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Our Industry – Can it be fixed?

So, I have had the pleasure of working in the Electrical industry now for about 10 years, some would say that’s not enough to demonstrate competence in all areas, which I tend to agree. However, what I do know is that I have enough knowledge, experience and skill in this industry to know things need to change.

What is an Electrician?

 

Depending on whom you ask depends on the answer, which is our first problem. Let me tell you what I have.

 

I currently hold my level 2 and 3 City and Guilds (2330), I also hold C&G 2391, and I have my 16th edition and 17th edition and will continue to takes these as they’re released.  I have qualifications in Solar PV, Portable Appliance testing, Health & Safety (IOSH) and I am a member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology.

 

I have extensive knowledge of Fire Alarms, Emergency lighting systems, CCTV, Communal Ventilation systems, Lightning Conductors and Lighting Control Systems (inverters etc) plus a few more.

 

I am also studying for C&G 2396 course which I aim to take this year.

 

Am I an Electrician?

 

The problem……..

 

The problem we have in our industry is the fact that people who order the work don’t differentiate between someone who says they’re an electrician and someone who is. If you placed a City & Guilds 2382 document (17th Edition) in front of an agency they would employ you as a fully qualified electrician earning the same as someone with the same qualifications as me.

 

There will actually be people who read that last sentence and ask themselves “what’s the problem?”

 

If we don’t regulate the industry down to the individual, we promote laziness. Why would someone go through 5 years of training to earn £30k a year when they could do a few weeks and get the same? They wouldn’t. We have to incentivise people to progress; unfortunately, this is the way of the world. We once had this incentive through the Joint Industry Board whereby hourly rates were dependant on your level of skill; it would seem this has now become historic.

 

Let’s also not look away from the Competent Person Schemes (CPS). Whether you love them or hate them they have a significant part to play in our industry. They have the power to change what we do and how we do it but unfortunately, it would mean a drop in the bottom line profits, for a period of time anyway.

 

Competent Person Schemes give no security to the end user. They cannot guarantee that the person who carries out the work in or around your home is qualified to do so. They can, however, say the company is.

 

Another big problem is the electricians themselves. It would seem we interpret things differently which in turn complicates the understanding of those who ask for our help. A perfect example of this is the frequency of inspection (Regulation 622 – BS7671). Depending on who you speak to you will get a different answer.

 

For the record, said regulation does not state a frequency.

 

Now before I am challenged on this statement I feel it’s only right to confirm that the guidance notes do have a table that shows a suggested frequency. However, this table is only for the initial frequency and the preface of this guidance note clearly states it is for guidance and not compliance. It is up to you to make the call based on last inspection results, installation usage etc. etc.

 

Let’s look at the consequence of getting this wrong and telling people that 10 or 5 years is the next inspection date because that’s what the regs say!!!!

 

As I am in the sector, let’s look at the social housing market.

 

The UK has 4million social housing properties, all of which need to be part of a testing regime to meet EAW89 and any landlord regulations. If we spend £100 per test, the cost to the UK government would be £400million over the period chosen for test. If that period is 10 years we need to find £40million per year, if we reduce that to 5 (as people are suggesting) we increase the annual budget need to £80million per year.

 

We as electricians are suggesting to our government 100% increases in budget need per year to make sure properties are safe. This is completely wrong. Social Housing markets look after their properties far better than standard dwellings in the private renting market. Asset management, repairs and maintenance, emergency contacts, all of these things alongside the knowledge of the asset and previous data should mean we are looking to save money as opposed to spending more. An electrician needs to provide substance to a recommended frequency. In my whole time in the industry, I have never seen the following statement on a document….

 

‘Installation electrically sound with bonding adequate – recommended 10 years until next inspection because no previous results could be cross-reference against. However, no deterioration found and all results as expected’

 

If an installation has been installed for over 10 years and there are no signs of deterioration (which a qualified engineer would notice), there is absolutely no reason to put it down for the standard 5 years.

 

The above issue has been created because of a lack of understanding in our industry. It is potentially going to be a costly mistake.

 

So what’s the solution, how do we fix the problem? I completely agree with my friends and colleagues on Linkedin, a single register for electricians with a monitoring system in place to randomly view people’s development portfolio.

 

I have been fortunate enough to speak and meet with people in the compliance industry who share my passion to see change. People like the Engineering Council are keen to help improve standards throughout our industry as they are the governing body. Companies like the Association of Electrical Safety Managers (AESM) provide me with confidence that there are people out there that want to help us mere mortals improve the service we provide.

 

I welcome any views on this document and will respond to everyone who contacts me. We have to collectively speak up and say what’s best for our industry. We also need to make sure the noise is heard before those who are not qualified overtake those who are!!!

 

ryan@thecomplianceworkbook.com

Ryan Dempsey - CEO
Ryan Dempsey

Over the last few years I have found myself in a very fortunate position where I can implement and promote change in the Social Housing sector. My passion and drive to improve Electrical Safety continually fuels my motivation to implement slight changes to engineer and industry work patterns in the hope the mentality currently sitting in the engineering industry can change. We need to ensure the right people with the right skills and experience are working in and around the properties we provide. Not only that, we need to ensure the workforce are the people talking and helping develop the standards we work towards. Improved quality assurance and the avoidance of the 'status quo' should be a starting point in any organisations route to complete compliance. Improved compliance at all levels will improve the safety and sustainability of the properties we provide and manage. The key to improve risk management is to pinpoint the areas of risk and manage these individually. Don't over complicate a simple process. We also need to ensure those with a similar passion speak up and be counted for. It's time for change and that means moving out the old and replacing with the new. All the views and opinions on here are my own and not that of any company I am associated with.

4 Comments
  • Avatar
    Derek Flower
    Reply
    Posted at 4:32 pm, 23rd November 2017

    Very good article Ryan, but I feel the only way to fix the situation is stop what I call the 6 month wonder training scheme.
    I served a 6 year apprentice ship and I have never stopped learning since.
    It appears to me that a majority of the fast track training courses only covers domestic installations?
    What has happened to training in things like pyro, concealing cables, it appears most so called electricians in domestic and commercial can only every use plastic mini trucking???
    Rant over but I feel sorry that the standard of installation

    now being offered by many so called electricians.
    When I was trained you were told they have to have wires but don’t need to look at them or any mini trunking

  • Avatar
    Craig Tomlinson
    Reply
    Posted at 4:33 pm, 23rd November 2017

    The JIB have just released a four year plan of revised rates http://www.jib.org.uk/new-wage-agreement-for-industry

    There is a lot of confusion within the industry over qualifications.

    A lot more people are doing the NVQ’s on their own after gaining City & Guilds at college but failing to get an apprenticeship.

  • Avatar
    Paul Meenan
    Reply
    Posted at 4:34 pm, 23rd November 2017

    Love this… I could write a book on the state of the industry, governing bodies, part P, 7671, the JIB and all the rest of the chaos our industry spouts. we are denying the inevitable truth.

    U have seen only a smidge of how bad it is.. but well put

    I enjoyed so much I may write my own one day…..

  • Avatar
    Mark Allison
    Reply
    Posted at 4:34 pm, 23rd November 2017

    Good post Ryan, while I disagree with a few of the points the general spirit is much in line with my thinking. Effecting change is the difficulty. But everything has to start somewhere. I do my own little bit in my own little area. I try not to dwell on it to much as I just end up frustrated. As you will be able to testify after a few of my comments on your questions. Keep it up anyway Ryan and all the best.

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