EICR Before A Consumer Unit Upgrade

EICR before a consumer unit replacement

Do You Carry Out An EICR Before A Consumer Unit Upgrade?

Let’s talk about the real world, what really goes down in the day to day life as an “electrician”.

There are typically two methods many electricians use when upgrading a consumer unit:

  1. Carry out an EICR beforehand, identifying any defects and ensuring the cabling is all okay to connect to the new consumer unit. Fit the new consumer unit and testing again to verify the circuits are compliant.
  2. No test beforehand. Upgrading the consumer unit and test once complete.

Option 1 is advised by many technical publications produced by recognised trade bodies. The downside is that it tends to cost a little more for the client.

Option 2 is risky for both contractor and client because you may find defects on the installation which you then have to charge the client more or if they refuse to pay, leave the installation unsafe.

In my opinion, we should always strive for high standards and ensuring everything we do as professionals to ensure client installations are safe (without money as a factor). Option 2 provides can leave a client at risk due to a unsatisfactory non-compliant electrical installation.

Watch my video

What do most electrician’s do?

When I was contracting, I often had enquiries regarding consumer unit upgrades. I would always ask why they believe their consumer unit requires replacement and often the answer is that someone told them so.

When I explained that we need to carry out an electrical installation condition report before we upgrade the consumer unit to assess the condition of the existing electrics, the customer was often wondering why I would suggest such a thing because 3 other local electricians said that they just take the fuseboard off the wall and fit a new one.

Let me explain why that is wrong from the perspective of both parties. It increases RISK.

Replacing or upgrading a consumer unit is not a minor alteration, it is a large change to the design of the installation. You may be introducing RCD protection, different types of circuit breakers and SPD’s. When a consumer is replaced, often is due to age. The IET wiring regulations BS7671 are regularly updated so British Standards are constantly evolving along with user trends and technology. It is an opportunity to ensure that the main earthing and bonding meets current standards and other basic electrical principles to ensure SAFETY.

What is involved replacing a consumer unit?

When we carry out electrical work on any circuit, we are to ensure that the basic electrical principles are met. Sometimes this requires upgrading parts of the electrical system that we are not physically altering because we have to ensure all connected parts function how they should do to meet BS7671.

Changing a fuseboard alone will likely increase the safety of an installation but I have seen recently instances of replacements being made but the installation has no main earth! In this situation safety is still being compromised.

The Electricity At Work Regulations 1989

When you work on electrical systems you must always remember that the Electricity At Work Regulations 1989 is statutory meaning it is the law and must be adhered to. If you don’t meet the EAWR 1989, you could face fines and/or imprisonment.

Regulation 29 applies only in criminal proceedings. It provides a defence for a dutyholder who can establish that they took all reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid committing an offence under regulations 4(4), 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16.

Extract from the Electricity At Work Regulations 1989

Have you done everything you can to take reasonable steps and exercised all due diligence to avoid someone getting an electric shock which could cause injury or death or cause a fire?

The above statement is the first principle anyone working in the electrical trade should be working to.

Electrical Safety First Best Practice Guide

Sections 4.2 and 4.3 of the Electrical Safety First Best Practice Guide 1 advises that existing circuits do not need upgrading to current standards when the consumer unit is upgraded, but if any circuits provide any immediate or potential danger, they must not be re-connected to the new consumer unit.

4.2. BS 7671 does not require existing circuits to be upgraded to current standards in order for them to be connected to the outgoing ways of the replacement consumer unit.

4.3. However, circuits that are defective or noncompliant with the requirements of BS 7671 in a way that would result in immediate or potential danger must not be reconnected to the consumer unit

Section 6 of the guide advises that an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) is recommended to highlight any immediate or potential dangers. Of course, we cannot make the customers have this carried out and if they do not wish for a report a survey must be taken out BEFORE replacing the consumer unit to ensure the existing circuits are free from immediate or potential danger.

The pre-replacement survey consists of:

  • making enquiries with the user as to whether there are any known defects, faults or damage,
  • an internal visual inspection of the existing consumer unit to determine, amongst other things, the type and condition of the wiring system used for the installation,
  • an external visual inspection of other readily accessible parts of the installation,
  • a measurement of the external earth fault loop impedance (Ze ),
  • a test of circuit protective conductor continuity at the end of each final circuit,
  • a test of earth fault loop impedance at readily accessible socket-outlets and
  • an insulation resistance measurement of the whole installation at the consumer unit, between the live conductors connected together and the protective conductor connected to the earthing arrangement.

Does the above sound familiar??? It sounds like an Electrical Installation Condition Report!

What happens in the ‘Real World’?

The truth is, what really happens in the real world is often an electrician quotes a consumer unit upgrade without a survey. They turn up in the morning, rip the existing consumer unit off the wall, slap on a new consumer unit, turn it on and hey presto. They will then do a couple of Zs readings, calculate the R1+R2, count the number of points on each circuit if they can be arsed, take the RCD readings with minimum effort and produce an Electrical Installation Certificate. Often this certificate will say >299 M ohms insulation resistance readings because well, the RCD’s are okay so the IR readings must be fine. Jobs a goodun.

The above is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

It is a complete risk for both contractor and client. If the electrician finds an issue once the consumer unit has been upgraded, they client is then in a position where they may need to spend quite a lot of money to rectify any immediate or potentially dangerous items. Worst still, they don’t have the money, so they are left with a non-compliant dangerous installation without any certification.

Is it likely an electrical installation will have defects?

I can count on two hands how many domestic properties my team have tested in 10 years that were satisfactory and had no code C1 or C2 items out of hundreds and hundreds of properties tested. Unless an installation is fairly new and was installed to a high standard, I do not believe many consumer unit changes do not need additional works to rectify any immediate or potentially dangerous items. I have carried out an EICR before and all cabling under the floor was VIR and damaged throughout, but someone had joined it in modern T+E so visually it all looked okay. You cannot accurately assess the safety of a circuit without calibrated test equipment.

From a business perspective I also think this is financially risky carrying out option 2 because quoting a job and then asking for more money often can breakdown relationships and part of ensuring payment is maintaining good relationships (check out my post on Top Tips To Prevent Non-Payment).

Therefore, in my opinion I would always advise option 1 is undertaken and an Electrical Installation Condition Report is strongly considered BEFORE replacing a consumer unit to reduce risk to you as a contractor and business owner and for public safety.

