Product safety

The advice sheets below have the latest information on product safety. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Enforcement & Regulatory option).

Electrical equipment

In the guide

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

Electrical equipment designed for use between 50-1,000 volts AC or 75-1,500 volts DC must be 'safe', constructed in accordance with principles constituting good engineering practice and conform to specific regulatory safety objectives.

If the electrical equipment complies with a harmonised European standard, it is automatically taken to be safe. There are specific requirements for the manufacturer of the product, including affixing the CE mark, drawing up and holding an EC declaration of conformity, and keeping technical information for inspection purposes.

Electrical equipment is required to comply with the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016. The Regulations therefore apply to electrical equipment that is designed to be connected to a domestic mains electricity supply, as well as to some industrial equipment.

Components of electrical equipment are also covered if they are to be supplied as separate items.

Second-hand items (including items for hire and equipment supplied as part of a furnished accommodation) are required to satisfy the principal elements of the safety objectives only. They are not required to be CE marked etc.

Principal safety objectives

Electrical equipment must:

  • be constructed in such a way to ensure that it can be used safely and for the purpose that it was made 
  • be in conformity with the safety objectives contained in Part 2 and Schedules 1 and 2 to the Regulations, including:
    - being marked in accordance with the requirements set out below so that it can be easily traced
    - designed so that the equipment, including its component parts, can be safely and properly assembled and connected
    - instructions and information required for the equipment to be used safely must be marked on the equipment or in an accompanying notice
    - operate at a safe temperature with no dangerous arcing or radiation
    - have adequate insulation for foreseeable conditions
    - have the right technical information available, demonstrating compliance with CE marking requirements and a 'declaration of conformity'

Satisfying the principal safety objectives

  1. manufacturers must have adequate internal production control (quality assurance) as a means of satisfying conformity, achieved through taking responsibility for the technical doumentation and monitoring manufacturing processes
  2. either the manufaturer or (by written mandate) the authorised representatives should draw up a declaration of conformity in accordance with Schedule 8 to the Regulations and apply the CE mark (as below)
  3. if the electrical equipment complies with a harmonised European standard, it is automatically taken to meet principal safety objectives
  4. if there is no relevant harmonised European standard, compliance with international standards will be sufficient
  5. if there are no relevant international standards, compliance with a national standard will be sufficient provided that standard includes everything in the principal safety objectives.

Labelling & records

A manufacturer or their authorised representative within the European Economic Area (EEA) must do the following.

Ensure that the electrical equipment bears a type, batch or serial number or other element allowing its identification.

Manufacturers must indicate on the electrical equipment their name, registered trade name or registered trade mark and the postal address at which they can be contacted. If it is not possible to indicate these on the equipment itself, then it may be indicated on the product packaging or accompanying documents. These have to be legible and easily understood by the end users and market surveillance authorities. In the UK it must be in English.

Affix a CE mark to the equipment, the packaging, instruction sheet or guarantee certificate. The CE mark is a declaration that the equipment complies with the Regulations.

CE mark

Draw up and hold an 'EC declaration of conformity', which should contain:

  • product model, type, batch or serial number(s) to which the declaration of conformity applies (for traceability purposes)
  • the name and address of the manufacturer or their authorised representative
  • a description of the electrical equipment (may include a colour image where necessary for the identification of the electrical equipment)
  • a reference to the harmonised standards used to assess compliance (if no harmonised standard, then a reference to other specifications)
  • identification of the person who will enter into commitments on behalf of the manufacturer or authorised representative (if appropriate)
  • the place and date of issue

Compile and hold technical documentation, which should contain:

  • a general description of the electrical equipment
  • the conceptual design, manufacturing drawings, details of components, etc along with information to help interpretation of these
  • a list of the standards with which the electrical equipment complies
    - or, if standards were not used, a description of what has been done to ensure compliance with the general safety requirement
  • results and reports of tests, examinations, calculations, etc

Obligations of importers & distributors

Importers must not place any electrical equipment on the market unless they have assurances that it complies with the principal safety objectives and ensure that the manufacturers have met all their obligations in relation to conformity assessment procedures, technical documentation, CE marking and labelling requirements. This must be made available to an enforcing authority on request.

Importers must also indicate on the electrial equipment their name or registered trade mark and a postal address at which they can be contacted. If it is not possible to put all the information on the equipment itself, importers can put their full name or trademark and details on the packaging instead.

Distributors have a responsibility to ensure that instructions and safety information accompany the electrical equipment before placing it on the market. They must also check with the importer that the manufacturer of the electrical equipment has met their obligations with regard to the labelling requirements. Distributors must also check that the electrical equipment bears a label that correctly identifies the importer.

Obligations of manufacturers & importers

Manufacturers and importers have additional obligations; they must:

  • carry out sample testing of electrical equipment made available on the market
  • investigate and keep a register of complaints, of non-conforming electrical equipment and electrical equipment recalls
  • keep distributors informed of any such monitoring

Who should keep the documentation?

The declaration of conformity and the technical documentation must be kept and be available for inspection by enforcement bodies (including trading standards) by:

  1. the manufacturer, if they are in the EEA
  2. their authorised representative, if they are outside the EEA
  3. if neither of the above, the importer into the EEA

These must be kept for a period of 10 years beginning on the day on which the electrical equipment is placed on the market.

Safe connection for domestic electrical equipment

If the electrical equipment is a plug-in device (such as a charger) intended to be connected, without the use of a mains lead or plug, directly to the United Kingdom public electricity supply via a socket outlet conforming to BS 1363: A plugs, socket-outlets, adaptors and connection units, the economic operator must ensure that the plug-in device is compatible with socket outlets conforming to BS 1363.

Where the electrical equipment has a flexible lead and plug assembly, such as a vacuum cleaner, and is intended to be connected to the United Kingdom public electricity supply by means of a socket outlet conforming to BS 1363, the economic operator must ensure that that plug is a correctly fitted standard plug fitted with a BS 1362 fuse, or is a correctly fitted non-UK plug conforming to the safety provisions of IEC 884-1 and correctly fitted with a compatible conversion plug.

Other CE marking regulations that may apply

  • Electromagnetic Compatibility Regulations 2016 (contain provisions prohibiting electromagnetic emissions from electrical equipment interfering with the operation of other equipment)
  • Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011 (also contain a general safety requirement)
  • Radio Equipment and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Regulations 2000
  • Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008
  • Medical Devices Regulations 2002 (further information is available from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, telephone 020 3080 6000)

Penalties

Failure to comply with these requirements is a criminal offence, which may lead to a fine or imprisonment. If a product causes injury or damage, substantial compensation may be payable, whether or not criminal proceedings are brought.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: July 2017

PixelPlease note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.