A respected electrical safety expert has answered some of the biggest questions about what the 18th Edition means for electrical contractors.
The 18th Edition of the IET Wiring Regulations applies to all new and rewired installations designed after January 2019 and is heralded as the biggest shakeup of fire safety protection in decades.
Michael Kenyon, electrical specialist at leading health and safety expert Bureau Veritas, considers the impact of the amendment and what it means for electrical contractors.
What are the biggest changes the 18th Edition regulations bring?
One of the most significant changes in the edition is the recommendation, as of January 2019, that all designers should consider specifying Arc Fault Detection Devices (AFDDs) to mitigate the risk of fire in final circuits from arc fault currents.
As AFDDs have never really been used in the industry, it may be challenging for installers as, in their most common current form, AFDDs will take up extra ways in distribution boards that might already be at capacity.
As such, the regulation puts the onus on manufacturers to not only ensure there is greater availability of AFDDs post-implementation, when there will no doubt be a spike in demand for such products, but also to innovate and design more compact affordable devices, some of which are starting to emerge in the marketplace.
Another recommendation is that surge protection devices should also be included in all new installations to improve protection for sensitive electronic equipment and priceless artefacts, which will be of particular importance in data centres, commercial and public sector settings, including hospitals and care homes.
Meanwhile, where previously it was stated that a wiring system located on escape routes had to be secured using metal ties to ensure it did not collapse prematurely in the event of a fire. This mandatory requirement now applies to the whole installation in a building.
What have been the main challenges around implementation?
As mentioned, the inclusion of AFDDs may present installation challenges for electricians and contractors, but these devices are also more expensive and this will need to be factored in when designing new installations.
Overall, while these new standards are a welcome step in the right direction in reducing the risk of fire, there are rising concerns that it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the rapid change of electrical legislation in recent years.
For example, although the 17th Edition Wiring Regulations were released more than a decade ago (2008), they were subsequently updated in 2011, 2013 and 2015 – with each amendment bringing with it the extra cost of purchasing new revised books and resources.
There’s already talk of the next amendment to the 18th Edition, so the overriding challenge will be maintaining the ongoing need to adapt – and upskilling this requires.
Are there any new opportunities the 18th Edition presents?
The huge growth area is the installation of electrical vehicle charging points, with the 18th Edition setting out the most robust guidelines to-date on this. A raft of companies, including budget supermarket giant Lidl, are investing significant sums to build a network of charging points across the UK and Ireland.
This includes hotels, office car parks, retailers, business centres and universities, which are all set to be upgraded with charging points to accommodate the 1 million low-polluting vehicles expected to hit the roads by 2020.
It’s a great time for contractors to enter this business area and a notable recommendation in the edition is that from January 2019, all electrical vehicle charging points must be protected using a 30mA RCD and suitable over-current protective device.
How can electricians/electrical contractors prepare for the new standard?
For many electrical contractors, it is important to invest the time and resources getting to grips with the changes the 18th Edition brings. Many will find that they will have to complete the 18th Edition City & Guilds course, as after January 2019 a lot of employers and clients will be requesting this as a standard.
As a testing, certification and inspection firm, we regularly work with duty holders to ensure the electrical infrastructure in the property they are responsible for is safe for use and complies with the latest regulations.
For electrical contractors, this means considering the latest rules and recommendations when designing a new installation, and for those using specialist design software to do this, it’s worth ensuring the software has been updated with any 18th Edition calculations that may be required.
How will the 18th Edition impact the industry long-term?
Following the Grenfell disaster, fire safety has rightly dominated the news agenda for much of 2018, and the 18th Edition will certainly raise standards across the board when it comes to reducing the risk of fire and electric shocks presented by poor electrical installations.
Compliance is an ongoing process and over the last decade we’ve seen a major shift towards a greater emphasis on the use of residual current devices (RCDs) to not only prevent people from getting fatal electric shocks but also prevent fires.
As implementation kicks in, we expect this ‘safety first’ approach to protecting employees, homeowners, students and residents to intensify in the coming years.
For instance, although many elements such as the inclusion of AFDDs are currently just a recommendation in the 18th Edition, the direction of travel is clear and these will most likely become mandatory in successive amendments.
For many, these new regulations may, at first, be hard to decipher and put into practice.
However, it’s literally a matter of life and death for duty holders and electrical contractors alike to get ahead of the rules as achieving compliance updated with regular improvements and routine inspections will, ultimately, help to save lives.
Bureau Veritas offers a range of testing and certification services to support customers in managing compliance around electrical safety in general or for specific areas, such as electric vehicle charging points. For further information, call 0345 600 1828 or visit www.bureauveritas.co.uk.