You can download a FREE guide – Electrical Safety First Best Practice Guide 1 – Replacing a consumer unit is a domestic premises

Written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer in Essex, United Kingdom

Disclaimer: All content within this blog post are the opinion only of Dans the Engineer and should you choose to take any of the advice or information given, we accept no responsibility for any loss you may occur.

Electrical circuits tested for £6

Electrical circuits tested for £6

Electrical circuits tested for £6. A facebook ad popped up on my feed advertising electrical testing for £6 a circuit. A typical fuseboard in somebody’s home contains around 8 circuits making that a cost of £48 to carry out an electrical test and inspection. Given the need for electrical testing such as moving home, renting out your property and to meet legislation, this very low cost could appear to be very appealing to a customer. However, can electrical circuits really be tested for £6?

Let’s look at this in more detail to find out if circuits can really be tested for £6 and what you actually get for that price.

  • £6 gets you about 1 ½ pints of Fosters in your local.
  • £6 gets you 6 rolls of Plenty One Sheet kitchen towels.
  • £6 gets you a DVD that has been released for quite a while.
  • £6 gets you 3 bags of apples from the supermarket.
  • £6 gets you just over 5 litres of petrol
  • £6 gets you a Toby Carvery Breakfast and a drink

£6 isn’t a lot of money! Can electrical circuits be tested for £6?

Although it can be tempting to contract an electrician who offers testing each circuit for low rates. Some are advertising electrical circuits tested for £6. Let us explore what is required to carry out testing.

Many properties have no previous testing records including installation and periodic testing. Many circuits have been altered and added to over the years. One of the first steps of testing a circuit requires identifying what is on the circuit. I call it a point count. How many points does it have, i.e. how many sockets, fused spurs or lighting points are on that circuit. There are a few ways of doing this, but often it involves turning off the circuit and counting up lights that aren’t on, or plugging in a socket tester or appliance to check if it has power or not, THEN turning the circuit back on to check the points come back on just in case lamps are not working or a socket is fed via an isolator that is turned off. This task alone can vary in time. In a house it can be relatively quick but an office, a restaurant, a car show room… can really vary in time. Don’t forget that power is required to be turned on and off for this task.

This may affect commercial operations so many commercial premises may require this to be carried outside of normal working hours. Why is the point count important? The point count is important because it forms part of the record to show what is on the circuit and essentially what you are testing. If an outlet is missed, essentially it won’t be tested and how can you as the duty holder prove it is safe to use? A socket can have a reverse polarity which can be dangerous, or missing an earth which can be potentially dangerous. If it is missed, are you discharging your legal duty as a client?

Straight away we have spent about 3 minutes in a simple domestic environment verifying the points on 1 circuit. In a small commercial environment, I would like to say an average of 5 minutes.

If there are 12 circuits on an install. That is 36 minutes on our domestic and 60 minutes on our light commercial such as a retail unit.

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Testing electrical circuits

Now let’s get the tester out, check that it is functioning and start testing a circuit.

What tests are required to be carried out? The following are ‘some’ of the tests that are required to ensure the circuits are safe and meet requirements.

  • Earth CPC continuity
  • Ring continuity
  • Polarity
  • Insulation Resistance
  • Earth Fault Loop Impedance
  • Functional Testing – RCD Trip Times

The above tests require further turning on/off the circuit as some are dead tests, some are live tests. How long does it take for each circuit? Well again it depends what is on the circuit. Testing is actually quite intensive if you do it correctly. There are ways of not doing it correctly by still being able to obtain results. I can point you to a couple of videos which prove this, but that is for another time.

I would say an average circuit takes 20 minutes for a simple domestic circuit and 30 minutes in a light commercial.

Visual Inspection

BUT…. It doesn’t stop there! We haven’t completed our visual inspection and observations. These are any defects we find that are not found via test equipment as such. These are defects which are coded C1, C2, C3 or FI (further investigation). These form part of the report that are items that are dangerous, potentially dangerous, items that are not immediately dangerous but do not meet the current electrical standards and items which are not apparent but require further investigation such as faults. These could be accessories which show thermal damage, cables that are showing the inner insulation because the outer sheath is missing or damaged, damaged sockets, etc. The list is quite extensive and reports tend to have a tick box section to highlight if any items are cause for concern.

This again can vary in time depending on the condition and age of the installation and should be carried out with attention to detail because ultimately if something is missed, you could easily have part of the installation that is not safe but also cannot be picked up by test equipment.

I would say a domestic could take 1 hour because some of it you will be doing as you test the circuits but you have to write it up. A light commercial could be 1 hour 30 minutes.

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Dangerous and potentially dangerous items can easily be missed like this burnt out contactor that was missed by a previous inspection.

There’s more!

That’s the circuits ‘tested’, but hang on. There is one vital part missing which forms part of the report. We need to inspect and carry out testing to the consumers electrics after the electricity supply meter, verify the supply details such as earthing arrangements and main bonding conductors. Some circuits on a distribution board or consumer unit will be fed via a sub-main from another distribution board. They may require testing to as the supply is a distribution circuit. Inspection of the installation at the origin is important because without knowing some important details, you are unable to verify that the measured Earth Fault Loop Impedance values are acceptable and that the installation is safe and suitable because the installation doesn’t just include the circuits.

Let’s say the installation on the domestic and commercial is very simple and distribution board / consumer unit are local to the meter. I would say 15 minutes is sufficient time to inspect and test.

Don’t forget we also have employment rights and working hours which stipulates break times plus we tend to get hungry in the middle of the day.

We don’t want anybody to work like a dog plus they require time to browse LinkedIn so let’s be kind and give them a 1-hour lunch break.

That isn’t it…. The report isn’t finished. It required typing up and finalising. Some will do this whilst on site (which was always my preferred method) but some will go away and type up or some even manually write up! It all takes time. Many contractors who are accredited by a Competent Person Scheme which will require a Qualified Supervisor to review the report and counter sign it. Again, it adds time. I would allow 30 minutes for completing this part for domestic and 40 minutes for commercial and I believe that is incredibly kind! Kind to the client, not to the contractor! To do it correctly and cross reference a couple of regulations for each observation if it’s not cut and dried, on most installs would take a heck of a lot longer than this to do correctly.

How long does it take to test an electrical circuit?

