Electrical safety on campus – keeping safe and compliant
Whether you work in health & safety, estates or manage a team, it is your responsibility to ensure that buildings on campus are safe for everyone.
In this article Darren Tonge, Sales Director at Hawkesworth, looks at electrical safety and how you can ensure compliance.
Although we may not think about it too much, electricity powers our campuses. From the computers and photocopiers in the library, POS units and chillers in the refectory to the hairdryers and televisions in student accommodation – electricity keeps things running!
With this in mind, it’s important to keep all electrical equipment and installations running safely. Over one in two fires in the UK are caused by an electrical defect. This means that campus management needs to keep anything that uses electricity in good condition.
According to Zurich, larger fires in educational establishments cost approximately £2.8 million to repair. This can go up to £20 million in the most extreme cases.
As well as the financial cost, there are also setbacks to learning to consider, as well as potential loss of life.
This means looking after anything that uses electricity, no matter where it is on your campus, is critical.
What you need to consider
You need to consider two elements when it comes to electrical safety across site. Electrical equipment and electrical installations.
Electrical equipment is anything you power up by plugging it into the mains. For example, PC monitors, vending machines, gym equipment and projectors. Extension leads and cords come under this category too.
An electrical installation consists of the elements in a building that provide electricity and power equipment. This includes the distribution board (fuse box), cabling and accessories like sockets, switches and light fittings.
Both electrical equipment and installations can deteriorate over time. This can increase the risk of electric shock and fire.
Health and safety on campus
UK legislation like the Health and Safety at Work Act states that you need to supply and maintain electrical equipment and installations in a safe condition.
If you don’t, you could potentially find yourself open to a fine and/or legal action.
Some smaller organisations use visual tests to make sure their electrical equipment and installations work as they should. This involves checking for damage before turning a circuit on or plugging in an appliance.
This works… but up to a point.
Firstly, a visual check does not account for internal damage. For example, the loss of a connection between the earth pin inside a plug and the case of an appliance. If this happens, it can increase the risk of electric shock if someone touches the equipment.
Secondly, a large campus can have hundreds and thousands of appliances and circuits that need checking. It’s not viable to expect everyone to spend time checking them before use.
This is where electrical equipment testing (PAT testing) and EICR (fixed wire testing) can be of benefit.
Electrical equipment testing and EICR
Electrical equipment testing and Electrical Installation Condition Reports (EICR) are structured tests that identify any issues with your equipment or installations respectively.
An electrical equipment test checks both the interior and exterior of an appliance – including the plug, cable and the piece of equipment itself. If an appliance fails testing, it can then be repaired or replaced.
The additional benefit of electrical equipment testing is that it provides an inventory of all the equipment you have on campus. This helps you see what you have and where it is.
An EICR tests all elements of an electrical installation to ensure that it works safely. Any parts of the installation that fail testing are marked on a report. You can then carry out remedial work to fix any issues.
How often you should test
The 5th edition In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment code of practice states that you should carry out a risk assessment to determine how frequently you should test your equipment.
This will take into consideration how often the equipment is used, the environment and the lifespan of the equipment. For example, cleaning equipment will be subject to more wear and tear than electrical equipment in staff offices.
It is recommended that you carry out EICRs every five years. More high-risk environments (for example, swimming pools and theatres) may need testing more frequently.
Both electrical equipment testing and EICRs must be carried out by a ‘competent person’. This can be an external electrical engineer or a trained member of your facilities team.
Managing safety in halls of residence
If your campus includes halls of residences, you need to take extra precautions to ensure they stay safe.
In halls of residences, several students live, sleep and cook in close quarters. If a fire breaks out, the outcome can be catastrophic.
As well as university-provided equipment, students may bring their own appliances. These run the risk of being faulty or counterfeit. International students may bring along their own equipment from home. These may operate on different voltages and frequencies and overload your circuits.
If you do not have them in place already, you may want to have specific testing policies for students living in halls of residences. For example, students must have their equipment tested before moving into their room. Some universities carry out testing on the student’s behalf and charge per item tested.
Everyone has a part to play when it comes to health and safety
You have a key role when it comes to electrical safety, but everyone who uses services on campus must do what they can to stay safe too. They must take reasonable care for their own health and safety, as well as that of those around them.
This can be anything from reporting faulty or damaged equipment, to not running electrical cords under carpets or rugs. Education and close communication are essential for both staff, visitors and students.
Electrical safety on campus may sound like a daunting prospect. There can be many electrical circuits and pieces of equipment to consider.
However, a rational and methodical approach can help keep the people who live, work and play across your campus safe and secure.
For more information visit www.hawkesworthappliancetesting.co.uk