When it comes to fixed wire inspection and testing, you expect quality of service, along with value for money from a responsible electrical provider that has a proven track record. With so many companies available, how can you determine the quick-fixers from those providing a more detailed, quality service?

In this blog, we’ll explain what an electrical contractor should provide, and the type of service you should be receiving.

As a duty holder, you have a legal responsibility to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees to matters within your control. This means you have a duty to keep your electrical systems safe through correct design and installation, and by ensuring they are periodically inspected by competent persons.

A periodic inspection would reveal if any of your electrical circuits or equipment are overloaded, find any potential electric shock risks and fire hazards, identify any defective electrical work and highlight any lack of earthing and bonding. This covers anything electrical that would put an employee or your business at risk.

When choosing an electrical services provider to carry out the work, it’s important you determine that they are qualified in this area and have been accredited by an electrical professional body. This demonstrates that their engineers have the required skills, knowledge and experience to work safely, avoiding the dangers that electricity can create.

The electrical services provider should perform a site visit to assist you in developing the scope of work required for your business. At this stage, it is also important that you highlight any relevant procedures that must be in place to remain compliant within your organisation.

The following questions will help you to assess your approach to using an electrical services provider.

Questions

Is the provider an approved contractor? For example, are they members of the NICEIC, NAPIT or the ECA?

Check that the company is a registered member of an approved scheme. This will give you peace of mind that they have the experience to complete the work and gives you protection should anything go wrong.

Are the skilled persons qualified in electrical inspection and testing? Do they hold the City & Guilds 2391, 2395 or EAL 4338 qualifications?

These qualifications are required for any electrical inspection and test engineer. Don’t be afraid to ask for evidence of their qualifications – if they can’t provide them, this could be an early warning sign.

Are they qualified/experienced to work in your environment, i.e. commercial, industrial and hazardous areas?

Different environments require certain types of qualifications. Ask if the providers engineers have suitable experience in your environment.

Can the electrical services provider deliver evidence of their competence to carry out the required electrical work, specific to the area they will be working in? For example, an SPA qualification for those working in the food and drink industry or a CompEx qualification to work in Hazardous Areas (or equivalent).

Again, ask to see the relevant paperwork. If they can’t provide it, don’t commit to the work!

Why inspect and test?

Regulation 4 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, requires that: ‘As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent such danger.’ Where danger may exist, all systems should be constructed and maintained in a safe condition, and records of maintenance should be kept.

Further to this, the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 also requires that relevant information is available as an aid to safe use, inspection, testing and maintenance.

Electrical inspection and testing, is an essential part of any preventative maintenance programme and as recommended by Guidance Note 3, should be carried out every 1, 3 or 5 years depending on the type of installation.

If this is the first electrical fixed wire inspection of your site, or no previous records of inspection and testing exist, it is recommended that a full 100% inspection and test is given to meet legal requirements.

How much of the installation should be tested?

As a minimum, some inspection and testing companies will only carry out an earth fault loop impedance test, however there are additional tests that will confirm if the installation is safe for continued use. Your electrical services provider will work with you and advise which tests require completion. This will be based on their experience and knowledge of the installation type and the environment in which the installation is based.

If the site has evidence of previous inspections, such as installation records or previous inspection reports then a sample testing could be completed based on recommendations outlined in BS7671 and Guidance Note 3. However, any sample testing that is carried out is on the understanding that it must be representative of the whole electrical installation and must take into consideration its functionality and environment.

The suggested procedure for setting initial and adjusted sample sizes as outlined in Guidance Note 3 is as follows:

A sample testing procedure can be managed over a rolling programme, however, if this is advised then it’s important to know how it will be managed over different distribution samples taken each time. Remember, the samples must be representative of the complete installation.

Questions to ask the electrical services provider

What type of electrical test is being carried out?
If you have been recommended a rolling programme, how will it be structured? Are all circuits being tested in the rolling programme?
Are drawings being updated to reflect your programme? (To ensure the current drawing is always available).
How long after the onsite service is completed will our drawings be received and made available?
What percentage test am I receiving?

What documents should be provided?

The electrical system should have associated documentation that reflects its current state and covers any maintenance carried out. This includes clear, accurate and unambiguous labelling and circuit identification.

As described in the IET Code of Practice for Electrical Safety Management, key documentation includes:
• Electrical line diagrams and schematics
• Equipment wiring diagrams
• Equipment operation and maintenance instructions
• Electrical system as built, as commissioned, installation records and settings where relevant e.g. fault level studies, protective device settings
• Maintenance records and reports, e.g. Dangerous Electrical Condition notification

All electrical equipment should be identified and labelled appropriately, corresponding to the associated documentation.

Questions to consider

Are your electrical installations and equipment correctly identified and labelled with location and reference?
Are line diagrams provided? (Absolute Regulation 12 in the Electricity at Work Regulations for isolation purposes)

Reporting

At the end of the inspection, an Electrical Installation Condition Report should be provided, along with a schedule of inspection and schedule of test results. The report must record any observed damage, deterioration, defects, dangerous conditions and any non-compliances with current safety standards. Non-compliances are classified as follows:

• C1 – Danger Present. Risk of injury. Immediate remedial action required
• C2 – Potentially Dangerous. Urgent remedial action required
• C3 – Improvement required
• F1 – Further investigation required without delay

If a C1 or C2 is identified, the overall condition of the electrical installation will be declared to be ‘unsatisfactory’, meaning that remedial action is required without delay to remove the risks to those in the premises. Reported defects that receive a C1 classification must be notified to the duty holder, will need to be signed for by the client and must be resolved immediately.

Questions to ask the electrical services provider

What’s included in my Electrical Installation Condition Report?
How can I access any Code 1 notifications, and will a copy be made available?
How are my reports made available and how soon after the inspection and test can they be accessed?

Fixed Electrical Installation Inspection and Testing will support you in complying with industry regulations and will help to ensure the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees within your control.

Having an electrical services provider that you can trust should be an essential part of your maintenance programme. If an electrical contractor guarantees to test over 100 circuits per day, please be aware that when correctly following the standards of BS 7671, testing this amount of circuits would be an unachievable target. In line with industry regulations, a more realistic number would be 60 - 70 circuits depending on the environment. This gives the engineer time to suitably carry out the inspection and test and complete the relevant documentation safely.

When it comes to electrical installations, choosing quality over quantity is highly recommended and your service provider will work with you to provide a scope of work that fits your company.

At Centrica Business Solutions, we offer a broad range of inspection and testing services delivered by a technically trained support team and skilled personnel. We are committed to providing cost effective and innovative solutions to help keep your business safe and compliant. We offer our customers greater flexibility and provide a tailored programme to suit your business requirements, as no two sites are the same.

When you take one of our electrical inspection and testing services, you’ll get access to our valuable interactive client web portal. Here you will be able to see all your test records, network drawings and condition reports, with the benefit of a view of your overall electrical site compliance. The portal also allows you to download and print your records as and when required. Clients get their own personal login, allowing you to view a breakdown of sites (if applicable) and alert of any defects that have been identified and the remedial actions required.

Our dedicated team has been in operation for more than 20 years and has extensive knowledge and experience in electrical inspecting and testing solutions across a wide range of industries, as well as other core areas of electrical services.

To find out more, please give our friendly team a call on 0800 980 8150 or send us a message, and we’ll be happy to discuss how we can support your business in becoming compliant.

Download our 'What does your electrical services provider do for you?' brochure.