To sum up on our domestic install with 12 circuits and commercial install with the same number of circuits, we have the following:

Domestic electrical testing

Point Count  36 minutes
Testing 12 circuits4 hours
Visual inspection1 hour
Test and inspect the origin 15 minutes
Lunch1 hour
Paperwork30 minutes
TOTAL7 hours 11 minutes

Commercial electrical testing

Point count1 hour
Testing 12 circuits6 hours
Visual inspection1 hour 30 minutes
Test and inspect the origin15 minutes
Lunch1 hour
Paperwork 40 minutes
TOTAL10 hours 55 minutes

If we were charging £6 per circuit and we had 12 circuits, that is £72.00

If we were charging £18 per circuit and we had 12 circuits, that is £216.00

If we were charging £30 per circuit and we had 12 circuits, that is £360.00

Is the amount of work outlined above worth £72.00? Is it worth £216.00? Or even £360.00?

Does 7 hours of domestic work sound like value for £72.00 or almost 11 hours of commercial for the same cost? What are you really getting for £72.00 when the cost of carrying out electrical work includes wages, training, pensions, staff healthcare, holiday, vehicle costs, tools, test equipment, 3rd party accreditation schemes and management?

You tend to get what you pay for

I guess that is down to you as the client, but from experience, you tend to get what you pay for!

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Testing electrical installations varies in time depending on age and condition, the type of premises, number of circuits, whether records are available and the impact to the users of the installation.

The times shown in this article and times taken as pure estimations. They do not resemble an accurate portrayal of EVERY installation but I do not feel they are unreasonable. However, I would like to point out that every installation is different. Every premises has a different use. Every installation will vary in condition, age, standard, and type of wiring methods used and the records available, quality of previous works etc.

I cannot see how periodic inspection and testing can purely be quoted on price per circuit unless you absolutely know that every circuit is exactly the same and has no variables.

Let’s face it, no business wants to lose money

I understand that many companies will accept that ‘some you win’ and ‘some you lose’. However, it is very easy to carry out a report without actually following to the recommended industry guidance so that the contractor will not ‘lose’ at all. I have seen over the years many contractors who cut corners and reduce standards because let’s face it, what business wants to ‘lose’ money?

Does commercial pressure play a part?

I have heard of inspectors being under pressure by their managers that they ‘have to’, test 60 circuits in a day or have targets to meet. Many inspectors are on a price per circuit. Why is such an important task being rushed or incentivised by money or pressure? What is common is the inspector running out of time so writes LIM (limitation) on the report for various items including testing circuits. Limitations should be agreed by the client prior to carrying out the work, not made by the inspector as a way to type up a report and for the company to charge for the full price leading the client to believe all has been tested when it hasn’t.

The EAWR 1989 is the law!

Can we please take a moment to remember why we are carrying out inspection and testing, and for a second let’s forget the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989…. We are carrying out inspection and testing to ensure the electrical system is safe within the building to prevent risk of injury or death by electrocution or fire of people or animals.

Shouldn’t we be making sure we do our absolute best to prevent such injury or death? When did it become socially acceptable to scrape the barrel to pay for such important safety testing? Regardless of potentially being unlawful to not carry out electrical works safely, isn’t it immoral too?

Is it a good idea to price per circuit?

I do get asked to tender electrical condition reporting per circuit and I am not totally opposed to the idea at all, but not for 6 quid. My preferred method of pricing electrical testing is quite simply to attend the property, look at the distribution boards, number of circuits, and, also what the circuits supply. The time spent can massively vary on use and property type. For example a hospital ward involves far more than a commercial car show room.

I simply work out the testing job as a breakdown of the Point Count, Testing number of circuits, Visual inspection, Test and inspect the origin, Lunch and Paperwork. Add them together to work out the time spent on the job and multiple that by the hourly rate for the location of the job. Part of this equation I have highlighted in this article.

When I get asked by some clients why I don’t price per circuit, I simply explain that not every circuit can be the same price when they vary so much. Pricing via a site survey is fair more accurate in my opinion and doesn’t allow for any unnecessary pressures to allow for the job to completed accurately so the client is not exposed to any errors that they could be accountable for. I am always happy to provide the estimated time I have quoted for and if we largely over-estimated the work, I am happy to provide a part credit.

No unnecessary pressure is put on my test engineers. The importance of making sure we are thorough is the priority. I appreciate some contractors will be quicker than others. I also appreciate some contractors will work for less than others. I just hope that when you are ordering your testing and inspection, you understand that comparing two company’s prices isn’t always comparing apples for apples when making your choice for your competent person(s).

What do you get for £6? Can electrical be circuits tested for £6? I will let you be the judge of that.

#e5 #e5family

Written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer originally in Kent on 12th May 2018 and re-published

Please note the prices and times listed in this article are no reflection of any particular situation and are for thought provoking purposes only when choosing an electrical contractor to undertake works. The £6 comparison of items are approximate and may vary.

Electrician Career Progression

Electrician Career Progression

At The Construction Site – Electrician Career Progression. At the Construction Site is a series of blog posts I will be posting from my own experience and other electricians to provide first hand experience what it is like being a tradesman – the battles, the victories, the losses, and the lessons. This week, we have: Electrician Career Progression – At the Construction Site

I wrote this whilst still electrical contracting in London, UK before I sold my business to travel the world with my family.

During my apprenticeship I worked for three companies. I wasn’t sacked from any of them, I decided to leave to further my electrician career progression.

The first company I worked for was more of a building services company. They had some good guys who I still speak to today but also some really lazy engineers who are not good role models for impressionable young apprentices.

The reason I left that company was because I hadn’t even connected up a socket whilst working for them. In fact the only electrical work I participated in was re-lamping. I was more likely to have my hands in toilets fixing them and learning how to fiddle expenses and getting home as early as I can get away with.

When I handed in my notice I was spoken to by my line manager with the F-word many times in the conversation and he told to leave there and then. It suited me.

Electrician Career Progression
Yes, that is a picture of a young, energetic, ambitious me as an apprentice! Fresh off the council estate.

Onto the next opportunity

The second company was a specialist in power engineering up to 33kV. The work I done was incredible – panel building, bus bar installs, thermal imaging, containment, large cable pulling, jointing…. the list goes on. The experience was certainly there but at times I was not impressed how apprentices were managed.

It wasn’t a large company, but often apprentices were treated as labourers. I don’t mind doing anything but they had labourers. The labourers were doing electrical work! They also used to get me to work on a jobs far from my home but near another apprentices home and get him to work near my home where we could have just worked nearer our own homes. Again, I couldn’t care less where I worked but I felt that as an apprentice, you were not thought about much as everything was to suit the company.

