Two consultations have recently been published in Scotland seeing how the use of qualified, competent and experienced electricians can be increased to protect the public and ensure people are safe in their homes from electrical dangers.
Mike Andrews, Chief Executive of NAPIT, examines these and gives NAPIT’s position on the debate.
The Government published their consultation on 23rd November, just a couple of weeks after Jamie Halcro Johnson MSP’s Proposed Electricians Scotland Bill consultation on the same issue closed.
Mike Andrews has been representing NAPIT at the Electricians Working Group in Scotland over the past two years. Set up by the Minister, Jamie Hepburn MSP, the group aims to explore the challenge of ensuring the safety of electrical installations.
The journey to electrical safety in Scotland
NAPIT does not currently run an Electrical Certifier of Construction Scheme, which demonstrates you are able to certify that your work complies with the Building Regulations.
However, members who are certified to the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification are considered competent to undertake electrical work in Scotland which is not covered by a warrant. They can also undertake Electrical Installation Condition Reports and are recognised as such under the Government’s Guidance.
The Scotland Building Regulations states: “Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that the electrical installation does not–(a) threaten the health and safety of the people in, and around, the building; and (b)become a source of fire.”
Scotland, England and Wales: The similarities and differences
Due to their differences, you cannot directly compare the Certifier of Construction Scheme in Scotland with the Competent Person Schemes in England and Wales – but there are certainly similarities.
The main difference in Scotland is the scope to which ‘warrantable work’ applies. Electrical work is only warrantable in limited domestic settings. What determines whether work is warrantable or not largely depends on the impact of faulty work on others.
For example, if the electrical work is being done in a flat, maisonette or the work affects a separating wall or a building with one or more stories over 4.5m, then a warrant is required. However, a lot of the ‘notifiable’ electrical works in England and Wales do not require a warrant in Scotland.
This has meant that many electricians have not needed to join a ‘Certifier of Construction’ Scheme and become an ‘Approved Body’ or approved ‘Certifier’ as their work didn’t fall within the warrantable regime.
Due to this, there is a lack of oversight of many of those undertaking electrical work in Scotland. Research has shown that there is a lack of consumer awareness about how to engage a qualified and competent electrician.
Jamie Halcro-Johnston MSP has been a long-standing advocate for improving electrical safety within Scotland and sponsored a Members Debate on the regulation of electricians as a profession in October 2018.
Although his consultation came as a shock, given that the Government had promised the Electricians Working Group they would publish one, it reiterated its importance and could have been intended to put pressure on the Government to act.
The proposed Electricians Bill aims to create a single, unified register of qualified, experienced and competent electricians in Scotland and to provide protection of title for those who are registered.
The Government’s consultation, which is open until the 12th February 2021, considers whether regulatory measures are required to give greater protection to the public and reduce the level of poor electrical workmanship by a persistent rogue trader element.
Both consultations have the same aim of ensuring the safety of electrical installations in Scotland. Halcro Johnston’s consultation sets out very clear proposals while the Government consultation explores whether voluntary measures could be taken to tackle this problem.
NAPIT’s position: Agreements
NAPIT fully supports the efforts to improve electrical safety in Scotland, stating that a unified register of competent organisations would be a huge step forward in providing confidence to consumers.
However, the Government’s Certification Register could be expanded to include all electricians, and should remain as not only listing companies, but also competent individuals. Photographs of the individuals would allow consumers to verify the competence of their employed contractor on the doorstep – a move NAPIT has recently made to help enhance consumer protection.
One way to encourage electricians to become certified, and listed on this register, would be to expand the scope of electrical warrantable work to include all houses. This will provide a clear message to communicate to homeowners and ensure the use of an Approved Body who employs at least one Approved Certifier or uses a Verifier to sign off the work as compliant.
In addition, a consumer awareness campaign will be needed to raise awareness of the Certification Register as the place to find a qualified, registered competent electrician in Scotland. Consideration should also be given to whether electrical work undertaken in commercial and industrial properties should be subject to increased warrants.
NAPIT’s position: Disagreements
NAPIT does not support the proposal to protect the title ‘electrician’ as those who are not able to call themselves an electrician will call themselves other names, such as an ‘electrical installer’ which will still allow them to undertake electrical work.
Protecting a title does not protect the work activity. It creates a lot of issues regarding specialist electrical disciplines such as: electrical renewable technologies, smart home automation systems, fire and security systems, and requires considerations around how not to undermine their specialism whilst protecting a proportion of electrical work.
Protecting the title for individual electricians and listing individuals, without the company they are employed by also creates many issues. Especially around insurance requirements, consumer protection, contract law and GDPR, which is why NAPIT would never support a register of competent individuals without their organisation name being clearly present.
Looking ahead, NAPIT will be submitting their views to the Scottish Government Consultation and they are encouraging you to do the same. Hopefully, steps will be taken to enhance electrical safety and provide consumers with added protection in Scotland but implore the Government to take ownership of this initiative to reduce the risk of control within the sector.