I have been writing about my journey in the electrical industry. I want everyone to know exactly what I’ve been through so that they too can make an informed decision about the direction our industry is going and the things we may or may not need to do to influence positive improvements. Everything I write in these blogs is factual and can be backed up with emails, recordings and other communications.
As always there are a couple of points I want to raise at this point which I feel are very important, with this blog in particular.
I am going to be very honest, it needs to be. If you agree with the content, please don’t shy away from agreeing with it, simply like the blog. It’s more important for you to confirm the content as this will ultimately lead to a improvement that HAS to happen in our industry.
I apologise to those people I am going to call out in these blogs. I won’t use your name directly but I will detail the things that happened between us.
So, what are we going to cover, see below:
1. Where my journey started and college.
2. My first employment as an electrician – it’s an eye-opener.
3. Redundancy and self-employment.
4. My first role as a Qualifying Supervisor – let’s expose what we all do prior to our assessments.
5. From sparky to compliance manager – this was my shock entrance to social housing and my trip away from our trusted wiring regulations.
6. Seeing the industry flaws opening up in front of me and then stepping into a different world of the electrical industry. The email, the meeting and then a national working group.
7. This blog – My application to JPEL64 – in detail.
8. The future of our industry – my view and my opinion.
Here goes nothing….
So, in the last blog, I confirmed that I had been working with the industry to try and help push things in the right direction. I am still part of a working group looking at competence and the issues around specifying the right person to do the right thing at the right time. It’s really difficult to define what an electrician is because the term doesn’t really exist anymore, or if it does, it only covers the minimum technical competencies you need to start to become electrically skilled in the area you work. I mean most electricians don’t even know there are National Occupational Standards (NOS) that define competence.
The best way to describe what I mean; when I say the term electrician does not exist anymore, it’s simply the phrase “I’m a domestic spark, I don’t do 3 phase”. When an individual is taught correctly, via an apprenticeship, full/part-time courses, or adult mature trainee routes the requirements of the fundamental principles of electrotechnology are achieved, these teach you how to be electrically competent to work on electrical systems. Now I fully appreciate there are specialisms, but three phases aren’t one of them I am afraid.
Anyway, this is what we’re trying to define. The best way to de-risk a client by using the experience and knowledge aspect of competence. Not an easy task but one consumers and clients need to define to ensure the essential ‘assurance’ part of risk management.
I seemed to be getting a lot of attention from different corners of the industry because I was speaking up for a sector that was pretty much forgotten when you consider electrical. I’m talking about Social Housing. I remember this one time a chap called and explained he was from a firm called EC Harris and that they were working on behalf of the government to ‘Review the Qualifying Supervisor Model for Assuring the Safety of Electrical Installations in Dwellings’, they were asking If I would partake in an interview lasting around an hour to give my view on the Qualifying Supervisor model. I obviously agreed. Happy to share the report with anyone who wants it. My view was that the QS model didn’t work and that we needed to help the industry get to an Individual Accountability model. The scheme that provides a QS model, unfortunately, does nothing for assurance. Simply my opinion.
I remember also attending the Private Renting Sector working group as I was asked to attend and provide the opinion of a Local Authority. Again, I happily obliged. The meeting I attended was in the Home Office with a number of common faces who always seem to find themselves on these working groups. The discussion focused on the frequency and a mandatory electrical safety check. I spoke out and said there was no need for a mandatory check as we already have Regulations that clearly state the owner of a system must maintain it. Why don’t we enforce what we have, rather than force something that further de-skills our industry and confuses the market? This wasn’t met with applause as the companies involved clearly wanted the mandatory checks for some reason!!!
This working group has now published recommendations for mandatory checks every 5 years to be placed into Secondary Legislation – this simply means the Local Authorities will have to police it. Kinda like Part P…!!!!!!!!!! They’ve also recommended a new scheme be set up for Private Rented Sector testers. Again, a strange recommendation which shows a lack of management, innovation or leadership in the sector. Surely those registered with schemes now are competent to periodically inspect.
When I left employment with the Housing provider I worked for, I wondered how my involvement in the Electrician national working group would be arranged. I had a chat with one of the leaders in the Institute on this and advised that I would love to still be involved. I understand that I now work for myself and that this could be construed as trying to benefit my company by getting our brand name on the working group minutes and publications. For this reason, I suggested putting me down as a consultant with no reference to my company. I was, and still am far more interested in improving the sector than I am driving my own agenda.