“Dan, You’re not doing yourself any favours. You’ll never make it in this industry with the way you’re going”

I was clearly far more skilled and advanced that the other apprentices even though some had been doing it longer than me so I didn’t feel valued. I rang up my boss to tell her I’m giving notice and it was a similar reaction to my previous boss. She said to me “Dan, You’re not doing yourself any favours. You’ll never make it in this industry with the way you’re going” and told me to leave there and then. Was she right? Was I damaging my electrician career progression?

The ironic thing is that now I often tender for work and they are a competitor! **I now teach other electricians on how to grow their businesses!!!**

Is moving companies as an apprentice a bad thing?

I then joined my third company. The reason I joined this company was because they worked all over the country, mainly shop fitting, rewiring petrol stations, carried out a variety of work and seemed like a ‘team work first’ type of company. I was right and I loved it! I literally worked up and down the UK, learnt so much and met some great guys.

What I found odd about the company was that it had more apprentices than electricians. I think this was mainly because a few electricians left just before I started. I definitely had my work cut out to prove myself because there was a lot of competition! I think all my ex colleagues would agree that I certainly stepped up to the challenge. I climbed the company ladder quickly. Before no time, I was running jobs and had others working underneath me. Did it cause conflict? Yes, at times, but I was concentrating on my electrician career progression.

Be smart. Find ways to make your work more efficient. Aspire to be as knowledgeable as you can. Become an asset to those who need you.

I found a company I was happy with

I was clearly treated with favouritism by the company, but why shouldn’t I? I worked every hour under the sun for them; days, nights, weekends. I got jobs done quickly and efficiently. I was capable of tasks that some were not and I was willing to try new things that were outside of my comfort zone. I was also willing to work anywhere in the UK even at short notice where some were only willing to work locally and I wasn’t making ridiculous wage demands. Surely that is what every employer wants?

I always got the new van. If I wanted a new tool or plant that I felt I needed, I got it. I always got the good jobs. I got to work with whoever I wanted to.

The lesson here is that if you put yourself out there, make yourself available more than others and willing to go the extra mile, you’ll become very valuable.

The problem with that is when you are taken for granted. And it will happen!

Being taken for granted by my employer

Being taken for granted is a problem. A relationship between an employer and employee is a mutual agreement between both parties who both offer each other something in return for something. That relationship has to work both ways and each party needs to receive what they want from the relationship. When one starts to not play their part, the relationship suffers. So when an employer takes you for granted you need to remind them what you offer them. When you constantly put yourself out there, you are in a position to make demands. Please don’t ever be delusional with your role within your relationship as your employer will no doubt do a lot to keep you in work and to pay your wages but you need to gain from the relationship what you are looking for. It is two way!

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Me and one of my good mates “Stealthy” on a hotel project in Dorset, UK.

During my time on my third company I felt I was being taken for granted. I was working 7 days a week, doing serious hours in the week, running multiple jobs and under pressure to complete jobs with not enough people. I was also slightly put out that I was on the same JIB wage as some of my colleagues who clearly were not as capable as I was. Why should I be paid the same as others who quite frankly could only handle half the amount of work that I could?

I was offered a job with a rival company. The money was similar but the change sounded intriguing. I spoke to my boss and told him my issues. I was in the position to force him to change a few things because I was an asset. To be fair, he made changes and we were back on track. I didn’t accept the other job and stayed where I was. Good choice in hind sight.

At the age of 19, I was working on a job on a petrol station in Somerset where we started the project 5 weeks late so we had to catch up, with not enough men and absolutely zero specification and direction from the client. We didn’t even have drawings! On top of that we were asked to work nights in Cardiff for a few days in the week as well as working weekends in London! Sleep? What sleep?

Experience is everything!

At the time I was still an apprentice and I was speaking to a guy on the job called Ian who owned his company working on the pump gauges. I was explaining that I’m exhausted but felt pressured to complete the jobs. He gave me some of the best advice anyone has told me. He said that I might be working silly hours a day but every hour is experience. Every hour at night or weekend is additional experience and often out of hours works provide a different experience to normal hours. So when I’m compared to my college mates who work 7 hours a day 5 days a week doing the same thing everyday and in the pub for 4 o’clock, I am gaining double the experience. He was in a similar position and due to experience he was able to set up his own company and is now the master of his own destiny.

From that day I totally looked at what I was doing in a different way. It is experience that allows you to progress! I’m not saying work yourself into the ground, but gain the valuable experience and knowledge and use it to push yourself forward. Be smart. Find ways to make your work more efficient. Aspire to be as knowledgeable as you can. Become an asset to those who need you.

Qualifying as an electrician is just the start of your career

Before I even qualified I started my City and Guilds 2391 Electrical Testing and Inspection course. I absolutely smashed my electrical AM2 practical exam. It was a doddle. The examiner even said to me as we left “It’s your birthday this weekend isn’t it?”. “Yes I replied”. He said “I am not supposed to give results before the official time, but let’s just say you can celebrate further for your birthday”. As soon as I qualified I sat my City and Guilds 2400 Electrical Design and Verification course and it hasn’t stopped there. I am constantly reading content online and looking to complete the next course which will further my career and knowledge.

The electrical industry is exciting and full of opportunity! The limits are endless. I highly recommend that anyone coming into the industry sees qualifying as the start. Once qualified, look to see what areas you wish to explore and enjoy and have an aim. Set goals and set aside some money (unless your employer is willing to pay), so you can complete additional courses within your chosen direction.

Find a niche in the electrical industry

You can progress into EV charge points, solar PV, fire alarms, intruder alarms, project management, contracts management, health and safety, construction, engineering, maintenance, training, sales, owning your own business…. The list goes on!

The more knowledge you have, the easier it is to understand and read a situation. It provides more opportunities and allows you to have choices. Keep on learning, read and watch educational and inspirational videos.

Life can be tough and full of questions. Wouldn’t you prefer to have the answers?

Electrician career progression isn’t handed to you, it is an attitude

I come from a council estate in Surrey. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like Compton, Los Angeles but I have been in many situations which I wouldn’t want my kids to be in. My experiences as a youngster certainly play a part in my drive, aggression and hunger. I have worked since being a teenager and I believe a massive part of being in the electrical industry is learning the right work ethics and attitude. Some will naturally have it but some need to learn it. Somebody needs to teach them!

I have never been afraid to stand up for what I think is right. I can be arrogant. I can be cocky. I am not scared of confrontation when necessary. I can be a nuisance. But I look out for others. I believe in teamwork and I have done a lot of growing up. I believe life is a long journey and you learn as you grow through experiences.

I have worked on some fantastic projects, some of which I am very proud of. My experience and knowledge has taken me places, but I am not finished yet, my career has just started! The electrician career progression continues.

