ASK AN EXPERT
Electrical engineer Malcolm Clark is managing director of Derbyshire-based Multicare –- a company providing an electrical testing, inspection and repair service for the hair, beauty, fitness and spa professions, so helping them to become electrically compliant.
Here, he answers some of the more common concerns on the safety of electrical equipment and the necessary rules and regulations.
"No matter where you work, under the law, therapists and their employers have a number of health and safety responsibilities - especially where electrical equipment is concerned.
"Neglecting your duty-of-care not only puts you, your staff, and clients in possible danger, it may jeopardise your insurance cover. So it is essential all salon equipment is tested and serviced annually. In return, you should receive an electrical compliance certificate for insurance purposes; extended warranties; and effective and safe treatments. But, most of all, peace of mind - priceless!"
What is PAT testing and why do I need to have it done?
PAT is the abbreviation for Portable Appliance Testing -- an electrical device that tests appliances and equipment for electrical safety. There are three stages to PAT testing:
- The first test checks the appliance is securely earthed inside the equipment, mains plug and cable -- known as earth continuity. If earthed correctly, in the event of a fault (or an accident), electricity will be taken safely away from the equipment, which in-turn will trip a safety device (RCD) in the electrical consumer unit. If not, then you (or someone else) may receive an electrical shock as the equipment may become live.
- The second test sequence checks the electrical insulation of the appliance. A fault can often occur inside equipment (such as vaporisers and appliances like kettles), where the heater element deteriorates and a short can occur between the conductors. This may result in the electrical supply tripping in the electrical consumer unit.
- The third test sequence measures the load or consumption of the appliance, indicating any possible fault/s. Faulty equipment may take more or less current than it was designed to do.
There are limitations to PAT testing: it can be compared with a car MOT -- the basic safety of the car is checked, but it is not serviced, with parts replaced that are worn or dangerous. So, it is important to have your equipment serviced annually to ensure it runs at its peak performance and any faulty components, leads, circuitry, etc. are replaced.
I have been notified of a forthcoming visit from my local health inspector. What documentation do I need to provide?
You will be asked for a PAT Certificate for general electrical equipment -- such as kettles, microwaves, or washing machines -– a mandatory requirement.
However, you may also be asked for evidence your equipment has been regularly serviced and maintained (a requirement of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1992). This should be done annually. You will be issued with all the necessary paperwork and certificates which can then be produced on request. It is also worth contacting your insurance company to establish its position on service and maintenance as it may be a requirement of your policy.
My insurance company have requested a Periodic Electrical Test Inspection certificate for my salon -- will my landlord provide this?
The subject of electrical testing on buildings is a complex one. However, the following explanation may help.
A Periodic Test Inspection will be required for a number of reasons:
- Change of use of a building (this only applies if you are opening a new salon/spa and are converting the premises into a salon/spa).
- New tenancy agreement. An inspection certificate should also be issued by the landlord for each change of tenancy.
- The electrical installation within a building should be inspected at regular intervals -– this is set by the IEE (Institute of Electrical Engineers). In the case of a salon/spa that has open access to the public, it should be tested every five years. However, a routine check should be carried-out every year.
- A landlord is required to provide a tenant with an electrical installation in good condition and repair. The landlord should maintain the installation in a good condition suitable for the use intended, and ensure repairs are undertaken by a competent person. A tenant has a duty to ensure those parts of the installation that are his or her responsibility are maintained in a safe condition, and ensure repairs are carried out only by a competent person.
- There are other cases where a test certificate may be required. These are for alteration, addition or repair to existing circuits within your salon/spa. For example, if you purchase a new stand-up tanning booth, then a new circuit to cope with the load will generally be installed. This is considered a new installation and requires an installation certificate. Likewise, any addition to a circuit -- extra sockets and lighting for example -- will require a minor works certificate.
Provided electrical work is completed by a competent electrician, registered with regulatory bodies such as the NICEIC (tel: 01582 531000) and ECA (tel: 020 7313 4800), then all the above will be provided and you need not worry about compliance.
Clients complain that during EMS (electrode muscle stimulator) treatments the current surges suddenly. Why is this -- and is it safe?
This is a common problem with a number of possible causes: the leads or pads could be damaged or broken (this can occur in the plugs or cable and so is not visible to the naked eye); the conductive pads are of high resistance (pads have a shelf life of around two years and will deteriorate over time). These must be replaced periodically for treatments to work effectively -- this applies to all electrodes; or one of the output controls or sockets may be damaged. To test the output of equipment requires specialist test equipment and knowledge -– PAT testing will not do this. Equipment should be tested and calibrated, preferably on-site to avoid disruption to your business.