I was offered a consultant post within the Social Housing sector for an Association, this meant my reach was far greater than the 50+ thousand properties I once managed. It was because of this reach I was approached by a member of the Institute who mentioned an application to the committee which writes the Wiring Regulations. I was intrigued and investigated those on the committee to see if the sector was represented already. To my amazement, it wasn’t. In fact, the committee seemed very top heavy with regards one company (or companies within companies etc. You know, the common faces from the working groups!). I asked about the process to apply and was told to write a biography for myself and the company I would be representing. I was nervous about applying because of the people on the committee and I suspected an application from someone outside the ‘circle of trust’ would not go down wells. I knew this because the Private Renting Sector group had the same people on it, the EC Harris review asked all the same people, the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification Committee (EAS) has all the same people on it…. I was nervous so had to think of a way to get the application in without giving this group the ability to plan against me…. Clearly didn’t work.
The JPEL64 meeting was to take place on the 8th March 2017. I suggested I send my application to the chair asking for it to be tabled at the meeting and not before. I was advised that any application or correspondence would be uploaded which would email the committee straight away. I decided to send this in the day before around 17:00 hrs in the hope they wouldn’t see the bio until the morning and by that time they would not have had time to fully get a blocker together. So, this is what I did…
The bios were sent at 17:00 ish and within one hour I received a text message that read “I hear you’ve applied for JPEL64, good for you”. This text was from a presenter who works for a Competent Person Scheme. He doesn’t sit on JPEL64 committee and yet within an hour he knew.
The following day the chair of the meeting moved to an agenda item for discussion. An Association has asked for membership. He then asked another person to present the Bios giving a brief intro.
The conversation was then bounced all over the place, someone saying they’ve never heard of the company and then someone else backing the company up. It was only when a particular person stepped in did the crowd seem to change tact.
Whilst talking in the committee someone was rudely interrupted by someone saying the membership numbers were only 49 and that the company was formed a year ago by a gentleman from Leeds Council. A few more words were shared and then the same chap provided a barrage of personal attacks about me stating that I was only doing this for myself, that I was already at odds with DCLG on the rented sector and again stating that I only had 49 members and that it was my own company.
Further debate was had and then the same chap stated that “Dempsey” had been involved with DCLG group and had been critical of it.
The conversation lasted another few minutes with the same approach. Confusing right?
Now let’s clear up some things right now……
· I applied for this committee as I was led to believe it would benefit the sector I worked in. I didn’t care if my name was in the book or in any publication.
· It was not my company.
· I was never at odds with DCLG, I simply provided a technical opinion of the impact to the industry if we further confused the standards we work to by issuing more guidance which was not needed.
· I applied as a representative of a company and not an individual so the chap who personally attacked me was out of order and this should have been dealt with by the committee.
It really isn’t nice listening to someone who has zero care for another human who isn’t peddling their agenda. The comments above have impacted my career and I continue to meet people who say, “you’re really not the person we’ve been told you are”.
That evening I received a phone call from someone from the Institute stating that the application was discussed but that they’ll review and make a decision at the next meeting. The reason for this was that the application had been challenged and that they, the committee, required more information before a decision was made. A representative of BS 0 would call the CEO of the organisation that was applying for membership and then confirm their findings with the Committee.
That seems Ok until you consider that BSi is supposed to decide if an organisation is suitable to be a national committee member, so the discussion in JPEL should never have happened, my Character should never have been assassinated.
I put a post on LinkedIn that evening stating that an organisation had challenged my application to JPEL64. This post got around 65000 views I believe, what’s more, it triggered the most interesting few months I’ve ever had.
That night a number of key figures in our industry checked my LinkedIn…. You could almost see the conversations based on the order in which they logged in to read the post.
In meetings with industry members and other BSi committee individuals, over the next few days and weeks, I was told what had actually happened and what had really gone on that day! Which really shocked me as it was not professional at all and not how I would have envisioned a committee to act.
Six days after the meeting an email was sent first thing in the morning to the chair and another person complaining that matters that were discussed in confidence in the JPEL/64 meeting had been shared with persons not members of the committee. This lead to an investigation whereby I had to be interviewed on the phone by the boss, the Institutes investigator delegate!
Investigator: Ryan, could you confirm that Carlos (not his real name) told you that the chap (who it would seem doesn’t like me for some reason) said the following…… Blah blah blah.
Me: Errm, no, you just told me that.
Investigator: Ryan, that’s not what I asked, could you confirm that Carlos said this….
Me: No, that’s what you’ve just said, you’ve just told me.
I then received an email from the investigator asking me again to confirm things that were not true. I ignored it until I found out that Carlos was on the chopping board. It was at this point I sent the following email;
As I mentioned I learnt a valuable lesson whilst serving as a police officer, one I shall try to explain with regards your email below.
Quote – “origin of the information in your update on social media that I need to be clear about” – as discussed in our phone call I confirmed that I had applied to JPEL64, which you knew, and that I was aware that the application was under review.
Quote – “your understanding of this being Carlos would support the application” – also, as discussed in the telephone conversation which you failed to include below, my understanding was that the institute would support my application. I was not aware until I read your email that the institute worked as individuals in these matters and that the support was coming from an individual.
