Businesses in the hospitality industry should be aware of the risks, obligations and potential liabilities that arise from ownership and use of electrical appliances. This article sets out the main concerns and how to comply with your obligations and protect your business.

Owners

It is important that owners and users of electrical equipment in a commercial environment within the Hospitality industry are aware of the risks and liabilities that arise from ownership and use of such equipment and the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994 (the Regulations) and at common law.

Equipment that contains electrical components cannot be expected to last indefinitely and compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions for use and maintenance must be adhered to. Instructions are likely to contain guidelines for the location and lifespan of such equipment as some components may be sensitive to temperature conditions and it is important that the instructions are understood at the time of purchase.

Manufacturers

Manufacturers of such equipment have a duty to ensure that their products comply with the EU Directives and Regulations such that they are safe to be used for their intended purposes. The manufacturers have obligations to ensure their appliances comply with the essential health and safety requirements before their products are launched onto the UK market.

However, owners and users of such equipment have their own independent duty to comply with the instructions for use which may include prohibitions against use for commercial purposes because of the extra burden that commercial use may impose on certain components that could give rise to a safety risk. There is also likely to be requirements for regular servicing and maintenance.

Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994

Under the Regulations the duty holder’s equipment becomes subject to Portable Appliance Tests (PAT). The Regulations require that electrical equipment must be maintained, as far as reasonably practicable, to prevent danger.

It is for the duty holder to determine the frequency of inspections based upon variables such as the use, environment, location and the people using the equipment. After a few completed inspections and tests the duty holder may determine, based on the risk presented, that frequency is extended or reduced.

Visual user checks are required to look for signs of damage or incorrect operation such as damage to cables, plugs and sockets, evidence of excessive dirt or damage or evidence of overheating. If ‘formal visual inspections’ are required these need to be carried out by trained persons in a more systematic manner. Combined inspection tests require a higher competence than the other checks and inspections.

When a potential problem has been found then the Regulations’ guidelines provide that ‘management should take effective steps to ensure that the equipment is not used again until it is repaired by a person competent to carry out the task...’

Risk and Insurance

When electrical equipment fails either as a result of a defect, a failure to maintenance or some other reason it can cause very substantial damage, especially if a fire is the consequence. Duty holders can therefore face a number of potential problems and accordingly should ensure that their businesses are adequately insured. 

Adequate insurance needs to be in place from the time of acquisition of electrical equipment to not only cover losses sustained to their own business operations (including Business Interruption/loss of profits, material loss) but also for third party liabilities which would be relevant should a fire or water damage affect neighbouring properties or businesses. 

Service and maintenance contracts

Duty holders should also consider entering into a service and maintenance contract with appropriately qualified contractors for the type of equipment in question in order to help them comply with the safety obligations imposed upon them. It would be prudent to ensure that such contracts specifically provide for preventative maintenance in order to ensure compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions as well as for call out and repair facilities.

It would also be prudent to ensure that such contractors provide you with an indemnity against any claim for injury, loss and damage which may be caused by their negligence or omissions.