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HSE Safety Notice - Laptop Computer Trolley Safety

HSE has issued a safety alert for the attention of schools after electric shock incident involving laptop charging trolleys

28 October 2019

HSE has issued a safety alert for the attention of schools using laptop computer charging trolleys and those who manufacture / supply such products. This is to raise awareness of the possible electrical dangers and the steps to take to protect staff and pupils.

A HSE investigation into an electric shock incident involving a laptop charging trolley found that when a 3-pin plug supplying the trolley was removed from the supply socket there was sufficient stored electric charge on the pins of the plug, enough to give the user an electric shock.

In addition some trolleys have been identified that have two supply cables contrary to good electrical engineering practice, insufficient plug and cable storage facilities and unsuitable earth terminations.

As many of the trolleys have trailing electrical cables and plugs they can be damaged during movement of the trolleys. When damage occurs to the cables or plugs this can give rise to a serious risk of electric shock to users and it was found that many laptop computer charging trolleys have been placed on the market and supplied without an approved CE marking.

Recommended action to control the risk
Not all trolleys are necessarily dangerous but for all laptop computer charging trolleys the following recommendations are made:

Any laptop computer charging trolleys in use should be safe and fit for sale within the EEA. This can be established by checking for a CE mark and the Declaration of Conformity. This can be verified by the manufacturer or supplier.

Where a trolley does not have a Declaration of Conformity and a CE mark it may not be dangerous but assurances that the product is safe for the intended use should be obtained in writing from the manufacturer.

The following recommendations are for situations where laptop computer charging trolleys remain in use where there is no Declaration of Conformity and CE marking. Any modifications to the required electrical equipment and systems should be carried out by a competent person and discussed with the manufacturer / supplier in order to avoid invalidating any warranty.

Laptop computer charging trolleys should only be used by adults. In circumstances where this can be assured the following precautions are necessary as a minimum.

i. 3-pin plugs associated with mobile charging trolleys should only be inserted and removed when the socket is switched OFF.

ii. Dedicated, switchable, RCD (residual current device) protected sockets for laptop chargers should be identified.

iii. A warning notice should be displayed adjacent to sockets and elsewhere, as necessary, to remind users of the need to switch sockets OFF before inserting or removing plugs.

iv. Adults likely to insert / remove plugs should be advised of this procedure and the risks associated.

v. Trolleys should be fitted with a cable storage facility and used to avoid cables and plugs trailing on the floor.

vi. A daily visual check of the condition of cables and plugs should be carried out.

Where use by adults only cannot be assured the following precautions are necessary.

i. 3-pin plugs should be replaced with blue coloured euro-connectors to BS EN 60309 (This ensures that the plug pins remain out of immediate contact on insertion and removal)

ii. Dedicated, switchable sockets for the euro-connectors should be installed.

iii. A warning notice should be displayed adjacent to remind users of the need to switch sockets OFF before inserting or removing plugs.

iv. Trailing cables should be replaced with high abrasion cables having an earthed screen.

vii. Trolleys should be fitted with a cable storage facility and used to avoid cables and plugs trailing on the floor.

v. A daily visual check of the condition of cables and plugs should be carried out and recorded by a nominated person.

It is important to maintain all electrical equipment in a safe condition and to use it within the guidelines of the manufacturer.
Where electrical items are transported and used on a regular basis damage is more likely to occur especially to flexible cables, plugs and associated equipment. It is important for a competent person to monitor the damage by visually checking before the product is used.

Advice on the maintenance of portable electrical appliances can be obtained from HSE publication HSG107 ‘Maintaining portable and transportable electrical equipment’.

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