Unsafe electrical work, showing the deterioration factor

There is so much talk in the electrical industry at the moment whereby organisations define risk using geographical assumptions made by third party companies. It really does seem that to manage electrical risk in any sector you simply refer to who’s talking at the moment. We’ve lost the most back principle of ‘if there’s a risk, manage it’. I mean one of the worse things to happen to risk management in our industry as a whole is the creation of multi-skilled workforce, we’ve taken the role of Clerk of Works and others and forced these individuals to do more towards business continuity rather than focusing in on what’s most important about their job, which is to provide that Gate Keeper or sense check of potential risk.


I provided some electrical training to an organisation in Scotland recently and during a conversation with the chap who used to have the title Clerk of Works, I was taken back that the organisation he worked for had removed that title and created a Technical Officer as that had more scope. What stood out most about this chap was the amount of fundamental knowledge he had with regards everything.


I don’t just want to focus on Clerk of Works as the issue seems to be across most trades in most businesses. Taking advantage of technical staff to manage budgets and business process is in itself a risky business. Not because they can’t do it but more because their heart is in their trade not the continuity of your business.


So why does this have any bearing on the Deterioration Factor? Simply put, the process of managing an idea from the first thought to the destruction of that idea needs careful consideration around who will do what to 1. Design to make it last and 2. Keep it functioning as designed. Those two simple statements managed properly mean you do what you need to do to cater for the management and the possible deterioration. I mean if you don’t monitor something how can you ever tell if it doesn’t work or if its starting to fail? Kind of like the sparks in our industry right!!!!


So what actually is the Deterioration Factor (DF)? It’s really simply, it is the ability to take all the relevant and accessible data you have about the management and performance of an electrical system and then interpreting it to see slight changes. It’s about specifying the right people at the beginning and then spotting those who fall short before that shortfall costs you. The DF is the understanding that every system operates slightly differently and that those slight differences left alone could eventually turn into a massive difference. If you imaging two ships side by side pointing in the same direction and heading exactly North… if one ship changing direction by just one degree, over time they’d be worlds apart. The smallest issues have the potential to become the biggest risks.


Lets taking a working example of how to manage the possible deterioration factor.


You’re a Local Authority responsible for the management of 10,000 domestic properties. How do we manage the risk in these 10,000 assets? We create a cyclical programme to inspect but we need guidance on how to do that right?


The easiest solution here is to google guidance and then use that, because that provides us a blanket to fall on because if something happens we can say we did what the guidance said. Right?


Electrical Safety First tell you that the initial frequency is 5 years from install to first inspection. They then advice that the installation should be inspected and tested at intervals of no more than 5 years from the date of the first inspection.


This is their opinion and is based on absolutely no technical data. I’ve sat in meetings where they’ve pushed for this to be made mandatory but failed because the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) has countered this with comments that specifying a date removes the need for Engineer Judgement from the workforce and promotes a culture of stating a number without evidence or anything to back it up.


We then look to Guidance Note 3, a document produced by the IET to assist in the understanding of Inspection and Testing requirements. Table 3.2 tells the world that Rented Domestic should be tested every 5 years or change of tenancy. Well at least that’s how everyone has read it.


To burst this bubble, we should consider the column next to the statement of 5 years…. It clearly ‘recommends’ that the property should be visually inspected every year. I wonder why this has been missed or is not pushed for by the companies advocating the frequency.


I also want to draw your attention to the page adjacent to the table where it states the following:


For example, the inspector may recommend an interval greater than that siuggested in table 3.2 in instances where an installation has not suffered from damage or deterioration which wold detract from its overall suitable for continued use.


In short, the inspector being competent person should apply engineering judgement when deciding upon intervals between inspecting and testing an installation and may use recommendations of table 3.2.


If we simply follow the guidance incorrectly we find ourselves performing the following:


10,000 x £100 (inspection and Test) = £1,000,000 (total inspection costs over 5 years)


£1,000,000 / 5 = £200,000 requirement per year


What about Engineering Judgement and Deterioration Factors?


