Fire, Security & Electrical Blog

What Is Fixed Wire Testing?

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Last Updated on 6 September 2023.

Whether you’re new to building management or just brushing up on some health and safety essentials for your commercial premises, this article will tell you everything you need to know about Fixed Wire Testing.

Starting with the obvious…

What Is Fixed Wire Testing?

Check out this video with Verity Stone (me!) and our Electrical Manager, Ricky, giving you the quick low-down on what Fixed Wire Testing is and why it’s needed:

Fixed Wire Testing – otherwise known as an ‘Electrical Installation Condition Report’ (EICR) or a ‘Periodic Inspection’ – is an essential part of your Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM), and essentially inspects your building’s electrical installation.

(Although, let’s be clear here: Fixed Wire Testing is the procedure and the EICR is the outcome. Your inspection is the means to receive that report.)

Fixed Wire Testing is not to be confused with Portable Appliance Testing (PAT).

PAT Testing is where your electrical appliances and equipment is maintained, as opposed to your electrical installation.

Think of it as one tests the overall circuit and wiring integrity, the other tests the integrity of what you’re powering and plugging into that.

REQUIRE A EICR FOR YOUR BUILDING?

Why Would I Need Fixed Wire Testing?

WFP Engineer Sam Fixed Wire Testing

There are three key reasons you need to have an Electrical Installation Condition Report:

  • To ensure your electrical system is safe for continued use
  • To provide early detection of potential issues to avoid downtime and loss of earnings for businesses
  • To ensure your building and contents insurance remains valid

People don’t usually think of electricity as being dangerous. That kind of thinking’s usually associated with horror films like Frankenstein with a mad scientist harnessing the power of a lightning bolt, not in our everyday working lives.

But the truth is, it can be incredibly dangerous, and even fatal, if undetected faults, damage or wear-and-tear are left to fester. Because of this, it’s a legal requirement to maintain your electrical installation.

Fixed Wire Testing is the procedure you have carried out to maintain your electrical installation, so it’s not a legal requirement itself but if you don’t do it you’re not maintaining your electrical installation and are therefore not legally compliant.

It’s a little confusing, but the long and short of it is: you need to do it.

What Are The Regulations And What Does HSE Recommend?

Infographic of electrical safety regulations

As an employer and/or building manager, you’re legally obliged to comply with a number of regulations designed to protect your building’s occupants from electrical-related injuries. (That’s employees, customers and visitors.)

These regulations are enforced by the HSE – that’s the Government’s Health & Safety Executive. The ones which talk about maintaining your electrical installation are:

This piece of legislation outlines your responsibilities and duties as an employer and employee to reduce health and safety risks.

Refer to this one for how best to assess and manage risks within the working environment.

This one’s pretty bleak but incredibly important because its primary aim is to help prevent death or injury from electrical causes, where maintenance is touched upon to help do this.

Last but not least, this regulation focuses quite heavily on the importance of maintaining systems and equipment saying they must be “in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair”.

In addition to the above, the British Standard BS 7671 (also known as the IET Wiring Regulations) specifies the acceptable standards of electrical installations for the design and installation.

This is not something you ought to worry about too much as this is the responsibility of your trusted, accredited electrical contractor to make sure they stick to when they’re carrying out your electrical installation.

REQUIRE A EICR FOR YOUR BUILDING?

Just look out for companies with the NICEIC (National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting) logo (like us!) to make sure you’ve got electrical technicians who know what they’re doing to keep you safe and legally compliant.

What Happens During the Inspection?

WFP Engineer Sam Fixed Wire Testing

The main aims of your Fixed Wire Testing visit include:

  • Confirming the integrity of your electrical installation
  • Preserving the safety of individuals from electric shock or further harm such as smoke inhalation and burns caused by an electrical fire
  • Protecting your premises from damage due to an electrical fire
  • And identifying defects or inconsistencies with regulations and standards

Here, we’re looking at the electrical circuits which make up the fabric of the building, including socket outlets and lighting circuits.

Your periodic visit will uncover any safety risks which need addressing, establish if there’s been any damage or wear-and-tear, and reveal if any electrical circuits or equipment have been overloaded (which results in overheating). This is done using a mixture of inspections and electrical testing.

As this visit can be pretty invasive and can involve powering down your electricity, it’s best to have this visit done out-of-hours, during a holiday season or at a time when the building is at minimum capacity.

This should be carried out by a competent specialist who knows what they’re doing, what to look out for, carries the specialist equipment used for carrying out the tests, and can issue you with a certificate/report as evidence of your maintenance and due diligence.

Your specialist (i.e. us!) will also be able to help you rectify any issues raised as a result of the visit.

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(Sometimes, people have Thermal Testing done along with their Fixed Wire Testing. This is more advantageous for premature fault finding (whilst also being able to detect current problems) as it uses Infra-Red technology to identify heat patches which demonstrate overheating or overloading.)

