Legal Requirements – temporary electrical installations must comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations as well as other legislation including the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. These require competence and the Person Responsible within a BS 7909 is able to demonstrate that competence.
This document has been produced to highlight the issues of electrical safety at events and to make event companies/contractors aware of their obligations in relation to planning, designing and installing temporary electrical systems.
2) Understanding the law
The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 – The purpose of the regulation is to require precautions to be taken against the risk of death or personal injury from electricity in work activities.
Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 – The purpose of the regulation is to ensure that equipment used in the workplace is electrically safe. It requires us to regularly inspect and make sure the equipment is safe to use. (Commonly known as ‘PAT testing)
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – generally make more explicit what employers are required to do to manage health and safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This Act sets out the general duties which employers have towards employees and members of the public, and employees have to themselves and to each other.
IET Wiring Regulations 18th Edition, Requirements for Electrical Installations BS7671 (2018) – The regulations apply to the design, erection and verification of electrical installations, also additions and alterations to existing installations. Installations which conform to BS7671 (2018) are regarded by the Health and Safety Executive as likely to conform to the relevant parts of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.
Code of Practice for Temporary Electrical Systems for Entertainment and Related Purposes BS7909:2011 – This British Standard gives recommendations for the management, design, setting up and operation of temporary electrical systems using low voltage a.c. electricity, for the entertainment and similar or related industries. Mobile and transportable units with electrical installations that are used in these industries are also covered. As a code of practice BS7909 (2011) aims to provide guidance on the practical considerations for design, deploying and managing a temporary system. This British Standard should be read in conjunction with BS7671 (2018) and it expects temporary electrical systems to adhere to its fundamental principles.
3) BS 7909 (2011) explained
Essentially it requires events to design their systems in accordance with the Wiring Regulations; i.e. to ensure systems work effectively and protect against the risks of shock and fire. A main focus is on management of the event and it tries to help contextualise the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. It requires the event manager (which may be a promoter, event manager, producer, production manager etc) to appoint someone electrically competent to oversee the electrical system. Under BS 7909 (2011), this person is called the ‘Senior Person Responsible’ (SPR).
The standard also splits electrical distributions into two categories; ‘small/simple’ systems and ‘large/complex’. The guideline is that anything under 6kVA (typically the same as 6kW worth of power, equivalent to around three kettles) is classed in the small/simple category.
The key to the application of the small/simple category is that it is simple and typically used within a building – the supply would usually be derived from the ordinary sockets on the wall. There won’t be much equipment – examples may be small press conferences, indoor display stands or filmed interviews. It also allows for the SPR to be an instructed person who has been directed in the use of a simple plug-in tester, but who may not be electrically skilled. There are no requirements for completion documentation, but PAT records for equipment must be checked and the supply verified.
Anything else that doesn’t fit into that classification is considered large/complex. That may include relatively small systems but which are run from a generator, or extension leads taken from a building to deliver power to an outdoor event. All of these situations require someone electrically skilled to assess the additional risks and put in suitable protection methods.
Large systems need a bit of planning and should be designed and tested. The testing need not be done on every circuit. The designer just needs to ensure that the protective measures will work effectively for the supplies used. Documents showing that the system has been designed and checked need to be completed (called ‘completion certificates’) and copies should be given to the person ordering the work as well as the property/venue owner if requested.
The testing needs to be completed before the system is handed over to the rest of an event crew for general use and the test results noted. The certification would normally be completed when everything is operational and the SPR has satisfied himself that the system is safe and works effectively.
Temporary systems need re-testing and re-certification (or amended certificates) when substantial changes in the distribution occur. Each event is different, but examples may be:
- New locations – each time a system is put together in a new location or venue;
- Significant additions of equipment; e.g. a new multiple channel dimmer and lighting circuits or a dining bus, rather than a couple of individual light fittings or an extension lead to power a kettle.
- Changes of supply – e.g. going from using a building or venue supply to a generator.
- Damage or interference to the equipment, including unforeseen environmental effects (flood, fire, etc).
Note that the context should be considered in each case – consider a small film shoot using a few lights, associated distribution and a generator moving from location to location. If the same cabling, distribution, equipment and source of supply are used at each location, then the results will always be broadly the same. Accordingly some rudimentary checks at each subsequent location may suffice after the first full assessment.
BS 7909 also discusses earthing practices and procedures in some detail. Basically the mass of earth that you stand on is often (but not always) used as a safety measure by providing a route back to the power supply for fault currents, which in turn causes fuses or circuit breakers to operate when there is a problem. The earthing arrangements in a temporary system need careful consideration particularly where generators are used or cables are taken in/out of buildings.
4) What does BS 7909 (2011) mean to a property owner or local authority?
Well, it depends what the event is doing and where the event is hosted. The following are some situations that may be useful to consider.
- If it’s your property and your event, it’s down to you to comply with the law relating to electrical safety, so you would need to appoint (or ensure your contractor appoints) an SPR.
- If it’s your property but not your event (you’re effectively just renting the space), you still have a duty to ensure your staff are working in a safe environment. If you have contractors or film crews putting in temporary power systems you need to ensure that staff which may be affected are safe. Therefore you would want to seek assurance that the temporary electrical system(s) are safe and your employees are not at risk.
- There may be property insurance requirements (especially in historic or other architecturally significant buildings) which require electrical installations to be checked regularly for safety. If an event comes in and creates an electrical fire, what proof would you have that you exercised reasonable care and diligence in that respect?