Look out for more blog posts in my series – At The Construction Site.

#e5 #AtTheConstructionSite #electricalindustry #apprenticeships #danstheengineer

Originally written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer in Kent, UK and posted on LinkedIn on 14th January 2018. Re-written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer in Canggu, Bali, Indonesia.

NAPIT Collaboration With SparkSafe

NAPIT Collaboration With SparkSafe

Chief Executive of NAPIT Group, Mike Andrews, announces collaboration between NAPIT and SparkSafe LtP (Licence to Practice) at Elex Harrogate.

NAPIT Collaboration With SparkSafe. NAPIT Group Chief Executive, Mike Andrews, announces a collaboration between NAPIT and SparkSafe LtP (Licence to Practise) and discusses the importance of individual competence in the electrical contracting industry. Mike claims the partnership will provide increased levels of assurance to clients relating to the qualifications and competence of individuals.

As one of the leading Government approved and United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) accredited certification bodies, NAPIT has over 10,000 registered businesses operating within the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors. The key objective of ensuring the safety and competence of individuals working within the UK’s electrical contracting industry is something of upmost importance and has always been high on the agenda for NAPIT, according to Mike Andrews.

NAPIT Collaboration With SparkSafe

The importance of individual competence

There are tens of thousands of unqualified, under-qualified and self-designated workers within the UK’s electrical industry

Alarmingly, there are tens of thousands of unqualified, under-qualified and self-designated workers within the UK’s electrical industry supply chain. Around 200,000 UK electrical workers operate outside of any common recognised system. There is currently no legal requirement for electrical workers to be registered in a manner where their qualifications and technical competence is verified, although this is something NAPIT are constantly campaigning to change. Clients who hire the expertise of individuals who are working in the electrical industry have a right to know that those individuals who are designing, installing and maintaining electrical systems on their sites are properly qualified and competent. Failure to ensure that individual workers are qualified and competent to carry out electrical projects can pose a very dangerous risk.

Since the establishing 27 years ago, NAPIT has continued to push for the recognition of individual competence at every opportunity; with an approach which registers the Company as being deemed to meet the requirements within the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification (EAS), and then to technically assess individuals onsite to ensure that they are technically competent by having the necessary training, qualifications, experience and knowledge of the electrical system to be worked on.

What is SparkSafe?

SparkSafe is an independent system which is designed to connect the competency of electrical workers to client contracts. SparkSafe emerged from the Electrical Training Trust (ETT), a charity based in Northern Ireland. SparkSafe launched their Licence to Practise (LtP) initiative in 2013. This was formally adopted as a policy document 01/16 – Licence to Practise Initiative for Electrical Workers by the Government in Northern Ireland in 2016, when the main Public Sector procurement organisations included the LtP requirement in tender and contract award requirements.

NAPIT Collaboration With SparkSafe

SparkSafe’s unique online system creates a connection between each electrical worker via their employer to Client projects. The online system requires electrical workers to register for one of three Licence types. These are QE (Qualified Electrician), REW (Restricted Electrical Worker) and AE (Apprentice Electrician). The result is an online Workforce Composition Report (WCR) which provides Clients with an insight into the occupational identity and licence type of each worker on a project by project basis. Clients get to see who is on their project and how well those workers are qualified to carry out the work based on independent, third party assessment. SparkSafe also provide Clients with an online and onsite compliance auditing service aimed at preventing the supply chain from resourcing projects with unlicenced electrical workers.

SparkSafe LtP and NAPIT share the same values and beliefs: high standards, individual competence, transparency and integrity. Increased acceptance of the LtP model will drastically improve the compliance and safety of electrical installations across the UK. Essex and east London train operator Trenitalia c2c is the first company in England to adopt the Spark safe Electrical Licence to Practice management system. Read more about it here.

What are NAPIT doing with SparkSafe?

NAPIT Collaboration With SparkSafe. NAPIT have committed to endorsing the SparkSafe LtP model. They will be working closely with SparkSafe in the coming months to develop a fourth Licence type, which will bring together the qualifications, requirements and the UKAS accredited certification body technical onsite assessment model operated by NAPIT. NAPIT members who meet the qualification requirements of SparkSafe’s Qualified Electrician and have been technically assessed onsite will be awarded the higher standard fourth Licence type. Mike Andrews says “I feel positive that this exciting development will be a step-forward for the electrical industry. We are making further progress towards raising standards, improving safety, and increasing the levels of recognition and credibility of electrical contractors throughout the UK.”

Watch the announcement of the NAPIT Collaboration With SparkSafe at Elex Harrogate

#E5 Group founding members Ryan Dempsey and David Watts (SparkyNinja) record the announcement of the collaboration between NAPIT and SparkSafe at Elex Harrogate 2019.

#NAPIT #SparkSafe #Elex

Written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer in Bali, Indonesia

What Is Part P Building Regulation?

What is part p building regulation

What is Part P Building Regulation? What does Part P mean? Who does Part P apply to?

Part P isn’t a qualification. Part P isn’t a type of an electrician. Part P isn’t a scheme. So, what is Part P Building Regulation?

Part P is a building regulation in England and Wales covering electrical safety in dwellings. The requirements are produced in Approved Document P – electrical safety, dwellings. Part P is statutory meaning it must be adhered to. Part P is a legal requirement.

What is Part P of the building regulations?

Part P was introduced in 2005 to reduce danger from electricity in residential premises. ALL electrical work in people’s homes in England and Wales whether carried out by a registered electrician or as DIY, must meet the requirements of Part P of the building regulations.

ALL electrical work in residential homes must meet Part P of the building regulations

The current edition explains when notification of work is required. Information on the design, installation, inspection, testing and provision of information is explained.

What is part p building regulation
Photo credit: Karen from She’s Electric

What electrical work is notifiable?

Some types of electrical work need to be notified to the local building control. This needs to be done prior to commencement of the work or can be notified afterwards if the installer is registered with an electrical competent person scheme. Competent person schemes include Elecsa, Napit, NICEIC and Stroma. A register of companies or electricians who are accredited by one of the schemes can be found here.

If the electrical work is carried out by a registered electrician, the electrical company will be able to register the work on behalf of the client online and produce a certificate of notification. This isn’t the electrical installation or minor electrical installation works certificate which is a document to show compliance with the British wiring regulations BS7671. They are two separate certificates.

