The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EWR)

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These regulations, in particular, are very relevant to the inspection and testing of in-service electrical equipment.

They state that, 'As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger' and provides that electrical equipment shall be 'maintained in a condition suitable for that use'. (i.e. pat testing)


It can be seen that these regulations place a duty upon employers and owners to ensure that all electrical systems and equipment are regularly inspected and (if need be) repaired to ensure that they are safe to use.

There are two important definitions in the EWR: the electrical system and the duty holder.

 Electrical system:
This is anything that generates, stores, transmits or uses electrical energy, from a power station to a wrist-watch battery. The latter would not give a person an electric shock, but could explode if heated, giving rise to possible injury from burns.

Duty holder:
This is anyone (employer, employee, self-employed person etc.) who has 'control' of an electrical system. Control in this sense means designing, installing, working with or maintaining such systems. Duty holders have a legal responsibility to ensure their own safety and the safety of others whilst in control of an electrical system. The EWR do not specifically mention portable appliance testing and inspection; they simply require electrical systems to be 'maintained' in a condition so as not to cause danger. However, the only way we know if a system needs to be maintained is if it is inspected and tested, and so the need for such inspection and testing of a system is implicit in the requirement for it to be maintained. Anyone who inspects and tests and electrical system is, in law, a duty holder and must be competent to undertake such work.

Prosecutions Offences committed under The Electricity at Work Regulation 1989 may be liable for : �20,000 fine for each offence in Magistrates' Court and unlimited fines/prison sentences in Crown Court.

Download The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (PDF)

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