Do You Get A Certificate For Fixed Wire Testing?

Yes, following your visit you’ll get a report (your EICR – Electrical Installation Condition Report), which is essentially the same as a certificate as it is your evidence to demonstrate you’ve had your Fixed Wire Testing, and therefore the maintenance of your electrical installation carried out.

Find out more about what happens after your electrical inspection in this video:

The word ‘evidence’ is extremely important here because you need to keep your report in a safe place where you can easily access it should your insurance ask for proof you’ve had your electrical maintenance carried out.

Without this evidence (even if you have had it done), and if someone experiences an electrical-related injury, you could find yourself open to prosecution.

REQUIRE A EICR FOR YOUR BUILDING?

Your report/certificate will also tell you if there’s anything you need to remedy, which, of course, we can help you with!

What Do the EICR Codes Mean?

EICR Codes WFP

Carrying out regular Fixed Wire Testing is an essential part of any building’s Planned Preventative Maintenance…but what do the observation codes actually mean?

Here’s a video with Verity and Ricky from WFP providing their definitions:

Why are they important and how should you get these rectified?

These codes (C1, C2, C3, FI, and so on) aren’t there to mean something only to the electrician testing them. Or to make your report look all fancy.

They’ve got a real purpose and it’s important for any duty holder to understand the basics of this so they’re in the best position to make an informed decision of next steps.

Let’s start at the beginning, what are ‘Observations’ in an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR)?

Simply put, they are the things your inspector notes that do not comply with the latest amendment of BS:7671.

Every observation made must be in breach of a regulation found in BS:7671. If an observation is made outside of BS:7671 then it can only be listed as a ‘Note’ and cannot determine the outcome of the EICR.

A typical example would be an out-of-date fire alarm inspection; this is essential for the duty holder to be made aware of, but falls under BS:5839-1, and therefore would not make the EICR unsatisfactory.

It is also worth noting that a consideration must be made to the age of the installation and the regulations that would have been followed at the time of that installation.

In an ideal world, every time a new regulation is introduced to make an electrical system safer it would be implemented.

Unfortunately, in the real world, these things cost money and it would not be cost-effective to do so.

Therefore, when making observations, a risk assessment must be carried out to fully evaluate the situation.

A brilliant example of this would be the use of an Arc Fault Protection Device (AFDD), which is the newest type of device you can install into a distribution board to monitor faults occurring on the circuit.

In certain situations, this would be classified as a ‘C3’, whilst in higher risk buildings – such as HMOs, high rise blocks (over 18m) and care homes – a ‘C2’ code may be recorded dependent on risk.

So, let’s stop throwing these letters and numbers around – let’s get into it…

What are the codes and their definition?

There are 6 codes in total that can be used on an EICR and are as follows:

C1Immediately dangerous – This is the most severe code that can be used and the situation must be rectified immediately to remove the danger.

C2: Potentially dangerous – This code is used when the situation could lead to something becoming immediately dangerous if not rectified as a matter of urgency.

C3: Improvement recommended – As it says on the tin, the inspector recommends getting this done to improve your electrical system to ensure your maintenance strategy is less reactive, and more preventative to optimise both functionality and overall safety.

FI: Further investigation needed – Used when more time is needed to assess an observation made, usually when a result made during testing does not meet the calculated parameters.

Note: General note – For an observation that falls outside of BS:7671.

X: DNO/meter observation – This is a new code that is used when an observation is made against the equipment owned by the Distribution Network Operator (DNO), or meter operator, that needs to be rectified by them.

Every observation requires one of the above codes to be applied.

Ideally, it will also list a regulation number that the code refers to, a picture of the observation, and where in the building it is located.

Why are the observations and codes important?

In essence, this is the only way an inspector can formally show a duty holder what the condition of their electrical system looks like, whether it is safe for continued use, and what future upgrades should be considered as a planned maintenance agreement.

The more detail the EICR has the better!

REQUIRE A EICR FOR YOUR BUILDING?

The whole idea here is for the duty holder to be able to understand exactly what has been found, the risk it presents, the urgency in which the said risk needs to be rectified, and what upgrades will prevent potential issues arising in the future.

In new laws for landlords of private domestic properties, it is stated that all remedial works must be carried out within 30 days of receiving the EICR. This is generally a good timeframe to work to in terms of urgency unless your inspector notifies you otherwise.

How should you get these observations rectified?

In order to receive a satisfactory report and ultimately know that your electrical system is safe for continued use, all C1, C2 and FI codes must be rectified.

There must also be evidence that the work has been carried out. This can be achieved in a number of ways and depends on the work required to rectify the code.

If a distribution board were to be replaced then an electrical installation certificate would be required, whereas a broken socket would be certificated with a minor works certificate.

