Dangers from electricity should never be underestimated. Poorly maintained equipment or unsafe use present a serious risk of harm through electrocution or fire. The University has a legal obligation under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 to maintain electrical equipment in a safe condition. Regular inspection and
Electricity can kill. Do not take unnecessary chances.
Electric shock has a variety of effects on the human body. Mild shocks can cause an unpleasant tingling sensation. More severe shocks cause muscle contractions making it difficult to let go of equipment where electricity is present. Severe shocks cause extensive burns and are usually fatal.
Even a very small electric current flowing through your body can kill you. 50mA can cause pain, paralysis of chest muscles and, after a few seconds, upset the heartbeat and cause death (a 40 watt light bulb takes about 150mA).
The higher the current, the more dangerous and quicker the effects.
The University has strict rules on the use of certain electrical items. Please take time to read our electrical safety advice for students, as it will help to ensure you do not have the unnecessary expense of having to replace unsuitable equipment.
If you need to work with electrical mains systems, or on equipment which may be live for the purposes of diagnostic testing, you will need to demonstrate electrical competence to carry out the work and have safe systems of work in place. Please contact your lead health and safety adviser for further advice.
The University’s Policy and Safety Rules for Safe Working on Low Voltage Fixed Electrical Systems must be complied with. You must also have been confirmed as competent by the University’s Authorised Person, Senior Authorised Person or Authorising Engineer.
Please follow our guidance on safe use and disposal of electrical equipment:
Faulty electrical equipment can cause electric shocks and fires which may cause death, injury or damage to property (.pdf). It is vital equipment is regularly maintained so that it is safe to use.
You can identify the majority of potentially dangerous electrical equipment through simple visual checks (.pdf). If you have any concerns, do not use the equipment; switch it off if safe to do so and immediately contact the person responsible for electrical safety in that area or for that activity.
Persons responsible for areas where there is a potentially higher risk of electric shock may wish to display a Health and Safety Executive poster giving basic emergency advice.
Any electrical equipment that is suspected to be faulty must be labelled, 'DO NOT USE', taken out of use and kept secure until it can be examined by a competent person. This must be done so that other persons do not assume the equipment is safe to use.
All incidents or accidents which involve a person coming into contact with electricity must be
Some types of dangerous occurrences may also need to be reported by HSAS under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations:
Dangerous occurrences - any explosion or fire caused by an electrical short circuit or overload (including those resulting from accidental damage to the electrical plant) which either results in the stoppage of the plant involved for more than 24 hours; or causes a significant risk of death.
You must dispose of surplus electrical equipment in an environmentally friendly manner and in accordance with consumer protection requirements. Find out more about the
A flowchart (.pdf) provides an overview of how to dispose of University owned, surplus electrical equipment.
Under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations 2006, electrical and electronic waste must be disposed of responsibly and recycled where possible. This means that electrical or electronic equipment which cannot be repaired, is uneconomical to repair or is no longer wanted must not be put into landfill via normal waste bins. Equipment covered by these regulations will show a symbol, as shown on the right.
The means of disposal will depend on whether the item was purchased before or after 13 August 2005. See the University’s
For all campuses, contact the
Electrical equipment which is no longer wanted but may be of value to others is subject to strict laws relating to the safety of goods under health and safety, consumer protection and product liability, as well as trading standards.
Electrical equipment, in a safe or defective condition, owned by the University must not be sold or given away free of charge. Printed, verbal or online advertisements for University equipment which is no longer wanted are also not permitted. This is because it is not possible to exclude liability under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 by means of any contract term or other provision. This in turn means the seller could be sued if a consumer or other person were injured as a result of defective equipment. Examples include unwanted computer or audio visual equipment, kitchen or workshop equipment.
Electrical equipment must either be responsibly disposed of according to WEEE Regulations or formally donated by the University to a registered charity. That organisation would then be legally responsible for the re-sale or use of donated equipment.
In exceptional circumstances, should a department or individual wish to sell equipment which is owned by the University for revenue purposes, they must seek professional advice on consumer protection requirements. They must contact the insurance office (firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange appropriate product liability insurance and seek written approval to proceed from their Head of Department or person responsible for the equipment concerned.
Where electrical equipment may have a high value, either as a single item or collective items, contact the Central Procurement Unit who will advise whether and how any revenue might be generated or equipment potentially re-used by a third party. As a guide, a 'high value' would be an item/s worth around £5,000 or more or there may be an intrinsic rather than a financial value. As above, the same provisions for insurance and approval would apply.
Where an inventory of electrical equipment is kept, a note should be made of when equipment is disposed of. This will also help to ensure equipment which is no longer available is not included in future PAT arrangements. Records of maintenance, including test results, should preferably be kept for at least three years after the date when it is removed from the area or responsibly disposed of.
