The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989

Introduction
The ratio of fatalities to injuries is higher for electrical accidents than for most other categories of injury – if an electrical accident occurs, the chances of a fatality are about one in 30 to 40. Despite the beliefs of some, the human body does not develop tolerance to electric shock.

The consequences of contact with electricity are: electric shock, where the injury results from the flow of electricity through the body's nerves, muscles and organs and causes abnormal functions to occur (the heart stops, for example); electrical burns resulting from the heating effect of the current which burns body tissue; and electrical fires caused by overheating or arcing apparatus in contact with a fuel.

Objective of the Regulations

The Regulations introduce a control framework incorporating fundamental principles of electrical safety, applying to a wide range of plant, systems and work activities. They apply to all places of work, and electrical systems at all voltages.

Causes of Electrical Failures

Failures and interuptions of electrical supply are most commonly caused by:

  • damaged insulation
  • inadequate systems of work
  • inadequate overcurrent protection (fuses, circuit breakers)
  • inadequate earthing
  • carelessness and complacency
  • overheeated apparatus
  • earth leakage
  • loose contacts and connectors
  • inadequate ratings of circuit components
  • unprotected connectors
  • poor maintenance and testing

How the Objectives are met by the Regulations

The Regulations generally consist of requirements, which have a regard to principles of use and practice, rather than identifying particular circumstances and conditions. Action is required to prevent danger and injury from electricity in all its forms. The Electricity at Work Regulations refer to:

  1. construction and maintenance of electrical equipment
  2. provision of protective equipment
  3. carrying out work activities near electrical systems
  4. putting electrical equipment into use
  5. precaustions required in relation to conductors
  6. protection of electrical equipment
  7. restrictions on personnel to carry out electrical work
  8. protection from excess current
  9. switching off and effective isolation of current
  10. restriction of work on 'live' conductors
  11. provision of adequate space, access and lighting
  12. suitability of connections

The Regulations are supported by an Approved Code of Practice for General Installations and Mines and the H&S Executive Guidance "Electrical Safety at Quarries". 

There are specific inspection and test requirements for electrical installations in the ACOP and Guidance, but in the main the test requirements follow BS7671 (The IEE Regulations) with some additions for specific installations in Mines and Quarries.