Some reports, such as the ones we produce here at WFP Fire, Security & Electrical have a separate column that allows you to fill in the rectification date, time, engineer and how it was rectified. Once that was filled in, we would then issue a cover certificate stating what items on the report had been rectified and that the system was now safe for continued use.

The most important thing is that the codes are rectified and should not be ignored.

This is where using a reputable company becomes so important as the report will be a true reflection of the condition of the electrical system.

In summary, it is essential to get an Electrical Installation Condition Report or Fixed Wire Test, at a minimum, every 5 years (but ultimately as often as your inspector advises on your report).

Getting a reputable company to produce your report will mean you are getting a quality and detailed report, and will result in cost savings when it comes to remedials as they will be coded honestly.

Getting it done right on round 1 means you’re keeping your people safer, protecting your investment (your building and your business) and avoiding the pains of retrospective works.

How Often Should Fixed Wire Testing Be Carried Out?

There’s no definitive answer here, as the nature of your building, the environment and the type of electrical installation you have will all determine this.

You’ll find, for instance, the maximum period between Fixed Wire Tests in an industrial environment is 3 years but regular retail shops only need to do it every 5 years.

Consider each premises’ electrical use is going to be different; a cinema is likely to have a lot of heavy electrical needs to power up those huge screens but a small office with a few computers won’t draw as much.

But don’t think that just because your building is small and doesn’t pull that much electricity through, it’s safe.

The wiring integrity of old buildings is often questionable, so if you can’t find any reports relating to your Fixed Wire Test, then you can’t prove it’s safe and it’s likely time you ought to get it inspected.

The table below is the BS 7671 IET Wiring Regulations 18th Edition (2022) which shows how often you ought to have an EICR according to the building type you have.

Type of Installation Sector Routine Check Maximum Period Between Inspections/Testing
General Installation
Domestic accommodation - general
-
Change of occupancy / 10 years
Domestic accommodation - rented houses and flats
1 year
Change of occupancy / 5 years
Residential accommodation (Houses of Multiple Occupation), halls of residence, nurses accommodation, etc.
1 year
Change of occupancy / 5 years
Educational establishments
6 months
5 years
Industrial
1 year
3 years
Offices
1 year
5 years
Shops
1 year
5 years
Laboratories
1 year
5 years
Hospitals and Clinics
Hospitals and medical clinics - general areas
1 year
5 years
Hospitals and medical clinics - medical locations
6 months
1 year
Buildings Open to the Public
Cinemas
1 year
1-3 years
Churches
1 year
5 years
Leisure complexes (excluding swimming pools)
1 year
5 years
Places of public entertainment
1 year
3 years
Restaurants and hotels
1 year
5 years
Theatres
1 year
3 years
Public houses
1 year
5 years
Village halls/community centres
1 year
5 years
Special & Specific Installations
Agricultural and horticultural
1 year
3 years
Swimming pools
4 months
1 year
Caravans
1 year
3 years
Caravan parks
6 months
1 year
Highway power supplies
As convenient
6-8 years
Marinas
4 months
1 year
Fish farms
4 months
1 year
Launderettes
Monthly
1 year
Petrol filling stations
1 year
1 year
Construction site installations
3 months
3 months

Is Fixed Wire Testing A Legal Requirement For Commercial Landlords?

This is an interesting one! So, the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 stipulates that electrical equipment should be safe at the start of every tenancy, and maintained so it stays this way throughout the tenancy, but that doesn’t necessarily place the onus on the landlord to get Fixed Wire Testing and periodic inspections done.

To know who’s responsible in a commercial property, you’ve got to look at the lease or tenancy agreement, which should state what areas are looked after by the landlord and also by the tenant.

More often than not, the landlord will take responsibility for communal areas, but this is usually covered in the agreement.

Therefore, in the event that it’s the tenant it falls upon to carry out Fixed Wire Testing, then it’ll likely be your premises’ ‘Responsible Person’ (the person who looks after your health and safety) who would look organise your testing to be carried out by a competent third-party (i.e. us!).

What About Residential Landlords?

There was a change to The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020, which came into effect in April 2021, and meant that landlords in private rented properties needed to make sure they had an up-to-date EICR which was carried out every 5 years.

Before this, it was only mandatory in HMOs, but following this law, it went from being a recommendation in other privately rented homes to a legal requirement.

This was to safeguard tenants and take further measures to protect public health.

Need Help With an EICR?

If you need help with your fixed wire testing you can find out more about our fixed wire testing service or contact us now should you have any questions. We serve Essex, London and across the Home Counties in commercial premises across a range a sectors – helping them all stay safe and legally compliant.

Give us a call or pop us an email today! 👇

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5 thoughts on “What Is Fixed Wire Testing?”
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