You have a number of ways to recycle unwanted electrical equipment:
If you need any other advice, staff should contact the EMS Helpdesk. Students should contact the Accommodation Office.
We have strict rules on the use of certain electrical equipment to ensure that everyone is safe from the risk of fire and electric shock.
Dangerous equipment presents a serious risk of harm and will be removed where it is safe to do so, including:
See examples of dangerous electrical equipment (.pdf)
The items below can produce significant heat which could start a fire or cause injury, and so are unsafe if used in certain locations. In addition, the way items are heated or cooked can produce fumes which could activate the fire alarm system.
No equipment for heating, cooking, refrigeration or washing may be used in the study bedrooms of University-owned or administered accommodation, except with the prior written permission of the Accommodation Manager.
Prohibited electrical equipment will be removed from study bedrooms where there is evidence such items have been used or where no authority to use has been obtained. Examples include:
The following will be provided by the University for use in residential kitchens:
A limited number of rice cookers or toasters can be used in kitchens provided the following conditions are met:
No other equipment for heating, cooking, refrigeration or washing may be used in kitchen areas unless approved by the Accommodation Manager and undergoes an annual portable appliance test. Please refer to the list under study bedrooms for examples.
Non-residential areas include academic areas, study areas, offices, kitchenettes, workshops, laboratories etc. The only exception is use of cooking equipment in commercial kitchens.
The following electrical items are prohibited from non-residential areas:
Multi-way extension reels may not be used unless they have been fully uncoiled and do not present a trip hazard from the unwound cable.
University health and safety inspections have found dangerous travel adaptors being used by employees and students, some of which were found to be unfused and others with exposed pins. Dangerous travel adaptors not only present an electrocution risk (which could potentially be fatal) but also have the potential to cause electrical equipment to overheat or spark and start fires.
Trading Standards in the United Kingdom have advised that travel adaptors need to meet the following requirements. They must:
University-approved travel adaptors, which have been checked against the above requirements, are available from Essex Essentials. Staff and students who require a travel adaptor should be encouraged to purchase them from here. Adaptors can also be purchased from the Copy Centre counter on Square 4 at the Colchester Campus.
Some posters have been produced to help with selecting safe travel adaptors:
Inspections or checks of work, study or accommodation areas may identify electrical equipment which is prohibited or dangerous. Typically action may be taken by the Head of Department, section, business unit, the person responsible for the area, Estate Management Section, facilities management provider or the Health and Safety Advisory Service team.
One or more photographs may be taken to illustrate the circumstances or environment in which the electrical equipment was found. These could be sent to the appropriate responsible person for further investigation and/or to the owner to illustrate what was found.
Dangerous equipment presents a serious risk of harm and so will be removed where it is safe to do so. Prohibited items in non-residential premises may be removed. If it is not safe to remove the item, one of the University's electricians will be asked to attend and make sure the equipment is safe.
Owners of dangerous or prohibited items will be advised that the equipment must not be used. Reasonable attempts will be made to contact the owner, who will be advised of why the equipment is dangerous or prohibited and will need to confirm that they will not use the item if on University premises, before it is returned to them.
If a student is found to be using a dangerous travel adaptor in University accommodation during room inspections, it will be replaced with a safe one and the student will need to stop using the unsafe adaptor.
The individual will need to complete a form like the one below when they collect the item/s, to ensure that the owner is aware that the prohibited and/or dangerous items must not be put back into use. The wording may need to be adjusted according to the circumstances. Retain the original, signed copy in case this needs to be referred to in future. A copy should be provided to the individual on request.
Please refer to the accommodation Terms and Conditions of Residence (.pdf) for more information on safety in student residences.
The following electrical equipment may be used in offices, staff common rooms and kitchenettes on all campus locations, provided an email is sent to the Estate Management Section (EMS) help desk at email@example.com to notify where these types of equipment are located:
The EMS electrical team will assess the installation. Approval is required as power capacity is limited in some areas and circuits must be checked to ensure that overloading does not occur. If the item is permitted a member of staff in the relevant area must be nominated as responsible for the equipment and must ensure that:
The following items can be used in offices, staff common rooms and kitchenettes without reference to the Estate Management Section or approved facilities management provider:
These may be used provided:
There has been a significant rise in the number of fires in the UK caused by faulty chargers for e-cigarettes and other electrical devices. Follow the advice below to reduce the risk of a fire, electrical shock or damage to your equipment when recharging e-cigarettes and mobile devices.
Check out the London Fire Brigade's information on chargers, batteries and fire safety.
Please note: the University’s no smoking policy also applies to the use of e-cigarettes. The use of e-cigarettes is prohibited wherever smoking is prohibited.