Should you keep microwave leakage testing on your maintenance agenda? – There’s no reason not to…
As with all equipment used in the workplace, the employer has a duty to inspect and maintain to ensure the safety of all.
This includes any electrical equipment used by employees, irrispective of whether it is their own, supplied by the company or leased.
It does not extend to to contractors tools, although more and more often it is becoming a requirement of construction and building sites that contractors prove they have a regime of regular testing in place in order to use their own tools on site.
Microwave leakage testing was one of those checks that became linked to PAT Testing of appliances. After all, most offices and site cabins have a facility for heating up food, and a microwave oven is an ideal choice.
The 3rd edition of the IET Code of Practice stated that:
“Microwave leakage should be checked at appropriate intervals” and therefore became part of the portable appliance testing regime.
The 4th edition (2012) states:
“Microwave leakage testing is not within the remit of the Code of Practice, because it does not directly relate to ‘Electrical Safety”
As a result microwave in service leakage testing was removed.
So Should microwave leakage testing still be a part of your PAT programme?
Considering that microwave leakage potentially exposes the user to high levels of radiation which can cause major health problems including burns, cancer and a weakened immune system then periodic testing of emissions shouldn’t be ignored. Especially when the same person who carries out the electrical PAT test would be quite capable and qualified to carry out the leakage test at the same time.
After all, just because the requirement for leakage testing has been removed from the IET Code of Practice, it doesn’t actually say it shouldn;t be done. Therefore as an employer, it would be prudent to err on the side of caution and treat microwave testing with the same diligence as other workplace equipment.
What requires testing?
The requirements are laid down in BS5175 and state that items to be checked for sign of failure include door seals and safety interlock switches.
The actual testing for leakage requires the use of a hand held electronic detector which is swept around the oven (particularly the door seal) to ensure that any radiation being emmitted falls within the tolerance of 5mW/cm2.
An emmission label would then be attached to the oven stating that it is safe to operate.
As always, any comments, suggestions or questions are welcome below.