Electrical safety in the office: is your business compliant?

Whatever business you run, you have a responsibility to make sure that everything in it is safe. Those who work in an office-based environment can often fall into the trap of thinking that there is not much to worry about, but electrical safety should be of paramount importance.

Electrical equipment can be extremely dangerous, so there are a number of legal obligations in place to make sure all of the electrical equipment in your office is working correctly. So, do you know whether your office is compliant?

Legal requirements for electrical safety

Almost every business uses some electrical appliances, and the law covers everything from your computers to your kettle. The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 outline how electricity should be used in the workplace and how to make sure that your electrical equipment is safe to use.

This places a duty of care firmly on the shoulders of the employer, but also shows that some degree of responsibility must be taken by people such as employees and contractors.

The Regulations state that employers must ensure that all electrical systems have been made and installed in a way that prevents danger. They must also ensure that employees do not do anything that might cause danger when operating anything electrical.

The Regulations also make it clear that employers must make sure that the equipment that they provide to protect people from electrical hazards is fully maintained and used as it should be. Employers also have a responsibility to make sure that the capability of any electrical equipment is not exceeded.

As part of the Regulations, all employers have a legal duty to make sure that any portable electrical equipment is in a safe condition. This is considered to be anything which has a cable and a plug and which can be disconnected from its power supply and moved, rather than anything that is hard-wired into the wall.

This might include computers, printers, lamps, fans, phone chargers, microwaves, and fridges, to name just a few examples. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that this is done through Portable Appliance Testing (ie PAT Testing).

PAT Testing

Portable Appliance Testing checks the safety of electrical appliances, for example, those in an office. PAT testing helps employers to make sure that they are meeting their legal obligations where electrical safety is concerned. 

During a PAT test, a qualified person will carry out a visual inspection of all of your electrical appliances, including things such as the plug and lead. Any equipment that relies on the presence of an earth conductor (ie a Class 1 appliance) will have test signals injected into the cable and the appliance to ensure that it is safe.

Once your PAT testing is complete, you will receive a full report of what has been done. This will include a full inventory of the appliances, including their locations and descriptions and a full set of test results for each item. There will also be a full list of any items that have failed and an explanation as to why this has happened. A pass or fail label will also be attached to each item with details of when the next inspection is due and the signature of the inspector.

Keeping your workplace safe is not only a legal obligation but also one of the most important things that you can do. The process of PAT Testing is an easy and effective way to make sure that any electrical equipment that you use is as safe as possible and that your business is compliant with health and safety laws.


For more information about workplace health and safety compliance, read Health and safety. If you’re an employer, consider creating a written Health and safety policy to help your organisation comply with stringent health and safety regulations.