Examples of notifiable electrical work

The following are examples of electrical installation work in a home that requires notification to building control:

  • A new installation or rewire.
  • The replacement of a consumer unit (fuse board).
  • New circuits.
  • Alterations to existing circuits in a special location such as rooms containing a bath or a shower, swimming pools or saunas.
  • Alterations to existing circuits in a kitchen (Wales only).
  • Alterations in gardens.

What areas of a dwelling does Part P cover?

The scope of Part P covers any house or flat that is intended for the use for living in. It covers the gardens of a home and any outbuildings. It includes communal areas in blocks of flats including laundry rooms and gyms. It doesn’t include any commercial areas such retail units in blocks of flats unless the commercial areas are connected to the same electrical meter. It doesn’t include lift supplies in blocks of flats but does include lifts in houses.

Who is responsible for making sure that electrical work in your home meets the requirements of Part P?

By law, the homeowner or landlord must be able to prove that all electrical installation work meets Part P, or they will be committing a criminal offence.

Local authorities have the power to make homeowners or landlords remove or alter any electrical work that does not meet the requirements of the Building Regulations.

You can find out more about building regulations and planning permissions here.

Part P
Part P

What do I need to do before electrical installation work can be carried out in my home?

You must first check whether the work is notifiable. If it is then you must either;

Employ an electrician who is registered with one of the Government-approved competent person schemes; or

Tell (‘notify’) your local-authority building-control about the installation work before work begins.

Why not read our article – do electricians need to be registered?

Does Part P apply to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Part P applies to England and Wales, but they have different building regulations. Part P doesn’t apply to Scotland as they have the Building Standards system. At the present time Northern Ireland has no equivalent statutory requirement. You can download Part P for either country free of charge by clicking on the links below.

Download a free copy of Part P England.

Download a free copy of Part P Wales.

What is Part P qualified?

Part P isn’t a qualification. You may hear some electricians saying they have their Part P or they are Part P registered. This is just a trade expression. Usually it means they have undertaken an electrical short course on domestic electrics and are registered with a competent person scheme.

Individuals can complete an electrical short course and be registered with a competent person scheme so they can notify building control on the client’s behalf. It doesn’t mean they are competent to carry out electrical work. Some training providers sell electrical short courses titled “Part P course”.

A few Part P facts

  • Part P is a building regulation
  • It is the law
  • It applies in England and Wales
  • The building regulations slightly differ between England and Wales
  • It is the building owner’s responsibility to ensure notifiable electrical works are notified
  • ALL electrical works in residential premises are subject to Part P
  • It isn’t a qualification

Make sure that if you have electrical work carried out in residential premises, that you download for free the Part P building regulations for England or Wales to ensure you meet the requirements.

Written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer in Rishikesh, India

How do I become an electrician?

How do I become an electrician

How do I become an electrician? Time served electrician Ricky Howell tells us how to become an electrician, what to look for and what to avoid.

Our guest author Ricky, time served electrician, husband and father of four, writes for us about How Do I Become An Electrician?

You have decided to turn your hand to a trade and decided electricity is for you, or perhaps you are still deciding which way to go and are looking for advice? The following blog – how do I become an electrician will explain exactly what is required to get that infamous JIB/ECS gold card, things to avoid at all costs and what to expect along the way.

We will be focussing on what I believe are the only 3 true ways to get qualified proper which are:

  • Serving an electrical apprenticeship
  • Attending electrical “evening classes”
  • completing the mature electrical trainee candidate scheme


how do I become an electrician
Photo: Karen from She’s Electric


Serving an electrical apprenticeship is by far the best way to get qualified as an electrician and indeed all trades. You will usually study at college for one day a week over three years whilst working on the tools the other four days and gaining experience on the job, with the final year being used to complete your NVQ and preparing for your AM2.

In the end not only will you have the theory covered but also 4 years’ experience carrying out your job! You will have learnt from other electricians who have been through the same as you and will teach you the tricks of the trade.

The downside is the wage which is aimed solely at school/college leavers and makes it incredibly difficult for anyone not living at home to survive on. For this reason, it’s also difficult for anyone over 18 to even be accepted for an apprenticeship program but not impossible.

Another big pro is the fact that you will not pay a penny for your training with all costs being met by your employer. The reason for this is the grants that the government give to companies to encourage apprenticeships.

If you get offered an apprenticeship grab it with both hands! The pros far outweigh the cons and I can honestly say I have never met a bad time-served spark.


Much like an electrical apprenticeship, evening classes well normally take place 1 or 2 evenings a week over a 3-year period although can be completed quicker depending on how quickly you can complete the tasks required of you.

Unlike an apprenticeship the class well tend to be filled with older students who cannot secure an apprenticeship and are keen on getting their head down and get through the course as quickly as possible. It is important to remember that although you can progress quicker depending on your work ethic and experience there is no short route and the modules will have to be completed to the standard required.

Anyone looking to re-train should look for these courses at their local colleges. Typically, you will earn a better wage doing it this way but may well have to pay for the course yourself.


Once known as “grandfather rights” this method seemed to disappear then re-appear under a different title. This is aimed at people who have been working in the trade but for whatever reason have not got qualified. This is not always down to the individual but can be companies not willing to invest in getting their employees qualified and is a common problem in our trade.

If you feel confident that you can go into an AM2 test and pass, then this is for you. You will be required to complete an NVQ and AM2 in that order but will not have to go to college as your experience is deemed to be sufficient.

This course seems to keep changing and you could well find that although its accepted now, in the future the goalposts change, and you need to attend college. This is pretty much what happened to most electricians who done their qualifications before the NVQ was a thing, only to be told they now need to complete an NVQ to be deemed “qualified”. A total slap in the face to some who had been working in the trade for 20+ years and still a hot topic today.

SUMMARY – How do I become an electrician?

At the moment 99% of sites in the country only recognise the ECS card for electricians and to gain a gold one you must:

  • Provide college certificates or provide the required documents for a mature candidate
  • Provide AM2 certificate
  • Provide the latest edition course certificate (currently 18th edition)
  • Provide NVQ certificate

Failing to provide the above you will be given a white card with a title depending on your experience such as trainee or apprentice.

If you are lucky enough to work on a site that accepts SparkSafe then the requirements are slightly different and more extensive, thus helping to keep rogue electricians out of the system.

Head to SparkyNinja for great training videos

For those training a whole host of videos to help you along the way can be found on YouTube. One of the best is SparkyNinja.

Finally, for anyone looking to start training GOOD LUCK!!!

Written by Ricky in Essex, United Kingdom.

Do electricians need to be registered? Check out our blog post.

