The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 place duties on employers, employees and the self-employed to conduct electrical work safely and minimise foreseeable risks. The legislation expands the rules set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, with the most common method of compliance being PAT testing.

In this blog, we will explain how duty holders and employees must comply with the regulations, before outlining the PAT test process.

How to meet Electricity at Work regulations

Duty holders must ensure that all electrical systems are optimised to prevent danger and adhere to the government-approved 5-year fixed installation inspection. Duty holders must also ensure that electrical equipment used in hazardous areas is protected against extreme temperatures, weather, and corrosive conditions.

Employees who use electrical equipment must have sufficient knowledge of the equipment they operate, which is usually gained through training. Where appropriate, employees should be supervised to ascertain their skill level before they conduct extensive work with electrical equipment. They should also wear appropriate PPE to minimise the risk of electrocution.

Electricity at Work compliant PPE

Electrical hazard (EH) rated safety boots

Electrical hazard (EH) rated safety boots are isolating footwear made from non-conductive materials, protecting against electric shocks. They work by stopping an electrical current from being grounded. 

Rubber insulating gloves

Insulating gloves protect against electrocution when working on or near live cables. They are classified by voltage level they protect against.

Leather protector gloves

Worn over rubber insulating gloves to offer further protection against cuts, punctures and abrasions. When selecting a leather protector glove, make sure that it is the same size as the rubber insulating glove.

What do electricians need to know?

Systems and protective equipment 

All systems must be constructed and optimised to reduce the risk of injuries via electrical equipment. Where appropriate, PPE must be supplied and maintained.

Hazardous environments

Electrical equipment used in hazardous areas, such as corrosive conditions, must be physically protected and clearly signposted.

Insulation and conductors

All conductors must be insulated and fully protected to minimise risk. The conductors themselves should be strategically placed and include warning signs.

Working on or near live conductors

No-one should work on or near live conductors unless absolutely necessary. In the rare cases that employees work on or near live conductors, PPE must be worn at all times.

Earthing and other conductor precautions

Any conductor that may become charged due to a system fault must be earthed or suitably protected via another method. Examples of alternative methods include double insulation, isolated systems and equipotential bonding.

Protection against excess current 

While the regulations recognise that system faults can occur, measures must be applied to prevent short circuits and electrical overloads.

Simple means for cutting off electricity 

There should be a simple, accessible way to cut the current in an emergency. Examples include circuit breakers, manual operation, and stop buttons.  

Well-lit working space

Sufficient space, access and lighting must be available where work is being done on electrical equipment.

Qualified personnel

Employers must ensure that persons working on electrical systems are qualified to do so. If employees fail to meet the required standard, full training should be provided.


Every joint and connection in a system must be electrically and mechanically suitable. Their suitability can be determined by conducting a PAT test (see below).

Precautions for work on dead electrical equipment

Precautions must be taken to prevent dead electrical equipment becoming charged during maintenance. Precautions include the provision of insulated equipment, unauthorised access signs, and keeping areas free from trip hazards.

What is PAT Testing?

Portable appliance testing (PAT) is the process in which electrical appliances are checked for safety. The process covers electrical equipment that can be moved – for example, computers, printers, and kettles.  PAT testing should be undertaken regularly – usually annually – by a specialist electrical contractor. The contractor will place a small green sticker on approved appliances, which will include a date of when the next inspection is due.

What does PAT testing involve?

PAT testing consists of three stages:

Visual inspection – checking appliances for damage and determining whether they are positioned correctly.

Earth continuity test – checking connections between the plug and the device.

Insulation test – checking the cables for faults.

Why do the Electricity at Work Regulations exist?

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 are enforced to prevent injuries caused by electrical equipment, such as electric shocks, burns, fires, or explosions. While the regulations are intended for regulatory measures, they can also make workplaces more efficient.

Where do the Electricity at Work Regulations apply?

The regulations apply to all employers, employees and the self-employed in workplaces where there are potential electrical risks.

Disclaimer: The information provided through Greenham Pulse is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Greenham Pulse is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.