If you think the electrical standards are bad in the UK, wait til you see India!
I have been to 25 countries and the electrical standards in India appear to be by far the worst!
I am an electrician from the UK. I have worked all over the UK in a variety of properties. I would say the standard of workmanship in the UK really varies. I have seen amazing work which I would call art and then I have seen stuff that makes me shudder because they are so dangerous! In general, I would say standards are less than acceptable. I come across far more poor work than good work.
I left the UK in the summer of 2018 to travel with my family. Since leaving the UK I have been to Iceland, Canada, USA, Mexico, Barbados, Australia, Singapore and India.
Being an engineer and in the electrical game since I quit school, I cannot help but make observations of electrics and fire safety wherever I go. It can be a great skill because fire safety and understanding the dangers of electrics can save your life. In some ways it can be a nuisance because I just cannot turn a blind eye.
Everything in this blog post are my personal observations based on my knowledge and experience from my career in the UK. Nobody can make a complete accurate engineering judgement on electrics by using the eyes only. It requires more senses, tools and test equipment to provide a full record of condition.
If you have been to India and you are from a western country, it is one hell of a culture shock. It is so busy, but more relevant, the health and safety standards are terrible. You only have to walk through the airport and outside the airport in Delhi to grasp the standards by making a few observations of workmen balancing on the top of flimsy ladders in the middle of passengers walking by with no barriers and the way you can step onto the street and risk your life by being run over or falling down a hole!
I have bounced between Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Rishikesh. I have stayed in hotels and home stays which are lovely and some places which are not so lovely. The streets in towns are absolutely chaotic. There are people trying to sell you things, doing business, commuting, and living. There is so much to take in it can make you head hurt, but at the same time is such a wonderful experience – I actually love travelling across India.
Then you see the electrics; single core cables lashed across a street to power up street lamps, cables jointed together with cellotape, open feeder pillars which I assumed are live where little kids are playing nearby along with a cow scratching her side up against the enclosure, and light fittings open to the elements. I am not sure IP ratings are considered within the design application!
The electrics are dangerous all over
I rented one apartment which was really basic. The apartments tend not to have many sockets or lights which is fine because I only need a socket for phone and laptop charging. In this particular apartment, I had a problem with the shower. I reported it to the landlord and they called out a plumber. The plumbers had to change the shower mixer. Their drill had no plug and the lead was joined several times. Oh, by the way, in India, it seems that not one person carries out a job, it takes several people. I have no idea why, but at least there is no such thing as dangerous lone working or getting lonely in general. One of the plumbers just shoves the two cores of the lead directly into the socket outlet. This seems to be rather common! I have seen many appliances without plugs where the cores are shoved into the outlet. The issue with this is in the event that someone pulls one of the cores out whilst the other remains, you are left with a live exposed part at low level.
I seriously dislike the Indian socket outlets because the plug pin entries are huge and not shuttered allowing foreign objects to enter. I am very used to the British Standard BS 1363 socket outlet and plug, which I believe is a good design. I don’t have experience with all plug and socket types around the world, but of all the plugs I have played with, it really has been the best! If you believe another is superior, feel free to put in the comments below. Please do not say the North American plug and socket or the Australian because I have extensively looked into both and both have huge flaws! In fact, check out this video I created regarding the dangerous US plug socket.
Watch a video and code dangerous observations with me
You can watch a video of me taking you round an apartment carrying out a visual observation of any electrical defects where I ask you to note down your comments on the condition of the electrics and how you would code them if you were carrying out an EICR (electrical installation condition report).
Whilst on my travels around India, I often see poor electrical work and dangerous situations, including fuse boards in busy public places with the covers off and access to live parts, cables unclipped, damaged and without mechanical protection, lack of IP ratings suitable for the environment and external influences and single core cables tied to metallic conductive structures.
Fire safety is a huge concern in India!
What I find more concerning is the lack of fire safety. I haven’t been in one property without noticing some sort of fire safety defect (to UK standards).
A lot of apartments seem to have sliding bolts on the inside and bolts on the outside. It is a fire safety issue should a fire occur! Someone can lock the door from the outside and you cannot get out! When I’ve been in the bathroom, my kids have locked me in multiple times. My son managed to lock in our neighbours in their home and fortunately we could hear them knocking to let them out.
I see so many detectors sited in recesses and against obstructions which wouldn’t be compliant in the UK. There is a complete lack of escape lighting and signage. God forbid there is a fire. I make sure I know my exit strategy, discuss with my wife and hope for the best!
When I have seen poor electrics in the UK, it is a combination of poor training, incompetence, commercial pressure, attitudes towards safety, ease of entry into the industry, lack of skilled people and little enforcement. I have no doubt it is no different in other countries and the culture decides on how bad it can be.
Are the British Electrical standards better than anywhere else in the world?
I think the British Standards, as in the technical documents we which are published as the guides to work from are written fairly well (with some exceptions), but it doesn’t mean everyone in Britain works to them! The physical standard of work in Britain does seem far better, especially compared to the lesser developed countries, but that is no excuse to not desire to increase the standards in the UK. We should be the world leaders in safety to protect the general public. Just because the UK statistics of death or injury by electric shock may be less than another country doesn’t mean the UK government is doing everything they can to protect the public. We should strive to aim for zero injury or death by electric shock.
It is so important to create an attitude towards electrical and fire safety, that being proactive is more important that being reactive. The former can reduce the latter, yet UK legislation is quite clear on duties, but has little enforcement. It is down to the client to ensure duties are met, but many organisations lack understanding of compliance and duties and rely on external companies. I also feel it is a conflict of interest having the client in charge of electrical and fire duties as well as the client controlling the finances of electrical and fire safety. It is somewhat of a farce. At least I feel the UK is further advanced in electrical safety.
Where have you been where the electrics are shocking?
Written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer in Rishikesh, India.