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Faults in the electrical wiring systems of properties account for the majority of building fires. Electrical installations are the cause of around 1,000 accidents every year and 30 of these are fatal.
As a property owner you are responsible for the overall safety of the electrical installations at your premises (e.g. fixed wiring). There is a need to manage the risks associated with both the fixed wiring and the use of portable electrical appliances.
Fixed wiring should be subject to inspection and testing by a competent person at least every 5 years, and more frequently if the conditions are extreme (e.g. if the wiring is subject to extremes of heat or humidity or the risk of physical damage is great). The two most common faults associated with the fixed wiring are:
Electrical insulation protects the wire of cables and can fail for a variety of reasons. Modern wiring is insulated with durable PVC, but older rubber cables can become brittle with age and lead to insulation breakdown resulting in short circuits and fires.
Insulation failure can lead to short circuits and in turn in fires or result in metal surfaces, which are not adequately earthed, becoming "live" which presents the potential for fatal electric shock.
Damage can also be caused by vermin such as mice or rats who chew the insulation.
Overheating occurs when installations are overloaded (e.g. the use of multi-adaptors or multi-socket extension leads).These can be used safely to connect several low power items, but they do facilitate overloading.
If too many appliances are connected to an electrical circuit, excessive heat will be generated in the copper conductors. Excessive heat can lead to a breakdown of the insulation and a short circuit.
Portable appliances, together with extension cables, present a much greater risk of electric shock than of fire. Portable appliances should be subject to routine inspection e.g. daily checks by the user and less frequent inspection and testing by a competent person.
The extent of inspection and testing required will depend upon the equipment and its use. A drill used in a factory or on a construction site will need more frequent inspections than static equipment such as photocopiers and computers.
There is clear guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on inspection programmes for portable appliances.
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.
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