Here’s some questions to ask –


Who installed the system?


How detailed was the



Who maintains the systems?


How detailed is that specification?


Emergency repairs timescales and competence requirements?


How old are the system?


Who uses the system?


Materials used?


Systems of monitoring?


Let’s look at the 10,000 assets with a more pragmatic view.


4,000 installed post 2008 (fully RCD protected)


4,000 installed pre 2008 but post 1993 (partial RCD protected)


2,000 installed pre 1993 (no RCD protection)


4,000 – 17th Edition (low risk) – 10 years


4,000 – 16th Edition (medium risk) – 7 years


2,000 – 15th Edition (medium to high) – 5 years


The financial side –


4,000 – 400,000 – £200,000


4,000 – 400,000 – £284,000


2,000 – 200,000 – £200,000


10,000 – 1,000,000 – £684,000


So over a 5 year’s period you’ve just saved the organisation £316,000 (£63,200 per year). That’s about 28 of the 15th edition boards which can now sit within the 17th edition frequency. Doesn’t sound a lot right…. Now imagine doing that across all 4 million social housing properties.


Now the above example is a basic example of the risk management I talk about but shows the ability to manage electrical systems using your own, or your teams Engineering Judgement. The key here is Accountability, be accountable for the decision you make and don’t rely on organisations who push changes to benefit their members. The truth is they wont come and defend you in court if something happens.


The deterioration factor is looking at all the available data to make what I just did have more purpose. Be accountable for the work you do and the systems you manage as ultimately you’ll be asked the questions if something goes wrong.


Any questions on this I would be happy to help. Any Social Housing landlords want to discuss this and see how they can apply the same principles of the Deterioration Factor to their assets, I am more than happy to visit and discuss this and any other electrical compliance in Social Housing issues FOC.


Ryan (#e5)


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.

  • Avatar
    Andrew Hutchins TMIET
    Posted at 10:45 am, 2nd January 2018

    Excellent read Ryan

  • Avatar
    Alan Melroy
    Posted at 10:46 am, 2nd January 2018

    There is always the deterioration factor that never gets into budgets as the people making the budget don’t know anything about what the budget incorporates as far as future costs.

  • Avatar
    Ian Simpson
    Posted at 10:49 am, 2nd January 2018

    On a working platform of 10,000 houses
    Generating over 50million PA
    I would be expecting to allocate a considerable amount in implementing
    Immediate change.
    It’s prioritising the Priority
    To maximise the Standard of the Installation
    The objective should be to allocate expenditure to the earlier edition.
    In theory reducing any potential risk.

    It’s all about managing the money ?

    And then I have witnessed first Hand in both Private and Social Housing the unacceptable neglect of what ever existing system is in place
    By the Tennant

    Taking DF to another level

  • Avatar
    Dan Jackson MIET
    Posted at 10:49 am, 2nd January 2018

    Your points on deterioration are very good! An older installation naturally and usually is higher risk but not always so should assessed accordingly.

    There’s needs to be fair more input into a clients specification and management of electrical systems. After all, it is their assests

  • Avatar
    Leslie Zane Johns
    Posted at 10:50 am, 2nd January 2018

    Unfortunately there is also the reality of cost cutting in terms of material and labour source used that negatively impacts new installations.
    I have literally seen all types of horrific and brilliant installations in my career.

  • Avatar
    Leslie Zane Johns
    Posted at 10:51 am, 2nd January 2018

    Excellent article. Wish local supply authorities in SA would read material like this due to the high incidence of zero or slash bang maintenance being practiced i.e. semi skilled/ inexperienced workers/ contractors used for these purposes due to the political environments legal requirement for specific demographic appointments

  • Avatar
    Posted at 4:40 pm, 13th January 2018

    Great post Ryan lost of companies never take Deterioration Factor into account

  • Avatar
    Glyn Gannon
    Posted at 1:00 pm, 15th April 2018

    Excellent discussion and thought provoking

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