Safe Use of Portable Electric Equipment Training Resource

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Using Electrically Powered Equipment

You should make sure any electrical equipment you are using for work is safe. Before using any equipment, you should:

  • Assess the equipment and task to identify hazards, risks and control measures you should put in place.
  • Check the equipment is suitable for the work and the way in which it is going to be used.
  • Check the equipment is in good condition for use.
  • Check the equipment is suitable for the electrical supply.
  • Check the supply is safe for use.
  • Consider using a Residual Current Device (RCD) between the electrical supply and the equipment.
  • Ensure you are trained to use it safely and can keep others safe.
  • Ensure you know which PPE to wear, how to use it, and make sure that you do.

Check the Equipment is Suitable

  • The equipment should be physically capable of doing the job.
  • It should be designed and constructed so that mechanical and electrical stresses do not cause it to become unsafe.
  • If the environment is damp you may choose to use battery or air powered equipment, or equipment that operates at a reduced voltage such as that supplied by a transformer.
  • If the environment is conductive with restricted movement (e.g., inside a metal tank) additional precautions will be necessary.
  • If there is an explosive atmosphere (flammable aerosols, vapours, gases or dusts) nearby you should ensure the work can be carried out safely and the right equipment is chosen.

Check the Equipment is in Good Condition

To identify faults, complete a visual inspection using the following steps:

  • Switch off and unplug the equipment before you start any checks.
  • Check the plug is correctly wired (but only if you are competent to do so).
  • Ensure the fuse is correctly rated by checking the rating plate or instruction book.
  • Check the plug is not damaged and the cable is properly secured with no wires visible.
  • Check the cable is not damaged and has not been repaired with insulating tape or an unsuitable connector. Damaged cables should only be replaced by a competent person.
  • Check the outer cover of the equipment is not damaged in a way that will give rise to electrical or mechanical hazards.
  • Check for burn marks or staining that suggests the equipment is overheating.
  • Position any trailing wires so they are not a trip hazard and are less likely to get damaged.

If you are concerned about the safety of the equipment you should stop it from being used and ask a competent person to undertake a more thorough check.

Check the Equipment is Suitable for the Electrical Supply

Make sure the equipment you are intending to use is suitable for the electrical supply to which you are connecting.

  • Check the voltage is correct.
  • Check the supply can deliver the current required.
  • The power requirements of the equipment will be shown on its rating plate.

Check the Electrical Supply is Safe to Use

You should be sure that the electrical supply is safe to use.

  • Regular tests should be performed by a competent person.
  • Use of suitable equipment will reduce risks.
  • Where there is evidence that the supply may not be safe, such as damaged equipment or wiring, the supply should not be used until work has been done to correct this.
  • User checks can be carried out on electrical socket outlets using an electrical socket tester, but it is essential that the correct type of tester is used.

If any doubt remains regarding the safety of the electrical supply, a competent person should be consulted.

Use a Residual Current Device (RCD)

A Residual Current Device (RCD) can reduce the likelihood of an electrical injury but a shock can still cause very serious or fatal injuries.

  • An RCD should only be used as a secondary means of reducing risks.
  • RCDs are not designed to prevent ignition within an explosive atmosphere.
  • The best place for an RCD is to be built into the main switchboard. This means the electrical supply is permanently protected.
  • If this is not possible, an electrical socket outlet incorporating an RCD, or a plug in RCD adaptor, can also provide additional safety.
  • If an electrical socket outlet incorporating an RCD, or a plug in RCD adaptor is used it should be tested, by the user, prior to use by operating the Test Button.
  • Faulty RCDs should not be used and either removed for use or labelled as faulty.
  • An RCD detects some, but not all faults in the electrical system.
  • An RCD should have a tripping current of not more than 30 milliamps (mA). RCDs with a higher tripping current are used to protect against fire.

Never bypass an RCD. If it trips, it is a sign there is a fault. Check the system before using it again. If it trips frequently and no fault can be found in the system, consult the manufacturer. It has a test button to check that its mechanism is free and functioning. Use this regularly.

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