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SPARKS Blog: Legal Status and qualifications

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In our latest blog, Mike Davies, SPARKS’ Technical Advisor and retired lecturer, discusses the reasons why gaining qualifications are vital in the electrical industry.

An architect once said to me, ‘Oh, anyone can be an electrician’.

In fact, unlike the profession of an architect, he was right. ‘Anyone can be an electrician’: you don’t need a degree, licence or any professional qualification unless you intend to be ‘Graded’ or only work in domestic dwellings, in which case for Grading you will need qualified Electrician status, an NVQ Level 3 Diploma, or a Domestic Electrical Installer certificate for electrical work in homes.

If you are not seeking Grading or do not intend to work in peoples’ homes, will you need a qualification to ‘do electrical work’?

Well, The Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, a statutory document, identifies the legal duties imposed on persons, employed or self-employed, working on or near electrical systems and equipment.

Persons concerned must have technical knowledge, training and experience to carryout work safely including the use of correct tools and test equipment.

So, in fact, to be on the right side of the Law the answer is yes, you do need to be qualified. A recognised qualification involves being trained, gaining knowledge and experience.

Consider the following story.

You decide to be an electrician.

You have worked alongside your brother on a few electrical jobs he has carried out during small building projects for domestic clients.

You feel you know how to connect things – nothing to it!

A friend, knowing that you are doing some ‘electrics’, asks if you would connect the new electric shower that’s been installed in his parents’ bathroom.

The existing wiring is there already and just needs connecting; you agree for a fee!

The shower is connected and seems to work fine.

Some days later you get a disturbing text from your friend that his sister has received a fatal electric shock when using the shower – the family are devastated.

On investigation by the health & safety executive officer, it appears the earth conductor had not been connected properly onto the shower’s earth terminal. YOU are responsible as you did the work.

What next? You have broken the law on two counts.

First under the Electricity at Work Regulations you have failed to comply with Regulation 16: Competent Persons. You have worked on an electrical system where technical knowledge or experience was necessary to prevent danger.

Secondly, you have worked in a situation classified as ‘notifiable’ under the Part P of the Building Regulations.

In fact, as a death has occurred, you are likely to be arrested and will need to prove your innocence – difficult in this situation as you have no experience or qualifications to show and prove your competence.

And yes, you have to prove your innocence – it is not for a court to find you guilty – see Regulation 29 of the Electricity at Work Regulations.

‘…it shall be a defence for any person to prove that he took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid the commission of that offence…’

This is not a situation you would wish to find yourself in, I am sure. The moral of this story is clear: obtain the technical knowledge, gain the practical experience and then prove your ability and skills by achieving the recognised qualifications.

Don’t take a chance – it could be expensive and cost you your freedom.

For advice and guidance contact your local college or training centre.

Previous SPARKS Blogs

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The Big Renewable Power Charge!

A guide to floodlights

Get smart – hire an apprentice

I’m Reg and I’m here to help you!

EV Charging and the 18th Edition

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