What are the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989?

Understanding the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 is essential for anyone involved in electrical work in the UK.

These regulations are a cornerstone of electrical safety, laying down legal requirements to prevent danger and ensure safe working practices around electrical systems.

This article aims to demystify these regulations, explaining their importance, scope, and the responsibilities they impose on employers and employees.

Introduction to the Regulations

The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 were introduced under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

They came into effect on 1 April 1990 and apply to all aspects of the use of electricity within the workplace – from electrical supplies to the use of electrical equipment.

The Purpose of the Regulations

The primary purpose of these regulations is to prevent death or injury from electricity in work environments. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), these rules are not just about preventing electric shocks; they also aim to prevent other injuries, such as burns, which can result from electrical faults.

Key Requirements of the Regulations

The regulations encompass a broad range of requirements, which can be summarised as follows:

  1. Systems, Work Activities, and Equipment
    • Regulations require that all systems, work activities, and equipment should be constructed, maintained, and operated to prevent danger.
    • This includes ensuring that electrical systems are made of suitable materials and are maintained in a condition suitable for that system.
  2. Strength and Capability of Electrical Equipment
    • Electrical equipment should be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided.
    • This includes considering the conditions in which it will be operated and the likely effects of those conditions.
  3. Insulation, Protection and Placing of Conductors
    • Conductors that may give rise to danger must be suitably covered with insulating material and adequately protected.
  4. Earthing
    • Suitable precautions (such as earthing) should be taken to prevent danger arising from potential differences that might be expected in normal use.
  5. Integrity of Referenced Conductors
    • The integrity of the conductors and connections in safety circuits must be preserved to prevent danger.
  6. Work on Equipment Made Dead
    • Suitable precautions, including where necessary the provision of protective equipment, should be taken to prevent danger during work on equipment made dead.
  7. Work on or Near Live Conductors
    • No person shall be engaged in any work activity on or so near any live conductor that danger may arise unless it is unreasonable in all the circumstances for it to be dead and suitable precautions (including where necessary the provision of protective equipment) are taken to prevent injury.

Enforcement and Compliance

Compliance with the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 is enforced by the HSE or the local authority, depending on the business type. Penalties for non-compliance can be severe, including fines and even imprisonment.

Responsibilities under the Regulations

  1. Employers
    • Employers are required to ensure the safety of their employees and others who might be affected by their work activities. This involves providing safe working environments, systems, and equipment.
    • They must also ensure that employees have the necessary information, instruction, training, and supervision to work safely.
  2. Employees
    • Employees must comply with any procedures put in place by their employers to meet the regulations.
    • They should use the provided equipment correctly and report any dangerous electrical situations to their employer.

The Importance of Regular Maintenance and Inspection

A key aspect of complying with these regulations is the regular maintenance and inspection of electrical systems and equipment. This includes tasks such as:

The Role of Qualified Personnel

The regulations imply that any work on electrical systems should be carried out by competent persons.

This means individuals with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to perform the task safely.


The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of workers in the UK who are exposed to electrical hazards.

Compliance with these regulations is not optional; it is a legal requirement.

By understanding and adhering to these regulations, employers and employees can create a safer working environment, significantly reducing the risk of electrical accidents.

Regular maintenance, inspection, and the involvement of competent personnel are key to meeting these requirements.

Remember, when it comes to electricity, safety is not just a regulation; it’s a responsibility.