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Electricity and electrical equipment

Faulty electrical equipment and wiring is one of the most common causes of fire in church. Even though the quality and standard of installations and equipment are much higher today, anything electrical still needs to be treated with a degree of respect – and caution.

The most effective way to prevent problems is to ensure that your church has a system in place to ensure that electrical systems and appliances are tested regularly and are maintained correctly.

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    Thanks to increasingly high standards of electrical wiring and installation, electrics are now generally safer than ever.

    However, this doesn’t mean that churches and other buildings aren’t at risk of the consequences that can occur from faulty wiring or appliances.  A good system of inspection, testing and maintenance is key to preventing danger.

    We recommend churches should make sure that fixed electrical installations are inspected and tested AT LEAST once every five years.

    Churches should also conduct regular, thorough physical examinations of all portable electrical appliances. Any defective or problematic appliances need to be fixed or removed from the premises.

    The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 require all systems to be maintained so as to prevent danger, and the Work Equipment Regulations 1998 require work equipment to be maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair. These are just two pieces of legislation that you should be aware of.

    For purposes of legislation, it’s important to remember that churches and church halls are regarded as places of work.

    More detailed advice can be found in our guidance notes and also advice about periods for Portable Appliance Testing can be found at the Health & Safety Executive website.

Electrical installations

Current guidance recommends that churches should have their electrical installations inspected and tested at least once every five years. This inspection and testing needs to comply with a piece of regulation called Guidance Note No. 3 of the IET Regulations. After each inspection, an electrical installation and conditioning report needs to be issued.

Only suitably qualified electrical contractors can conduct these inspections – specifically electricians able to work on commercial installations rather than domestic ones. The electrician must have 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).

If an electrician is only registered to undertake work on domestic installations under Part P of the Building Regulations, they are not acceptable to Methodist Insurance under the conditions of your Church Shield policy.

Portable appliance testing (PAT)

It is likely that your church and church premises will contain computers, tea urns, perhaps a television or CD-player. These, in common with most electrical items you plug into a socket, are classed as portable appliances and are subject to several pieces of safety legislation.

The law makes it clear that churches must conduct regular, thorough physical examinations of all portable appliances and record the results of these inspections. Current legislation states that all systems and equipment must be maintained so as to prevent danger, while also ensuring they are in an ‘efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair’. There are also general duties for employers, which includes churches, to ensure that the workplace and associated equipment is safe and without risks to health.

While none of the legislation stipulates how frequently these inspections and tests should be conducted, it is made clear that the frequency should reflect the risk posed by that particular appliance. In very general terms, the frequency of testing should reflect potential hazards associated with a piece of equipment and the amount it is used. What that means is you should test an electric heater used throughout the colder months more frequently than a cordless phone.

Methodist Insurance suggests annual testing and inspection to begin with, then adjusting the inspection periods based on your experience. Records must be kept of all inspections, examinations and maintenance; otherwise, if there is an issue, the church has nothing to prove it complied with the law.

A competent person must carry out the tests. In this case, competent means someone with electrical knowledge and experience who understands the equipment and the risks it poses.

For more information call the team on 0345 606 1331

Methodist Insurance PLC (MIC) Reg. No. 6369. Registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester, GL1 1JZ. Methodist Insurance PLC is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, Firm Reference Number 136423.