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The Legal Column - May 2012

31 May 2012

The experts at Workplace Law answer your legislative and compliance issues.

Electrical safety
Q: We have equipment supplied to us from European manufacturers supplied with European two-pin plugs which we then sell on to our customer (the end user). I thought that the manufacturer had a legal responsibility to ensure that the equipment was safe and compliant for the end user? If we were to supply adaptors or change the plug to a three-pin plug (via a qualified electrician) would we be liable for any fault or defect that might occur to that piece of equipment?

A: The Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations 1994 Regulation 12 ( says a manufacturer who is based within the UK is the first point in the supply chain that may be held responsible for compliance with the Regulations. Where the manufacturer is not established within the UK the first supplier of the electrical equipment in the UK becomes the first point in the supply chain and is responsible for compliance with the Regulations.

Use of fire lifts by disabled persons
Q: In a public building, regular meetings, which include disabled people, are held on the fourth floor. Access to the fourth floor is by use of a fireproof lift. Should there be a limit on numbers of disabled persons attending?

A: If a change of location to a ground floor is not possible then you should consider all means of escape available to determine how many disabled people you could evacuate in a suitable time. Carry out a specific risk assessment and implement a clear emergency plan, ensuring that responsible persons are trained and informed of their duties in case of fire. This may include any responsible person remaining with the individual(s) in a designated safe refuge and keeping continual communication with key personnel. You may implement different systems of evacuation such as horizontal evacuation, evacuation by lift, evacuation by stairs and the use of refuges. After detailed consideration you will be able to justify why (if it is necessary) you are limiting the amount of people that can attend the meetings. You may want to implement routine checks before the meetings, for example that the lift is in good working order on that day, that all means of escape are clear of obstruction, and that all key personnel are present on that day.

Noise Survey
Q: How often should workplace noise surveys be carried out?
A: To comply with legislation is advised that you review and update the risk assessment if the following occurs:
? When circumstances change in your workplace which might alter the level of exposure, e.g. there is a change in the way you work, the introduction of new machinery, alteration of shift patterns etc.
? If you become aware through journals, courses or HSE publications etc. that there are new ways of controlling noise exposure that directly applies to your workplace.
? If health surveillance suggests employees may be at risk of hearing damage.

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