As you are aware I have been working closely with you for the last few years trying to create an improvement to the industry which would benefit the public by improving standards and competence. Throughout this process I have been under the impression that you were committed to these improvements not just the individuals in the meetings. I believed that Carlos was supporting your interest.
Quote – “also, that Carlos had informed you of an objection within the committee to **** application” – I believe the way in which you have worded this sentence is very leading and open to interpretation. Carlos informed me that the application was on hold (not the actual words). It does not take a genius to know that when you apply for a committee or a job and you don’t get a positive response, that there is an issue with the application. Carlos did not give me any details of the application or step outside of what I would call a professional capacity when discussing the application.
I am very disappointed in the way in which this has been handled and do not want to be a driver for someone else’s insecurities in the industry. Carlos and yourselves have been fantastic in the approach to improve an industry which is currently failing to deliver competence and quality. Up until the conversations with you on this matter, I was under the impression your organisation was fundamentally ruled by the bylaws, ethical standards etc. I am fully aware of the standards in the industry now, they’re low, I understand and have always pushed for positive improvements to the way we work and have ALWAYS offered my support to every single organisation in the industry in the hope they will open the doors to improvements.
My understanding is that this email never made it to the table at the disciplinary because Carlos felt the need to leave.
During all of this, I was asked to delete my Social Media accounts or be put in a sticky position!! I have also been at the end of some extremely angry sparks who have felt the need to question my competence, attitude, private life, business etc. I was forwarded an email from a friend which was sent to him from a member of JPEL64 stating that you had to be within the circles and that anyone applying for the committee without doing their time on the panels is only doing it for themselves. I even received a threat from a self-employed consultant stating that I was extremely aggressive towards him and that a professional senior member should not be threatening people. I simply sent a private message saying that I thought people may question his competence as his opinion was not the same as most others.
The above is not all that happened. I’ve been introduced to people who have looked me up and down and then walked away, people I’ve never met but who are directly linked to the person who challenged the application.
Let me point something out, just in case you’ve missed it. Since my application to JPEL64, one organisation has been at the helm of preventing it. Now I met the guy who said that stuff in JPEL for the first time recently. He told me he doesn’t represent the company he works for in the committee meetings and that he represents all Competent Person Schemes. This has confused me because every competent person scheme bar his, have given the sector I was to represent the thumbs up to be on that committee, furthermore, everyone who challenged it and stood against the application works for him in the company he is paid from. Interesting right?
So, with every good story, there’s a twist. This one has one too. The chap above, his complaint etc. led to Carlos leaving his employer and moving on. Apparently, that was because he was falsely accused of giving out information from a committee. This is not allowed apparently, its frowned upon and can lose you your place on said committee, it would also seem it can cost you your job. There is a standard or law to committees, it’s BS-0, It clearly states the content is confidential and cannot be shared. I believe this is due to the commercial advantage one would get by having access to the information.
Last week I finally got to meet him in a pub in Liverpool, the night before their event. I was expecting to see the investigator as well, as he was at the same event as a guest speaker, odd that, don’t you think. It was to discuss the industry and apparently, he wanted to offer me something direct. During this meeting, which I spent a lot of time thinking about, I needed to verify a few bits…. I asked about the JPEL64 meeting stating what was said exactly but then changed a pointless part of the story to see if he would question the allegation or the simple mistake I made. Anyone who understands this will know what I did.
The most interesting part of this was him and another key figure, who chairs a JPEL 64 panel, told me the following:
The proposed Part 8 of BS 7671 was 140+ pages. They’ve managed to get this down to 6ish pages and it’s now Appendix 17.
The chairman of the involved panel was quite proud of this, as it was his work.
Power over Ethernet has not made it into the publication nor has Solar PV as Cenelec and IEC documents are not consistent with one another.
I was also told that the number of comments that were made during the DPC which have generated a lot of debate have been carried over to amendment 1 which they both stated is possibly bigger than the 18th.
Someone was about to lose their job because they had been falsely accused of giving information from a committee, by being falsely accused by someone, without any real evidence, remember that? When I challenged this with the chap he said that he believed that he was being used as an excuse to get rid of an outspoken staff member. I hope this is not the case.
Remember the BS 0 part earlier, the part that says a BSi committee member cannot give out information about what the committee is working on as it is confidential, especially where it is an unpublished, soon to be published standard, and could give a clear commercial advantage to an individual or business, prior to the launch of said new Standard?
Are you getting this?
I wonder if the Investigator is back at work? I’ll let you decide.
So, I have now submitted all of this to BSi and confirmed that I’m not willing to sit on a committee whereby it is controlled in such a way. My view of the world is that we should all step outside the box every once in a while to help others in the industry get to their final destination, this is an impossible task when the industry tries to cattle herd you into a corner. You look at the committees that write our regulations and provide guidance to others, they’re filled with the same names who all have an agenda.
The industry needs to open its eyes to improvement.
To be continued…