- Equally if you are open to the public, you have a duty to exercise reasonable care for their safety and again there may also be insurance implications. So it would be prudent to ensure that the temporary electrical contractor is deploying a safe system where measures to protect against electric shock are effective.
- If you are the local Authority licensing an event, the Licensing Act requires public safety to be taken into consideration as one of the four licensing objectives. Also the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has guidance issued under Section 182 of the licensing Act 2003 which requires temporary electrical systems to be safe and to comply with BS 7909 (2011) and BS7671 (2018) (Appendices 2).
This is not exhaustive and not all might be relevant, but in practice you would probably need to ensure the temporary electrical system has been designed appropriately and tested more often than not.
It is important to realise that there is no liability taken on by requesting these certificates and it would not invalidate any indemnity held by the property owner to do so. No one would expect an electrically unskilled person to read the certificate and understand all the results given. The important aspect is that it has been requested and that someone has had to complete and sign the certificate indicating they’ve accepted responsibility for the temporary system.
Good contractors will not raise issue with this and will happily present the right documents which will (at a minimum) consist of a Completion Certificate and Schedule of test results.
On larger events with more than one source of supply there will also be a ‘Confirmation of electrical completion’ which is a summary of all the individual Completion Certificates.
5) Electrical Safety Checklist
The items listed below are to be used as guidance only and they have been produced with electrical safety in mind. It is not exhaustive and following this information does not guarantee full compliance with the British Standards, it is up to the responsible person to satisfy themselves of the full requirements.
- 1) A senior person responsible should be appointed by the events manager, they should accept responsibility for all of the temporary electrical installation/systems included within a particular event. This appointed person should have the necessary competence to oversee and deal with a particular event including taking into account its complexity and size.
- 2) A risk assessment should be prepared by the senior person responsible to consider all hazards in relation to the temporary electrical system. The assessment should cover the supply, installation, operation and the stripping out of the event.
- 3) The electrical equipment provided or supplied to form the temporary electrical system should be in a serviceable and safe condition. The equipment should have been tested prior to delivery and should be provided with evidence that it has passed a formal inspection and test. The evidence should indicate relevant dates and the period of validity. The equipment should be identified with the name of the supplier or owner.
- a. This relates items such as cable leads, distribution boards, etc.)
- b. Note: Suitable evidence may be in the form of a test label applied to the equipment or by certificates for each item of equipment.
- 4) Any mobile or transportable units which are to be used at an event should have a valid inspection and testing certificate. The inspection and testing should have been carried out in accordance with the requirements of BS7671 (2018). Evidence should be provided in the form of an Electrical Installation Certificate or a Periodic Inspection Report (PIR) or an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR).
- a. This relates to items such as porta-cabins, food vans, mobile stages etc.
- 5) Any generator units, lighting towers or similar equipment which is to be used at an event should be regularly inspected, tested and serviced by the hire company or their owner. Hire companies carry out Pre Delivery Inspections (PDIs) of their generators to check they are safe and in serviceable condition before delivering to site. Not all companies supply PDIs as a matter of course but copies can be requested.
- 6) Any electrical portable appliances which are to be plugged into the temporary electrical system should have a valid portable appliance test (PAT test). This applies to all items including appliances supplied or used by third parties such as, stall holders, food vendors, etc.
- a. This relates to items such as kettles, computers, spotlights, water boilers etc.)
- b. Note: Suitable evidence may be in the form of a test label applied to the equipment or by certificates for each item of equipment.
- 7) Any fairground rides, stalls, amusements and some catering units at an event may be covered by the ADIPS scheme (Amusement Devices Inspection Procedure scheme). This is a scheme that was set up by a company in conjunction with the Health & Safety Executive to set and maintain fairground safety standards. The scheme requires each attraction to undergo a number of different annual safety inspections including electrical safety. Any Amusement Devices to be used at an event should
have a valid ADIP certificate
- 8) The installation of any temporary electrical/extensions cables should be such that they do not present a tripping hazard and that they are suitably protected where necessary.
- 9) Inspection and testing of the final installation – The onsite inspection and testing of the temporary electrical installation should be carried out by a suitably skilled and competent person. Certain documents/certificates need to be completed to record that the inspection and testing has taken place. As a minimum a visual inspection should be carried out and the following documents need to be completed; Completion Certificate(s) complete with a Schedule of Test Results and where applicable a Confirmation of Electrical Completion. Examples of which are shown in BS7909 (2011).
Sufficient time should be allowed in order to carry out this element ensuring all is checked well in advance of the event starting. The certificates must be made available to any parties that require such evidence e.g. Local authorities or property owners etc
It is important to put measures in place to ensure electrical safety. Good communication with stakeholders at the initial planning stages will assist in this.
Some of the items to consider could easily be addressed at this stage. An example of this would be, if you know that you will have food vendors with their mobile or transportable units at your event, as part of their engagement conditions you could request that they need to supply copies of their valid Electrical Testing Certificates and Portable Appliance Certificates well in advance of the event starting. This approach could also be applicable to portable appliances that are to be used by third
parties such as any stall holders etc.
It is recommended that an electrical safety file is used. This would be a specific file on site held by the responsible person where all documents relating to the electrical safety for an event are collated and held. This would assist in ensuring that the information is available for any parties that may require evidence of it.
Where applicable an Electrical Safety Audit may be carried out at events by a representative of the Council.
- Posted: 20th August 2023
- Version: 1.1