Periodic Inspection and Testing: What Are The Key Principles?

Periodic Inspection and Testing: What Are The Key Principles?

Stroma Certification sets out the principles for the periodic inspection and testing of electrical installations to enable contractors to verify standards and ensure statutory requirements are being complied with.

All electrical installations will require inspection and testing at periodic intervals as they will deteriorate with age, use, possible damage and any additions or alterations by non-competent persons.

Chapter 62 of BS 7671 sets out the requirements for periodic inspection and testing. Appendix 6 provides model Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) forms together with schedules of inspection forms and generic schedule of test results forms for recording the outcomes of the inspections and tests. The IET Guidance Note 3 provides additional detailed guidance on periodic inspection and testing.

The objective of the inspection and testing process is set out in Regulation 621.1:

“To determine, so far as reasonably practicable, whether the installation is in a satisfactory condition for continued service”.

For this reason, the outcome of the inspection and testing will be recorded on the EICR as either “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory”.

Ensuring electrical safety

It is very important to note that Regulation 621.2 requires the installation to have a “detailed examination” and that examination is to be “supplemented by appropriate tests”. It is essential for persons engaged in inspection and testing to understand that the inspection is more important than the testing.

Testing is an ancillary activity to inspection, rather than the converse. When carrying out the inspection and test, the inspector should compare the installation for conformity with the current edition of BS 7671 and record any identified non-compliances.

It is often stated that the Wiring Regulations are not retrospective. Whilst this is true, it cannot be concluded that because something was acceptable in a previous edition of the Wiring Regulations it must be safe. For example, until 1966 it was acceptable to use a public water pipe as a means of earthing and Class I light fittings not to be earthed. That is not the case now and these should now be recorded as non-compliances.

Competent persons

Questions often arise concerning the competence of persons carrying out inspection and testing. Sadly, less than scrupulous contractors will knowingly send out non-competent persons, such as apprentices, friends and inexperienced electricians, to carry out inspection and testing. Regulation 16 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 requires persons carrying out electrical work to be competent. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also provides guidance on these regulations regarding technical knowledge and experience of working on particular systems.

Regulation 621.5 of BS 7671 requires: “Periodic inspection and testing shall be undertaken by a skilled person or persons, competent in such work”. BS 7671 defines a skilled person (electrically) as a “person who possesses, as appropriate to the nature of work being undertaken, adequate education, training and practical skills, and who is able to perceive risks and avoid hazards which electricity can create”.

To demonstrate competence, inspectors will need to have a high level of experience and knowledge of the type of installation to be inspected. They will also further demonstrate that they have undergone training and education in inspection and testing with evidence of qualification(s) from a recognised examining body.

The inspector will need to have a sound working knowledge of the current edition of BS 7671 and it is essential they possess a current edition, or have access to it, for reference purposes. Additionally, access to a current edition of IET Guidance Note 3 would be advantageous. For work on large and complex installations, access to other British Standards, IET Guidance Notes (such as Guidance Note 8: Earthing and Bonding), manufacturer’s data sheets and other information may be required.

Compliant equipment

The inspector will need to have an approved voltage tester and a lock off kit with a range of lock off devices and locks to be able to safely isolate the range of isolators, switches and circuit breakers likely to be encountered on the installation to be tested. For some clients the inspector may be required to provide a Risk Assessment and Method Statement (RAMS) for the inspection and testing work and for the RAMS to be site specific. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) may be required as specified in the RAMS or if required by the client for compliance with their own policy standards.

The inspector will require a range of test equipment to enable test results to be obtained. For domestic and the testing of smaller installations, a multi-function installation tester will be sufficient. For larger and more complex installations, other test equipment will be required. Installation test equipment should comply with the relevant BS EN 61557 standard, be in good condition and be formally calibrated. Good quality test leads, probes and crocodile clips complying with the guidance in HSE GS38 that are in good condition are essential for personal safety.

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