BS 6396: 2022 – Understanding the Requirements for Electrical Systems in Furniture

What’s new about BS 6396:2022

The Key changes relate to the following sections and are covered in more detail below;

  • Change to scope
  • Clarification of Earthing
  • Thermal overload protection
  • RCDs within the circuit
  • Battery Inverter systems in furniture
  • High power USB power supplies
  • Testing Effectiveness of RCD

Whilst the new standard was released at the end of March 2022, there is a 12-month implementation period where both standards are in force. The new version will supersede

BS 6396:2008+A1:2015 on 31st March 2023, but until then either version can be applied.  It is important to note that BS 6396 is a best practice installation standard and is not mandatory.

Change in scope

The new standard has removed the reference to office and educational furniture, to read as follows;

“This British Standard specifies requirements for the provision and assembly of electrical power, data and telecommunications distribution systems in furniture.

Requirements are specified for furniture for general use and also for use with specific equipment, parts of which potentially built-in during manufacture.”

What does it really mean?

Definition: Includes “single-phase electrical power distribution systems operating at rated voltages up to 250V that are connected to the fixed wiring of the permanent installation of the building by a 13A fused plug.”

Practicality: Whenever furniture is connected to the mains electrical supply by 13A plug the furniture itself becomes regarded as an electrical appliance and is subject to BS6396.

What’s not included?

Definition: “The standard does not apply to power distribution systems that are permanently connected to the building installation or for electrical appliances for which appropriates standards are available.”

Practicality: ‘Powertrack systems or fixed wiring installations are not subject to BS 6396. Likewise appliances with high current loads such as kettles, heaters, vacuum cleaners should not be connected to sockets that are located within the furniture as they will cause the protective over-current device (fuse/CBE) to operate and cut power off the socket outlet.

Examples of BS 6396 Installation

Connection to the mains electrical supply by 13A wall socket or floor box 13A socket.

Rotasoc connection to the mains electrical supply by a Powertrack system in compliance with BS 7671.

The desk top electrics are being supplied from Rotasoc 13A BS1363 socket-outlets and therefore will need to comply with BS 6396.

BS 6396 Drawings

Socket outlet guidelines

Plug sockets installed in office and educational furniture are intended to supply electrical equipment with a fuse rating of no more than 5A. Section 7 of BS 6396 describes the need to test such equipment and sets out the procedures for doing so.

You should carry out these tests on reconfigured desks and screens as well as new installations. You must repeat the tests periodically to fulfil the requirements of BS 6396 and the Electricity at Work Regulations in maintaining a safe working environment.

Meeting the requirements of BS 6396 means following the points listed below when configuring electrical systems. Any electrical system being fed from one 13A BS 1363 UK plug must not have more than:

  • 4x individually fused sockets rated at 5A each, or
  • 6x individually fused sockets rated at 3.15A each

as shown by the diagrams below.

BS 6396 Drawings

If you have equipment rated higher than 5A, do not plug it into your workstation or furniture power.  The sockets in this furniture are designed for office equipment only. Also, make sure:

  • all sockets have the correct fuses—each socket must be rated at either  5A or 3.15A.
  • all power modules have the correct fuses—even if the electrical system has surge protectors, mini circuit breakers (MCBs) etc. installed.

Thermal overload over-current protection for socket outlets

Circuit breakers for equipment (CBE) are now also included in the standard and must comply with BS EN IEC 60934 and shall be non-self resetting.  To be used within a module instead of fuse protection, the circuit breaker must meet one of the following clauses:

Clarification on Earth Protection

Section 4 of the standard now clearly states earthing requirements by using three scenarios:

Dangers of non compliance

  • It jeopardises the Health and Safety of staff
  • The company is liable for injuries or worse
  • The Facility Manager or Duty Holder can be held responsible in law
  • By testing and signing off workstations to BS 6396 compliance is validated and everybody from workers, those responsible, and the company is protected

BS 6396 compliance checklist

  • Is the furniture connected via a 13A UK plug?
  • Is there 2m or more of unprotected cable?
  • Is the cable clamped at point of entry?
  • Is there adequate power and data segregation – minimum 50mm apart
  • Is there 300mm or less of cable support where no cable management is present
  • Is the furniture Earthed correctly or are double insulated power cables used?
  • Do you have the correct number of sockets in use and is each individual socket fused?
  • Does the workstation have RCD protection? (wall socket, floor box, under desk)

Regulations and references

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989
  • Electrical Systems in Furniture – Specification BS 6396 : 2022
  • Health and Safety: Display Screen Equipment (1992)

BS 6396—Residual current devices

BS 6396 was updated in December 2015 with a requirement for all electrical systems within office or educational furniture to include safety protection in the form of a 30 milliamp (mA) residual current device.

What is a residual current device (RCD)?

An RCD monitors the flow of electricity (measured in Amps) through a circuit.

If the current sent down the live (brown) wire to the electrical appliance does not match the current returned via the neutral (blue) wire, the RCD sees that as a leak in the circuit and automatically stops the flow of electricity.

Why do I need a 30 mA RCD?

Although all RCDs do the same job, the speed at which they stop the flow of electricity is determined by the device’s rating, measured in milliamps (mA).

BS 6396 says electrical systems within office or educational furniture should include a 30 mA RCD. This is classified as a high-sensitivity device, capable of stopping the flow of electricity within around 40 milliseconds and preventing irreversible heart damage or death from electric shock.

As little as 0.5 mA can cause injury from electrocution in less than a tenth of a second. Anything over 40 mA is likely to be fatal.

How CMD makes its products safe

At CMD, we put electrical safety at the heart of what we do. Our highly trained and experienced team of engineers are all qualified in aspects of compliance with BS 6396, and we are able to offer our entire range of power modules (including Rotasoc) to meet the standards of BS 6396 for any office or educational environment.

It’s up to our customers to ensure their installations comply with BS 6396. We make sure that all our products meet the standards.

Residual current devices in our products

We can supply the following products with RCDs.

Power modules

Rotasoc (switching/protection module) – can be retrofitted

Conti Connect (metal and plastic)

Elite+ (RCD protection module) – can be retrofitted

Underfloor power

20 Series Floor Box (Single box base) – supplied with socket outlets incorporating a residual current device (SRCDs)

20A Series Floor Box (Separate box base) – supplied with SRCDs

20A Series Floor Box (Separate base box) with single RCD/RCBO

Slab Boxes – supplied with SRCDs

Cleaner’s Hive – supplied with SRCDs

Cable Hives – supplied with SRCDs

Related content

Electrical safety in the office

Electrical regulations