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How to avoid an electrical storm

Making sparks fly can be a good thing – if we’re referring to a particularly robust sermon. However, when it comes to electrical wiring and equipment, flying sparks are the last thing a church needs, particularly when faulty electrics are one of the prime causes of fires. In addition, there is a legal duty to ensure that wiring and portable electrical equipment are safe.
To help you chart a course through these regulations, the team at Baptist Insurance has provided this guide.

Types of electrical items

Electrical items fall into two camps. The first is electrical installation ­– this is wiring, switching gear, fuse boxes, lighting and possibly heating; the second is portable electrical appliances, which is essentially anything with a plug such as a kettle, microwave, vacuum cleaner or electric radiator. All electrical Electrical1equipment will fall into one category or the other.
1 Electrical Installation

The table below shows you how frequently different elements of your church’s and your residence’s electrical installation need to be tested and checked.

For more detailed information, read Regulations for Electrical Wiring BS 7671:2008 (2011) Guidance Note No 3 (Inspection and Testing), which is available from the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

Although it’s not compulsory reading, the recommendations in this document should form the basis of your electrical safety regime.
  Routine checks Maximum period between inspection and testing*
Churches (inc. halls etc) Anually 5 years
Where there is a public entertainment's licence Anually 3 years
Fire alarms Weekly 1 year

FormElectrical3al inspection and testing must be carried out by a suitably qualified electrician; in the case of fire alarms that means a qualified fire alarm engineer. Only employ an electrical contractor with full scope registration or membership to work on commercial installations with the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC), The Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) or The National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT). A contractor registered to undertake work on domestic installations under Part P of the Building Regulations is only acceptable for domestic or residential properties, so not your church or church hall.
Routine checks can be carried out by someone who understands the electrical system, but is not necessarily electrically skilled. Notes about routine checks should be included in your church’s log-book.
After the test, an electrical installation and conditioning report must be issued by the contractor. The form required is the Periodic Inspection Report for an Electrical Installation. This certificate and any other documents must be kept with your logbook.
2. Portable Electrical Appliances

The regulations divide portable electrical appliances into two classes. Class I items include kettles and fires, which are not double insulated within a protective case; Class II items are double insulated – a radio or DVD player, for example. The main difference as far as testing is concerned is that Class I appliances require an earth continuity/bonding test; Class II items do not.
Legislative requirements
Various laws cover portable electrical appliances. Taken together, these require churches to inspect and test equipment in order to prevent danger and to maintain it in efficient working order and good repair.
Inspection and testing
According to Baptist Insurance’s property consultant David Parkinson, churches should take a ‘risk-based approach’ to testing. He explains: “The Electrical2regulations don’t specify a particular timescale for testing portable electrical equipment, although the Health and Safety Executive suggests that low-risk items like those in churches should be tested every six months to five years – a fairly broad range. That’s why Baptist Insurance recommends annual tests.”
Annual testing is not the only requirement, though: “Church employees or volunteers should check electrical equipment visually each time they use it,” David adds. “What that means is looking for things like frayed wires, scorch marks, broken plugs or plug sockets.”
A church can test its own electrical equipment as long as the task is carried out by someone competent. In the case of portable electrical appliances, that means someone with a City and Guilds 2377 certificate in portable appliance testing. If no one within the church has this qualification, then a local electrician should be able to do the job. It is important that a record of the tests on each item is kept.

For more information, phone Baptist Insurance’s customer services team on 0845 070 2223 or visit www.baptist-insurance.co.uk and read the Guidance notes - Church Fire which contain the advice on electrical installations and appliances.

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