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 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!!!