is made more specific in the ELECTRICITY AT WORK REGULATIONS. Firstly the definitions given in REGULATION 2 make it clear that an electrical ‘system’ comprises of all the equipment that is, or can be connected to a source of electrical energy. Furthermore, electrical equipment is generated, provide, transmit, transform, rectify, convert, conduct, distribute, control, store, measure or use electrical energy’. The requirement to test portable appliances is derived from REGULATION 4 (2) which demands that ‘as may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far is reasonably practicable, such danger’. It is generally accepted that the method by which equipment is accurately assessed as to the need for or effectiveness of, maintenance (i.e.: repair, replacement, etc.) is by means of regular inspection and testing of the equipment. Similarly, there is a requirement under REGULATION 4 (1) that ‘all systems shall at all times be of such construction as to prevent, so far is reasonably practicable danger’. Therefore, electrical equipment should be inspected and/or tested after any maintenance activity or repair, in order that is confirmed safe to use. It is clear, that all types of electrical equipment in all work situations (and in some situations where the public involved) are covered by this requirement to inspect and test.
The Identification of Equipment
Identification and the Law, In the event of a prosecution being bought against the duty holder under REGULATION 4 (2) OF THE ELECTRICITY OF WORK REGULATIONS, the duty holder will be required under REGULATION 29. “To Prove that he took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of that offense”. In other words, No matter how much care the duty holder may have taken to avoid danger he is liable to prosecution unless he can prove that he took such steps. A general claim by the defendant that all equipment had been regularly inspected and tested would not be accepted in court, indeed there would be an obligation on the part of the duty holder to show that the specific piece of equipment has been tested and inspected satisfactorily. Hence the need for an accurate and reliable system of unique identification of equipment which has to remain constant throughout the life of the equipment to enable comparative reports of previous inspection and testing. To insure the identification it is therefore necessary to record serial numbers of the tested equipment.