Ant Snowdon of Seaward, which is marking its 40th anniversary in 2022, explains the role of electrical safety testing in the hire industry.
Hirers providing tools and equipment for use in the workplace have a safety responsibility under a range of statutory legislation. These include the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
The Hire Association Europe has recently published a revised version of its Guidance on Electrical Safety Testing in the Hire Industry, to support hire organisations in safely conducting the appropriate combined inspection and testing procedures to all electrical equipment and appliances to be hired to the general public or businesses.
The latest version of this Code of Practice has been brought up-to-date with current regulations and provides informative illustrations to guide workshop operatives.
It is imperative that the routine testing of rental equipment is undertaken before and after hire to detect any possible defects that may pose a danger to customers during use. For example, a broken protective earth conductor in a power tool which could result in the operator being exposed to a potentially lethal electric shock if there was a breakdown of insulation, this is typical of the type of electrical deterioration which would not be discernible by a visual inspection.
Against this background a range of specialist safety testing instruments are available to verify the electrical safety of rental equipment in keeping with different technical or rental company requirements.
To comply with the HAE code of practice, comprehensive safety testers should be used. Such testers should be capable of testing the resistance of the protective earth conductor, insulation resistance, flash (hi-pot or dielectric withstand test), protective conductor current, touch current, extension cord tests, with pass/fail levels established as appropriate.
The HAE code of practice recommends a full range of electrical safety tests and in some cases, instruments with the capacity to perform a ‘run’ or ‘load’ test might be appropriate. The significance of a run test is that some modern hire equipment comes fitted with a digital on switch, this means that it cannot be in the on position during flash or insulation resistance testing, potentially limiting the parts of the circuitry tested. A powered test allows the operator to electrify the entirety of the device under test and conduct a leakage test. This test also has an additional benefit; along with the leakage from the product the power draw is also measured. This power draw can highlight mechanical or functional issues with the product and forms part of a quality control procedure. For example, if a product is using more power than expected it may be that something is impeding the movement of a working part, if the product is drawing less power than expected then one or more components may not be working correctly, a heater for example may not be powering all of its elements.
If any piece of rental equipment fails at a visual inspection and/or electrical test at in-service testing it should be sent for repair. After which it should return for service in an “as new” condition with a formal inspection and test report In these circumstances, no modifications should be undertaken which could negate the manufacturer’s type approval test.
It is essential that a record system is maintained for every inspection and test of all rental equipment. Specialist test data management programs are available that ensure that all records of inspection and testing are recorded to prove due diligence if a problem arises. It is also important that safety testing routines are linked to a tagging or labelling system which accurately defines the status of the hire equipment at any time. The tags should state details of inspections, tests carried out and repairs undertaken. It should also indicate if the equipment is ready for rental or if the equipment has been withdrawn from rental purposes.
The benefits of this approach can be seen at Ireland’s leading firm of builders’ merchants. Chadwicks Sam Hire, part of the Chadwicks Group, uses Seaward’s compact bench top SafeCheck 8 testers at its 23 hire locations across the country to enable electrical safety tests to be carried out quickly and efficiently. This ensures that power tools such as drills, saws, breakers, a/c units and dehumidifiers among other electrical rental equipment are routinely serviced, tested and function correctly before they go out on hire.
The firm uses the SafeCheck 8 tester, along with a label printer, bar code scanners, fault simulator unit and test beacon, to provide a comprehensive and traceable ‘test and tag’ safety solution. Featuring built-in pre-configured tests for Class I, Class II and IEC extension lead/power cord testing to ensure compliance with the Hire Association of Europe code of practice and all other safety regulations, the tester automatically sequences through earth bond, insulation, earth leakage, continuity and full function load tests to ensure that hire equipment continues to perform within original specifications.
Chadwicks Sam Hire’s extensive product range includes products that also require flash testing as part of testing procedures - and the SafeCheck 8 with its 1250V AC Class 1 and 3000V AC Class 2 test voltages is ideally suited for this task.
The branches’ electrical testing programmes, which are carried out by either Seaward trained supervisors or hire technicians, are overseen by Chadwicks commercial manager, Denis Bray, who said: “The safety of our staff and customers is of paramount importance. Our testing programmes are therefore designed to ensure that hire equipment not only performs to the highest standards, but also that it is safe to use and complies with all the necessary regulations. This provides complete peace-of-mind for everyone.
“The SafeCheck 8 is a very good, easy-to-use and extremely reliable tester that provides full traceability and a structured approach to testing, ensuring standardisation of electric safety procedures right across our hire operations.”
Chadwicks Sam Hire’s test protocol requires that all equipment is tested before being issued on hire, with the test stations also producing special test labels with details of the test results, equipment ID, date of test and a bar code ID for re-test purposes. Test data from the SafeCheck 8 is also integrated with the company’s asset management software program to provide a seamless record keeping system.
Seaward’s compliance testing team helps to deliver this through a long-standing relationship which has seen comprehensive onsite and offsite product support and technical guidance provided over many years. This includes technical demonstrations, help with software system amalgamation and the customisation of printed safety labelling.
Denis Bray again: “We work closely with Seaward to deliver training that ensures our branches are staffed by highly skilled operatives and meet the HAE standards for electrical safety testing. We are grateful for the specialist advice and support provided by Seaward, whose team has always been responsive and provides robust and traceable hire testing solutions, which fulfil our commitment to meeting our safety obligations.”
The SafeCheck 8 provides comprehensive safety testing functions which can be initiated manually or in automatic mode using simple controls with a large clear display providing an immediate indication of pass/fail test results. A key feature is its ability to record details of all test results, time and date of tests, together with the identity of the person carrying out the test. This data is stored in the unit’s large capacity internal memory for subsequent print out of test reports or transfer to a PC for the compilation of databases. This provides a fully traceable audit trail for quality assurance and safety management purposes.
A Test ‘n’ Tag electrical safety labelling system can be linked for the immediate print out of test tags for attachment to the equipment or its cable as the tests are being carried out - saving time and money and eliminating the use of hand written labels.