There are so many comments floating around about the level of skill and experience of those working in our industry today. It would be easy to state that this is not the case and that it’s a select few who are unhappy about the shift in work ethics and training which has ultimately led to reduced costs and less money in the pockets of vocal sparks. Truth be told, it would be impossible to pinpoint the exact cause but I’ll share the theories I’ve been told over the last few months (I may miss some, please add at the bottom if you’ve heard more).
1. Some required competencies have been removed from the apprenticeship programme.
I’ve been told that the major players in the industry have dumbed down the competency requirements to be able to outsource certain jobs and reduce electrician’s wages. If we don’t teach sparks how to use Cat5 cables etc. we can use external TV and data engineers and drive costs down for the organisation. Same applies to MICC (Pyro).
If this was true we would be able to see this very clearly in the work carried out before with the National Occupational Standards (NOS) and then the changes. Surely this would be challenged. Of course, if the people who wrote it are the people who would normally challenge it….. we have a flaw.
2. The introduction of short courses or training courses outside of national apprenticeships.
Yes, this is a problem. Why? Because we are giving people a little knowledge and then they’re earning money which is the same as those who have a lot of knowledge. The issue here is the perception from the client ordering the work and not an electrical industry problem, as such. Instead of moaning about reduce competency we should be educating the consumer, we don’t do that enough. If you use someone with very little experience over someone with a lot…. The life of the installation may be significantly reduced.
3. The Competent Person Schemes are reducing entry requirements to get more members – thus increase profit.
I would be amazed if this was actually true. Although it has legs. As with the first theory, I can’t see how this would be true as they all have to monitor and manage members the same way. Yeah, CertSure has this QS model which needs to change but all in all the model they all work towards is the same. There is actually a specification which is developed to enforce how a Ukas accredited Competent Person Scheme must perform (let’s ignore the fact they write the standard themselves).
Whichever theory you back I would like to take you back to the title of this article, engineering judgment. I regularly see people shooting electricians down for calling themselves engineers yet the guidance notes we use state the need for engineering judgement. Does this mean an electrician has to employ an engineer to determine deterioration or risk when carrying out testing on properties?
The truth is that judgement sits with the tester and inspector. Whether you call this engineering judgement or electrician judgement, it means the same thing when considering competence. If you have only done part of the qualifications needed to be a fully qualified spark then your judgement is less worthy than someone with 20 years experience and all the qualifications needed to be an electrician.
I recently spoke to an electrician who challenged me on the following.
Circuit supplying a ring final circuit had a Zs of 0.67 ohms. The r1+r2 was 0.23 ohms and the Ze was 0.07ohms.
(R1+R2)+Ze = 0.30 ohms (Zs)
I was told that because it was within the parameters of the Max permitted Zs it was fine and that it was probably a spur causing the increase. Which I agreed but disagreed in terms of frequencies of inspection and determining the deterioration factor. Let me explain.
The reading the electrician got was 0.67ohms but the assumed calculation reading should have been 0.30ohms. That’s 123% difference from calculated to actual. If this was a spur it would be around 19 meters long.
19.51 / 1000 * 19 = 0.37ohms (this is the calculation you could use to validate cable length resistance and is a good guide if you take into account connections etc. which are minimal).
Anyway, the spur is 19 meters long????? Really?
What about the previous result? What if the property was tested 3 weeks or 6 months ago and the reading then was as expected (0.30ohm ish). That means over 3 weeks say, the deterioration factor is 0.02 ohms per day. That means in 35 days the system could potentially fail because the Zs would reach the max permitted.
If you are a sparky and you’re not following this…. think about it.
So now you’ve just tested an installation and got a reading of 0.67Ohms and told someone it’s fine because it’s within the parameters. You’ve put your signature on the document and signed it off for 5 years because you follow one rule and not the whole picture. You’ve actually just put the person ordering the work at risk for potentially for 1790 days. Fingers crossed nothing happens in that time.
Engineering Judgment in our sector is knowing your regs, knowing your calculations and understanding what you’re doing. It also means understanding the other requirements your clients need. Say the above was a Local Authority or Housing Association, they are required to manage properties in accordance with a handful of regulations that all say the property has to be safe throughout any tenancy. If you’re the electrician above, you’ve just put them at risk and they (or you) don’t know it.
It’s extremely important for risk management and technical management of electrical systems to use competent people. It’s even more important to stand up and shout to our industry that its time for Individual Accountability.
Let me know if any of this doesn’t make sense. Happy to sit down with anyone who wants to understand this but is not at that level yet.