How many fraudulent electricians have ECS cards? Find out here.

Electrical Industry Skills Shortage

Electrical industry skills shortage

The electrical industry is expecting a skills shortage following market research report.

The UK electrical Industry is expecting a skills shortage following new report. It is estimated that between 12,500 and 15,000 additional skilled electricians are needed over the next 5 years to accommodate sector expansion following a new labour market report on the electrotechnical industry.

Even if an extra 5000 new apprentices qualified by 2023, there will still be a shortfall of 7,500 to 10,000 electricians who will need to be sourced from elsewhere.

The reason for the electrotechnical sector expansion is due to grow in future technologies such as; SMART technology, e-mobility and Wi-FI technology. Other areas that are likely to influence the sector include changes to regulations and public policy in areas such as energy efficiency and fire safety.

Whilst the largest proportion of the UK workforce is between 25 and 49 years old, England and Wales have only around 15% of their workforce under the age of 25, compared to 24% for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Electrical Industry Skills Shortage
Image courtesy of electrical contractor B.N.E.C. Ltd

New labour market report on the electrical industry.

The market research report produced by specialist Pye Tait was commissioned by The Electrotechnical Skills Partnership (TESP) and co-funded with industry charity National Electrotechnical Training (NET). The report is the first to provide an in-depth analysis of electrotechnical skills needs in over 10 years. Almost 450 electrotechnical companies, with around 19,000 employees were surveyed. Want to have a read of the report? Click here.

What does the JIB say?

Joint Industry Board (JIB) Chief Executive, Steve Brawley says “This valuable report by Pye Tait gives the JIB and TESP an excellent platform to develop initiatives and projects which will take the industry forward. However, the industry will not be able to recruit the 12,500 to 15,000 additional electricians it needs over the next five years without much higher levels of direct employment. Clients and main contractors need to do more to encourage direct employment and the Government must also play its part by adopting policies which drive down levels of false self-employment. Apprenticeships and programmes to upgrade the skills of individuals already working in our industry are the key to success but they cannot be effective unless direct employment is the norm.” 

What does this mean for the electrical industry?

It is apparent that if the industry cannot support the additional growth within the next 5 years, there will be a skills shortage. When a skills shortage occurs, one of two things could happen;

  1. The wages for competent people increase because they become sought after due to demand and lack of supply of quality tradesmen.
  2. The wages for competent people decrease because it opens the doors for non-competent people to work in the industry due to demand and lack of supply of quality tradesmen.

Over the last 15 years, the level of quality of training for electricians in the UK has decreased. Gaining entry into the industry has become easier due to short courses that are easily available and affordable. There are many experienced trainers who will admit this is the case.

The problem caused by poor training are; the quality of work that is carried out declines, reduced level of electrical safety, reduction in wages for the competent electricians and false economy.

Let us look into this further.

Quality of work

If the training isn’t as vigorous and becomes easy, it means more people will pass and ‘qualify’. This doesn’t mean someone is competent. It allows an accepted standard of work to be reduced. When guys and girls qualify and work in people’s homes and commercial buildings, the workmanship is reduced. It takes experience and time to increase your skills.

Sitting a short course gives you an understanding, but not the experience. When you terminate a copper conductor, there is a manner in how it should be done which reduces the chance of a loose termination which could lead to a fire. Someone who has been taught how to do it correctly and has practised a few hundred times is far less likely to cause a fire than someone who has done it once or twice and not shown how to do it correctly. Carrying out work as a tradesman takes time to master. It cannot be taught quickly for the average person and where safety is concerned, I believe it is completely unethical.

Electrical Safety

The reason for having wiring regulations and UK legislation is to prevent injury, damage or death via electric shock or activity caused by electricity.

Lack of knowledge and understanding of electrical systems is more likely to decrease electrical safety.

Having electrical safety systems and procedures in place can be costly but being liable for the death of a human is far costlier in my opinion. The biggest flaw in UK legislation in regard to electrical and fire safety is that the client is ultimately responsible to ensure they meet said legislation as well as being responsible for the budget of the works being carried out. There isn’t a requirement in many instances for a client to have any works third party audited where the auditor is ultimately responsible.

Due to commercial pressure and the desire for higher profits, clients can quite easily achieve a better margin by cutting out level of electrical and fire safety and therefore a culture is created where the client’s attitude completely sets the level of safety, not the law.


There are a few ways to become an electrician. Typically, you have an apprenticeship where a student learns as she earns or someone who sits a short course. Without going into too much detail, the apprentice will endure a number of years partly in college and partly on site who will complete a portfolio of evidence to prove they have met the criteria and completed a final practical examination in order to obtain the title as an ‘electrician’.

The guy who sits the short course has little practical experience, learns all they need to know in a very short space of time and once qualified can go out into the real world connecting up systems that can kill people or cause fires – scary hey? Carrying out a trade requires on site experience which is key for competence because there is only so much you can learn practically in a class room.

The guys who have sat the short courses are likely to accept less money because they have not invested as much time, energy, emotion and effort into their role as the time served electrician who worked for little money for years and put hours and hours into the class room during their apprenticeship.

The outcome of quality and knowledge is most certainly relative to training. Therefore, the market value of the electrician wage is reduced for every short course electrician that works in the industry and accepts lower rate of pay.

False Economy

Having poor quality electrical work carried out is false economy because it is very costly to repair or completely rewired. It doesn’t last and increases the chance for fires and faults to occur. Time is then required to investigate the installation and then repair it. Of course, this is only true if a problem does occur.

Lower quality workmanship increases the chances of the works being non-compliant if the installers do not have sufficient experience and knowledge of the systems they are working on.

Who benefits from the electrical industry skills shortage?

It can’t be all doom and gloom right? Surely sector expansion is a great prospect for the economy? Does anyone benefit from the UK Electrical Industry Skills Shortage?

Competent Person Schemes (CPS)

In the UK it has become easier to become accredited by a competent person scheme such as NICEIC, Elecsa, Napit or Stroma due to the introduction of the short courses. If the CPS’s have more companies signing up with them, their revenues increase. If the accepted level of contractor decreases such as accepting those who sit short courses, the CPS’s open their doors to additional revenue. Sounds like a no brainer for a business.

Training Providers

Training providers can benefit from the UK Electrical Industry Skills Shortage as many individuals will look to change career or start out in the electrical industry in seek of well-paid work. Some will not be conscious about being ‘competent’ and it allows training providers to sell their courses. When a training provider has a high pass rate, it is a selling point to a potential candidate because who wants to fail??? What this actually does is contribute to reducing the market value of the electrician as discussed earlier.


