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Inspection & Testing

Inspection & Testing of electrical installations (electrical installation condition reports)

We provide a full range of electrical testing and reporting services, often referred to as the “five year electrical test” by clients who have requested these services from us, they include: schools, motorcar dealerships, garages, commercial property/facilities management and occasionally our clients domestic properties and interests.

What is it?

Inspection and testing is an investigative process that verifies the essential safety of electrical installations. In Great Britain, this is normally achieved by ensuring the installation complies with a British Standard known as BS7671, otherwise known as “The Wiring Regulations” or “the regs” as it is often referred to within the electrical industry.

Why should it be considered?

Generally, the older electrical installation’s get and the more they are used, the more likely they will become defective due to neglect, wear and tear or poorly executed additions and alterations.

A little history…

Below, we have reproduced an extract written in 1882, given with kind permission from The IET.

Extracts from Rules and Regulations for the Prevention of Fire Risk Arising from Electric Lighting
Published by the Society of Telegraph Engineers and of Electricians, 11th May 1882
(The very first edition of the wiring regulations)

electrical-testing-2“ The difficulties that beset the electrical engineer are chiefly internal and invisible, and they can only be guarded against by ‘testing,’ or probing with electric currents.” (Introduction)

“NB – The value of frequently testing wires cannot be too strongly urged. It is an operation, skill in which is easily acquired and applied. The escape of electricity cannot be detected by the sense of smell, as can gas, but it can be detected by apparatus far more certain and delicate. Leakage not only means waste, but in the presence of moisture it means destruction of the conductor and its insulating covering, by electric action.” (Note to rule 17)

As can be seen in this early extract, the fundamental principal of testing electrical cables or “wires” to detect deterioration over time was clearly identified and respected.

However, the modern demands and expectations placed on electrical installations are far more complex and involve much more equipment that can and does cause deterioration over time; in the majority of circumstances, treating installations with respect, providing a little regular maintenance by competent personnel and knowing when they are being used beyond the scope of their original design will greatly improve the safety and life expectancy of any electrical installation.

Who is responsible for instigating electrical testing?

Electrical fault diagnosisDuty holders (landlords, premises managers and company directors etc.) have the legal responsibility for the safety of their electrical installations. They should ensure suitable proactive action is completed as a matter of course rather than by intervention. Unfortunately, all to often electrical inspections are instigated by Local Authorities, Insurance Companies and the HSE, whereby duty holders have some demanding time frames placed on them to complete an inspection, only to find that defects are then identified which require immediate rectification, often at significant inconvenience and cost within short time frames.

How often should testing be carried out?

It varies from installation to installation. Recommended intervals advise that academic, commercial and industrial ones are tested every five years* and domestic ones up to every ten years*. Although, on very large installations, it can be advantageous to carry out an annual rolling test whereby twenty percent per year is tested over five years.

*Site-specific circumstances may call for revised intervals between tests.

What does electrical testing involve?

Initially, varied site-specific factors need to be identified, accounted for and agreed prior to the examination commencing. This is due to the variations that exist between electrical installations within different buildings, their many uses and the physical and operational restrictions that may exist.

For example, how feasible would it be to shut down an I.T server room for several hours / at all, can safe access be gained to test any high level lighting, can the lifts be turned off? Or are there asbestos related issues, whereby electrical equipment cannot be accessed or disturbed.

The process itself can be quite invasive and may require access to an entire building at substantially the same time. Normally it will start with a check of any available archived records, followed by a thorough visual examination. Electrical tests would then be applied to various parts (circuits) that make up the entire installation using specialist equipment, in this respect, our experience has shown that over 90% of our clients prefer testing to be completed outside of normally working hours, which we can happily accommodate.

During testing, dangerous situations may be discovered which require immediate corrective attention. These would normally be communicated verbally and followed in writing to the person ordering the inspection, where corrective action should ideally precede any further testing; because of this, we often suggest a contingency is available which includes a level of pre-authorisation to rectify or make safe such situations during the test, especially where testing is completed outside of normal working hours and personnel who can authorise such repair work are unavailable.

What do you get?

If the electrical installation is safe and compliant you will receive a satisfactory report that details what has been tested; realistically for you, this would be peace of mind and the ability to confidently demonstrate compliance as required by law.

which, in respect of electrical safety, requires you to prove your innocence rather than your guilt should a claim be made against you. For your organisation, this includes a detailed report that includes any significant findings and a statement stating if the installation is satisfactory or unsatisfactory, whereby a 20+page report can be considered quite normal.

Electrical Testing - photo 4In all circumstances, the competence of the organisation carrying out the test or work should be confirmed, whereby www.electricalsafetyregister.com can be worthy starting point.

Should anything else be considered?

…. Apart from, how old is my electrical installation and do we have a current electrical safety certificate?

Where it is the intention to adapt or extend existing electrical installations, some improvements maybe required to accommodate the intended new works. Therefore, an electrical inspection can be advantageous when considering the cost and viability of any additional electrical works.

The content and links in this article are provided in good faith and is intended to provide a brief overview of testing. Readers are advised to seek independent professional advice if they are in doubt or feel any of the above is appropriate to them.

Please contact us if you require further guidance.

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