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What the Law says

Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR) places a legal responsibility on employers and employees, as duty holders, to ensure that electrical systems used at work under their control are safe.

Legal requirements

To achieve compliance with the legal requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 requires proof that an electrical system is safe, which involves amongst other things, proper inspection and testing of a system by competent people and the creation and maintenance of records.

Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 is law in the United Kingdom.

Electricity At Work Regulations 1989 (EAWR)

The regulations as stated below are an overview of the UK regulations. For a comprehensive guide please refer to the latest version of the HSE document “Memorandum of Guidance on the Electricity At Work Regulations” – available from HMSO or technical bookshops.

Purpose of the Regulations

  • Prevent danger (Risk of Injury)
  • Prevent Injury (where Danger Exists)
  • Not to Give Rise to Danger


Absolute – Regardless of any cost or other consideration.
Reasonably Practicle – Access, on the one hand, the magnitude of the risks of the particular work activity or environment and, on the other hand, the costs in terms of physical difficulty, time trouble, and expense which would be involved in taking steps to eliminate or minimise those risks.

Regulation 1 – Citation & Commencement
Effective from April 1990

  • Revoke, replace & extend old Electricity at Work Regulations
  • Over & above Health & Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Duty of Employer & Employees to comply (by law)
  • Failure to comply can be seen as criminal act

Regulation 2 – Interpretation (key words)
Circuit Conductor: Conductor in system: Conductor: Prevent Danger: Electrical Equipment: Injury: System: Live: Charged: Dead

Regulation 3 – Persons to whom duties are imposed by these regulations
Status – Absolute
Duty of every employer, self employed person or employee to ensure that compliance to the Regulations is absolute, except where the duty is subject to the qualifying term “Reasonably Practicable”. The extent to which these duties are imposed on an individual is determined by the degree of “control” the individual may have. These duties are enforceable by law and failure to comply could provide for an offence that could be seen as a criminal act.

Regulation 4 (1) Construction of Systems
Status – Reasonably Practicable
All systems shall be at all times of such construction as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, danger.

Regulation 4 (2) – Maintenance (Inspection & testing of systems)
Status – Reasonably Practicable
As may be necessary to prevent danger, all systems shall be maintained so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, such danger.

Regulation 4 (3) – Work Activity
Status – Reasonably Practicable
Every work activity, including operation, use and maintenance of a system and work near a system, shall be carried out in such a manner as not to give rise, so far as is reasonably practicable, to danger.

Regulation 4 (4) – Protective Equipment
Status – Absolute
Any equipment provided under these Regulations for the purpose of protecting persons at work on or near electrical equipment shall be suitable for the use for which it is provided, be maintained in a condition suitable for that use, and properly used.

Regulation 5 – Strength & Capability of Electrical Equipment
Status – Absolute
No electrical equipment shall be put into use where its strength and capability may be exceeded in such a way as may give rise to danger.Regulation 6 – Adverse or Hazardous Environments
Status – Reasonably Practicable
Electrical equipment which may reasonably forseeably be exposed to:

  • Mechanical damage.
  • The effects of the weather, natural hazards, temperature/pressure.
  • The effects of wet, dirty, dusty or corrosive conditions
  • Any flammable or explosive substance, protected as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, danger arising from such exposure.

Regulation 7 – Insulation, Protection & Placing of Conductors
Status – Reasonably Practicable
All conductors in a system which may give rise to danger shall either be suitably covered with insulating material and as necessary protected so as to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, danger or have such precautions taken in respect of them (including, where appropriate, their being suitably placed) as will prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, danger.

Regulation 8 – Earthing or other suitable Precautions
Status – Absolute
Precaution shall be taken, either by earthing or by other suitable means, to prevent danger arising when any conductor (other than a circuit conductor) which may reasonably foreseeably become charged as a result of either the use of a system, or a fault in a system, becomes so charged and for the purposes of ensuring compliance with this regulation, a conductor shall be regarded as earthed when it is connected to the general mass of earth by conductors of sufficient strength and current-carrying capability to discharge electrical energy to earth.

Regulation 9 – Integrity of Referenced Conductors
Status – Absolute
If a circuit conductor is connected to earth or to any other reference point, nothing which might reasonably be expected to give rise to danger by breaking the electrical continuity or introducing high impedance shall be placed in that conductor unless suitable precautions are taken to prevent that danger.

Regulation 10 – Connections
Status – Absolute
Where necessary to prevent danger, every joint and connection in a system shall be mechanically and electrically suitable for use.

Regulation 11 – Means of Protection from Excess of Current
Status – Absolute
Efficient means suitably located shall be provided for protecting from excess of current every part of a system as may be necessary to prevent danger.

Regulation 12 – Means of Cutting off the Supply and for Isolation
Status – Absolute
1. Subject to paragraph (3) where necessary to prevent danger, suitable means (including where appropriate, methods of identifying circuits) shall be available for:

  • Cutting off the supply of electrical energy to any electrical equipment
  • The isolation of any electrical equipment

2. In paragraph (1) “isolation” means the disconnection and separation of the electrical equipment from every source of electrical energy in such a way that this disconnection and separation is secure.
3. Paragraph (1) shall not apply to electrical equipment which is itself a source of electrical energy but, in such a case as is necessary, precautions shall be taken to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, danger.

Regulation 13 – Precautions for work on Equipment made Dead
Status – Absolute
Adequate precautions shall be taken to prevent electrical equipment, which has been made dead in order to prevent danger while work is carried out on or near that equipment, from becoming electrically charged during that work if danger may thereby arise.

Regulation 14 – Work on or near Live Conductors
Status – Absolute
No person shall be engaged in any work on or so near any live conductor (other than one suitably covered with insulating material so as to prevent danger) that danger may arise unless:

  • It is unreasonable in all the circumstances for it to be dead and
  • It is reasonable in all the circumstances for him to be at work on or near it while it is live and
  • Suitable precautions (including where necessary the provision of suitable protective equipment are taken to prevent injury.

Regulation 15 – Working Space, Access & Lighting
Status – Absolute
For the purpose of enabling Injury to be prevented, adequate working space, adequate means of access, and adequate lighting shall be provided at all electrical equipment on which or near which work is being done in circumstances which may give rise to danger.

Regulation 16 – Persons to be Competent
Status – Absolute
No person shall be engaged in any work activity where technical knowledge or experience is necessary to prevent danger or, where appropriate, Injury, unless he possesses such knowledge or experience, or is under such degree of supervision as may be appropriate having regard to the nature of the work.

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