This year’s electrical fire safety week, which runs from the 21st to 27th November, is a reminder about the fire risks associated with all electrical equipment. Think about the various types of equipment you use in your company. What kinds of environments are they in and how frequently are they used? These can be factors that increase the chances of equipment becoming damaged and as a consequence increase the fire risks too. What can you do to reduce that risk?
Are you, or your employees, aware of the early warning signs of an electrical fault? Things to look out for include hot plugs or sockets. Any sootiness, dark patches or blackened scorch marks around the socket, or sparks or smoke when you’re removing or inserting a plug are also warning signs. Be suspicious of fuses that blow frequently or circuit-breakers that trigger for no obvious reason. And if you become aware of a faint burning smell – particularly one similar to burning rubber, plastic or metal – you need to investigate. It’s not just the socket you must be aware of; look out for badly wired plugs and damaged or frayed leads too.
Visual checks are important but sometimes they’re not enough to tell you how safe an appliance is. That’s when portable appliance testing can be a big help.
The potential for hazards with some types of equipment can be pretty obvious. But what about all those small portable appliances in your workplace? Kettles, microwaves, heaters: they all look innocent enough but they can cause trouble if they aren’t checked over periodically as well.
Portable appliance testing (or PAT testing) is the examination and testing of electrical appliances and equipment to make sure they’re safe to use. It should be done by someone who’s electrically competent, has the correct equipment to do the tests and can understand the implications of the results.
While there’s no legal requirement to have PAT testing done, businesses are legally obliged to make sure any electrical equipment with the potential to cause injury is maintained in a safe condition whether it’s fixed or portable.
Should you keep records?
You aren’t legally required to keep records or label equipment that’s been PAT tested or visually inspected. But from a management perspective it makes life a lot easier if your records monitor what has and hasn’t been checked.
It’s also useful to be able to demonstrate you have a system if you ever had to prove you were fulfilling your legal obligations for any reason. And if you have 5 or more employees, don’t forget you need to record your risk assessments – and this information will be helpful.
What should you do in the event of an electrical fire?
If you can do it safely, pull the plug out or switch the power off at the fuse box. Never use water on an electrical fire. Only use the appropriate type of fire extinguisher and never ever take any risks. Don’t attempt to tackle a fire if you’re not 100% sure you have a safe escape route you can use. If you can’t extinguish it quickly, get out and call 999 immediately.
But of course it’s far better to avoid an electrical fire in the first place. So get into good habits. If you identify something through your visual checks that looks a bit suspicious, deal with it straight away. Remind employees of the importance of switching appliances off and removing plugs from sockets. Put in place a schedule for maintaining portable equipment.
If you could do with some advice about electrical safety or carrying out PAT testing, please do Contact Us And don’t forget to support Electrical Fire Safety Week too by following and using the hashtag #EFSW.