Electrical testing isn’t often discussed in the boardroom. If it is, it’s only because something has gone terribly wrong. Electrical installation condition reporting (EICR) is another one of those legal obligations that often gets forgotten about until something severe happens.

There have been numerous high-profile cases in the media recently highlighting just how wrong things can go[LINKS], the effects it can have on a business, and the ramifications for those responsible. So, while it may look like red tape, EICRs are actually a powerful tool for controlling risk to the business.

What is EICR?

An EICR, also known as a periodic inspection report (PIR) or a fixed wire test, is a formal document, issued following an inspection by an approved electrical contractor of an electrical installation in a property. (Note that this is an ‘approved contractor’ and not an ‘approved engineer’).

This compliance document is a legal requirement. And not only that, as a business owner, director or manager, you almost certainly have a legal ‘duty of care’. Every employee has the right to go home in the same condition in which they came to work. You need to know your premises are a safe working environment.

But, while a working environment may appear safe, electrical dangers are not always plain to see. And, while the relevant document may be in place, that in itself doesn’t always mean you are protected.

Coming back to my earlier note, in order to carry out an EICR you must work for an approved contractor. But, within that business, only the principal duty holder and QS will be audited annually. That contractor can send any electrical engineer out into the field to inspect and report on an installation’s integrity and safety.

Cost vs Quality

Therefore, there is plenty of scope for lightly trained engineers to cut corners in an EICR inspection. And the tender wars of FM companies competing for service contracts, the continual penny pinching only results in cutting corners.

With the best will in the world, the supply chain can only use a standard of engineer and quality of work that is being paid for. If you pay rock-bottom prices, you get a rock-bottom standard of work. The current legal standards are not necessarily enough to protect businesses from unacceptable risk.

Compliance and ongoing safety 

Furthermore, you can be classed as compliant but that doesn’t mean that nothing will go wrong in the time between the inspection and the date the next test is due. EICR’s are carried out up to five years apart. Many organisations get their green tick of approval, send the paperwork off to the insurers and then stash the document away to gather dust. But properly delivered report will always specify remedial recommendations. If it does not, it should be questioned.

EICRs highlight not only what is legally non-compliant, but also outlines areas of potential and developing risk. Unlike some workplace risks, you can’t smell, taste or see electrical hazards – leaving remedial work unaddressed is can put employees and the public in danger, even when a compliance certificate is present.

An EICR is a powerful tool to help tackle operational risks in the workplace – but it must be used properly. That might seem like a minor detail to senior management, but the processes that ensure proper EICR testing and remedial work are actually not hard to put in place, if driven from the top of an organisation. A little care and time in this area can have a significant impact on an organisation’s overall risk profile.