What Is Fixed Wire Testing And An Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)
There are a number of pieces of health and safety legislation in place that oblige the owners of commercial or public properties to regularly inspect, test and maintain their electrical appliances in order to minimise danger to employees and members of the public. Examples of such legislation include the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations.
Fixed wire testing is an important part of a company’s obligatory maintenance and testing of its buildings wiring and circuitry. It involves the inspection of all of the building’s hard wiring along with any systems that conduct electricity.
Here are five FAQs employers have on.
1. How regularly must Fixed Wire Testing be carried out?
The Electricity at Work Regulations do not specify time periods for fixed wire testing, although the Institute of Electrical Engineers (IEE) have issued guidance on how frequently businesses should have their premises inspected and tested.
Their recommendations can be summarised as follows:
- Domestic and residential properties – 10 years
- Commercial properties – 5 years
- Agricultural establishments – 3 years
- Industrial sites – 3 years
- Petrol stations – 1 year
- Construction sites – 3 months
Following these guidelines minimises the risk of fire and electrocution on site but also protects a company in the event of an electrical accident.
2. How extensive must the testing be?
Every electrical circuit within a distribution board must be tested, along with any other systems that conduct electricity around the premises. The IEE guidance recommend that a full inspection must be taken unless a complete set of records are held for the site’s electrical inspections, the circuitry is in excellent condition, there have been no undocumented alterations to the circuitry and a sample test shows no faults. If these criteria are met, a sample of 20% of the accessories on each circuit can be taken.
Note, some contractors offer lower prices a lower sampling rate whilst claiming it to be sufficient. This is not the case; employers risk non-compliance with the aforementioned health and safety legislation should they fail to carry out adequate fixed wire testing.
3. Who can carry out Fixed Wire Testing?
The Electricity at Work Regulations stipulates that a competent person, familiar with the wiring and systems involved carry out the inspections. In some cases, companies use their in-house staff although this can be insufficient and costly.
Contracting a fully qualified electrical engineer ensures the inspector is up to date with the very latest regulation. Moreover, it means a member of staff is not pulled off their regular day to day duties to conduct the inspection and attend to faults or breakdowns.
4. Should Fixed Wire Testing be documented?
Comprehensive documentation of fixed wire testing is essential for a company. Not only does it prove the company is abiding by the relevant health and safety legislation, it is often required by insurance companies. Reports should be kept indefinitely and made available to engineers carrying out future fixed wire tests.
The report should include details of the inspection, including the limitations of testing that was carried out. A complete list of the circuits, accessories and systems that were inspected should be included along with a list of observations and recommended actions. The electrical engineer should then sign off the report before it is acted upon and filed.
The National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC) provides a widely used template for the recording of fixed wire testing.
5. What if the testing disrupts business operations?
By employing a professional fixed wire testing company, a business can hope to minimise disruption to their operations. Such companies specialise in carrying out these inspections with minimal disruption. Disruption can also be minimised by carrying out the testing outside of business hours. Companies that operate around the clock, however, may find that small disruptions are inevitable.
As fixed wire testing is so important in ensuring health and safety legislation is not breached and that insurance policies are met, disruption may be a necessary evil in some cases.
In summary, to meet a number of health and safety legislations, fixed wire testing should be carried out periodically by a competent, qualified engineer. By employing a specialist fixed wire company, businesses can minimise the disruption such testing causes whilst ensuring they comply with the relevant legislation.
What Is An EICR?
An Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) is a comprehensive report of the condition of a building’s electrical installations. The report details any safety issues, any defects or deterioration in components or circuitry and any shortcomings from the latest electrical regulations.
An EICR should be carried out periodically by a qualified electrical engineer or electrician. Your firm should employ engineers with accreditation from industry recognised associations such as the NICEIC, CHAS and City and Guilds. The engineer should be familiar with the type of installation being tested and have experience of using the testing equipment.
In performing an EICR, the electrician will almost always have to isolate your company’s electrical systems for a period of time. Depending on the size of your premises, disruption could last from between a few hours and several days. The power must be disconnected for safety reasons as well as the adequate testing of the relevant circuits. Where possible, this should be done outside of normal business hours as it is otherwise likely to cause disruption to your business operations.
An EICR must be carried out at regular intervals, depending on the nature of your business operations. Privately owned domestic properties may not require EICRs by law, although it is advisable to carry out electrical inspections at least every ten years. Commercial properties should be tested every five years, whilst industrial premises should have an EICR carried out every 3 years. Some industries, such as the construction industry, must have inspections carried out on a more regular basis.
An EICR can be split into three parts: a visual inspection; a dead inspection and a live inspection.
The visual inspection compromises of a survey of all visible installations by the engineer. Obvious defects such as visibly frayed cables, cracks and heat defects can be picked up before any electrical testing takes place.
Following the visual inspection, the engineer will carry out a number of dead tests including polarity tests, tests of insulation resistance and continuity tests. These earth arrangements will also be tested to ensure they comply with the relevant legislation. The dead tests are in place to detect any faults in the installation, circuitry and components.
Finally, the engineer will carry out live tests on the electrical systems including fault loop impedance testing and RCD testing. These tests ensure that should a fault occur the system reacts in a way to prevent serious damage to the components, fire or electrocution.
The actual report will detail the installations and components tested along with recommendations for further investigation or action. There are three codes used, along with a description of any faults, to determine whether a system will pass as ‘Satisfactory’ or be deemed ‘Unsatisfactory’. Any concern or observation made during the testing is given a code.
C3: ‘Improvement Recommended’ – the concern requires addressing and, whilst there is a non-compliance with current regulations, the component or concern may comply with old regulations. An improvement is necessary although not imminently required.
C2: ‘Potentially Dangerous Condition’ – remedial action should be taken immediately to prevent this potential source of danger being realised. Whilst there is no immediate danger, the concern could develop into a serious risk if a fault or defect occurred in the near future.
C1: ‘Danger Present’ – there is a real and immediate danger to anyone using the installation and remedial action needs to be taken as a matter of urgency. Failure to take immediate action could result in fire or the electrocution of anyone using the installation. The engineer running the test should isolate the installation and take action to remove the danger before completing any further testing or reports.
The engineer can also flag up other concerns he or she has about a system or electrical installation, without giving them a classification code. The absence of a smoke alarm or fire detection system, a lack of emergency lighting or the storage of combustible materials in close proximity of an electrical installation may all fall under this category.
Finally, the report will contain a summary of the entire installation. The summary should detail the extent of any damage to the system, along with any wear and tear, in addition to the condition and type of wiring system in place. There should be a description of the earthing in place and its suitability, a summary of the serviceability of the installation and recommendations on how any changes in the system’s use have led to deficiencies in the installation. The summary should also entail any recommendations for action or further investigation.