Clients have commented during a diathermy treatment that sometimes they cannot feel the current. Could my machine be faulty?
If you suspect a piece of equipment is malfunctioning, then you should have it tested immediately. Diathermy units are prone to developing faults as the heat in the needle is produced by high-frequency circuits and these often need tuning, particularly if the equipment is knocked or moved around a lot. These should be recalibrated periodically -- annually is recommended.
The needle holder is a delicate instrument and subject to damage through wear-and-tear. Most needle-holders use silver or brass contacts and these tend to oxidise over a short period of time. This can cause an intermittent electrical connection between the needle-holder and the needle.
Another possible cause could be the needle-holder cable which is prone to damage as it flexes or is wrapped around the electrodes. The internal conductors (made from strands of copper) can break internally and lose continuity -- this sort of damage is often not visible.
The mechanical timer on my sunbed has stopped working. Should I have this repaired, or can I time the sessions myself?
Mechanical sunbed timers will deteriorate over time -- the components become worn and are often affected by environmental influences, such as heat, dust, cleaning materials, and body fluids. You must not time the sessions yourself as the timer not only times the session, but more importantly, switches-off the bed by isolating the mains -- this prevents any risk of burning your client. You have a duty-of-care to your staff and clients (Health & Safety Act 1974 - sections 2, 3 & 4), so the sunbed must be taken out of use until the timer is replaced. An electrician can undertake this for you.
The equipment in my salon is approximately three years old and appears to work perfectly. Why should I have it serviced and maintained?
The answer lies in ‘appears to work perfectly’ -- it is sometimes difficult to know whether your salon equipment is working correctly or safely. For example, a micro-current unit produces a very small current, so low, it is almost undetectable to you or your client. This makes it almost impossible to know whether the machine is working or not. What makes it more confusing is equipment often appears to be working because the panel lights illuminate and the unit appears to do everything it should do. However, the unit may not be producing any output, or it may be producing an unsafe output.
Many faults can be traced back to the accessories (electrodes, pads, leads, rollers, etc) which are susceptible to damage. However, faults often occur in the equipment and the only way to be 100% certain it is operating safely is to have a competent engineer check it out with the appropriate test equipment.
Multicare: 01663 734151
THE INSTITUTION OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS (IEE) INSPECTION & TESTING OF ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT
The Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) has prepared a code of practice that explains the inspections and tests necessary to ensure electrical equipment is maintained properly so as to prevent danger. In cases of any doubt, seek legal advice.
Legislation relevant to electrical maintenance: Health and Safety at Work Act; Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations; Electricity at Work Regulations; and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations.
Health & Safety At Work Act 1974 (section 2, 3 and 4) puts a duty of care upon both employers and employee to ensure the safety of all persons using the work premises.
The Management of Health & Safety At Work Regulations 1992 state:
“Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of:
(a) The risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed while they are at work, and
(b) The risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him pf his undertaking”. [Regulation 3(1)]
The Provision of Work Equipment Regulations 1992 state:
“Every employer shall ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adapted as to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided”. [Regulation 5(1)]
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 state:
“As it may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as it is reasonably practicable, such danger”. [Regulation 4(1)]
“‘System’ means an electrical system in which all the electrical equipment is, or may be, electrically connected to a common source of electrical energy and includes such source and such equipment”.
Under the provisions of the above regulations there is legal obligation, upon those whom the Act deems responsible, to ensure that all-electrical equipment is regularly checked for operational safety. Electrical, electronic and mechanical equipment in your establishment is required to be properly maintained and recorded in accordance with the above acts.
EQUIPMENT REQUIRED TO BE TESTED AND INSPECTED
- Portable appliances
- Movable equipment
- Hand-held appliances or equipment
- Stationary equipment
- Fixed equipment
- Appliances/equipment for buildings
- Information technology equipment (business equipment)
- Extension leads
TESTS REQUIRED BY THE REGULATIONS
- Electrical and mechanical safety
- Earth continuity
- Isolation from mains power sources
- Control systems and devices
- Correct fusing
- Intermittent faults
- Connection of plugs, leads and electrodes
- Calibration - where equipment produces an output the regulations requires this is serviced
and calibrated in accordance with the manufacturers’ original specification.