Clients can also use buying power to drive costs down during the UK Electrical Industry Skills Shortage. If the market value of the electrician is decreased due to an increase of workers who haven’t served apprenticeships and gain quick entry into the industry, it allows the client to pressurise their supply chain to keep charge rates down. The client benefits by not paying a higher rate of pay if only competent electricians were allowed to work on such systems.

Electrical industry to boost the economy

It certainly seems like fantastic news for the economy that an additional 12,500 to 15,000 electricians’ jobs will be created within the next 5 years. However, the UK Electrical Industry Skills Shortage and the shortfall of people expected to be produced by apprenticeships could be a concern. The alternatives are; foreign labour which is perfectly fine if the foreign labour is able to understand and work to British Standards or an increase in semi-skilled labour produced by short courses.

Let’s hope that the guys and girls in the field who have invested a life time of work will benefit from increased amount of work from new technologies.

How do you feel about the prospect of up to 15,000 jobs being created to fill an electrical industry market expansion? Let us know in the comments.

The Electrotechnical Skills Partnership (TESP) is a not-for-profit industry partnership formed by the ECAJoint Industry Board (JIB)National Electrotechnical Training (NET)SELECT and Unite the Union to support electrotechnical employers to develop and drive the industry’s skills agenda.D

How many fraudulent electricians have ECS cards?

New electrician qualification checking system has been launched by City & Guilds and ECS to reduce fraudulent electricians.

City and Guilds report that a specially-designed computer programme that allows electricians qualifications to be automatically verified during an ECS card application has been developed by City & Guilds and the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme. Read the City and Guilds article here.

The Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) certifies the skills of electrical workers in the UK. The scheme isn’t compulsory for electricians to join, but when they do, holding an ECS card shows the cardholders qualifications, electrical occupation, identity and whether they have sat the ECS health and safety awareness.

When somebody applies to obtain an ECS card, the qualification details are now automatically searched directly within the City and Guilds database to verify the certificate number, name and date.

The new system combats fraudulent electricians applications and increases efficiency as previously the details were checked manually between the two organisations. City & Guilds claim those who make fraudulent applications will be referred to the Fraud Investigations Team who work in conjunction with other schemes and the police if necessary.

ECS Contact Centre Operations Manager says “We are continuously looking to improve our service and the robustness of the scheme overall. Our work with City & Guilds and other partners not only makes the application process more streamlined for customers, but also importantly catches and deters those who attempt to gain an ECS card under false pretences. These people are potentially endangering the safety of themselves and others if they are carrying out work for which they are not qualified.”

How many fraudulent electricians are operating in the UK?

This begs the question – How many fraudulent electrician applications have glided past the ‘old system’? It has taken until the year 2019 for the ECS and City and Guilds to utilise a very simple technology system. Is this a complete mockery to the safety of the general public and those electricians who pay for their ECS cards and City and Guilds qualifications?

How easy is it to get fake ECS and Gold Cards?

How does someone make a fraudulent electrician application?

It is very easy. You purchase online fake City and Guilds qualification certificates. You can simply google it and find someone who offers the service. People do this to be able to earn an electrician’s wage on sites that require ECS cards as proof of being an ‘electrician’ without actually obtaining the qualifications.

The problem with this is that it allows non-qualified persons to carry out electrical work in the role of an electrician. It isn’t too difficult to work out why this is bad and a safety issue – electricians who aren’t electricians connecting up and energising electrical circuits which have the ability to cause electric shock or fires if installed and tested incorrectly. The other major issue is that it devalues the title of the electrician. If the average skill and ability of an ‘electrician’ is less, the wages will be less than if fraudulent persons were not operating because training as an electrician requires personal investment of time and money. If individuals are cutting out some of this investment, they will be willing to accept less of a pay because they haven’t the same expense of those who have qualified legitimately.

Innovative Technology?

It is fantastic this technology is now being used and hopefully will protect the title of the electrician further. However, obtaining an ECS card does not prove competence, it proves qualifications. There is a distinct difference. What is a registered electrician? Read our article here. It is like passing your driving test, you drive to a certain standard to pass the test, then once you have your licence you are completely free to drive as you please. How bad were the drivers on your commute today?

Written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer in Rishikesh, India

Dangerous Electrics in India – Shocking – Deadly

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.

These locks are not suitable on doors used for escape during an emergency such as a fire.

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.

Is The Electrical and Fire Industry Broken?

This blog post was originally published on June 24, 2018, I am re-publishing it to show everyone who follows my new blog on danstheengineer.co.uk and my career path.

Dangerous electrical system in a basement of a mixed retail/office block in Oxted, Surrey 2017

At the end of this month (June 2018), I will not only be exiting my business, but also the industry I have been working in since leaving school. I am leaving to travel the world full time with my wife and kids and have booked a one-way ticket out of the UK. You can see our announcement here.

Many are asking me what plans I have when I get back and what I will do for work when I return. I have also been offered many jobs in various roles.

The truth is, I don’t have plans to come back. I don’t know where I will be in 6 months’ time, in a years’ time, in 3 years’ time. That is sort of the point! We stop off in Iceland first in August and have booked one-way tickets. We will adapt and mindset will alter on our amazing journey and I will remain open minded.

I have very mixed emotions right now.

I have been in the trade for 15 years and I boast some fantastic achievements in my time here. The last 12 months have been the most memorable and my career has been at an all time high…. I was accepted into The IET: The Institution of Engineering and Technology as a Fellow, I helped set up the #E5 Group as a founding member, turnover and profits within my business are at an all time high, I setup my YouTube Channel – Dans the Engineer which has gone rather well, carried out some prestigious projects and I have many contact me online to ask for my advice, help and guidance (which I am happy to).

Many didn’t expect my decision to leave but I have my reasons. I will openly admit that I love and loath the electrical and fire industries. I am a geek at heart, love the technical and engineering aspects of my job, love meeting interesting people all over the UK, building relationships and completing fantastic projects. BUT, the industry requires improvement. The type of improvement I mean is increased safety and procedures to prevent people getting hurt, or worse still – deaths.

My content online, articles written, and YouTube videos were to raise awareness of issues we face, to improve standards and to help people. It is something I am very passionate about.

This is where it gets complicated for me. I spend god knows how many hours focused on work and my business, learning and researching within my field of work. But my new Venture is to enjoy time with my family, watch them grow, travel and take some time out for me. We are filming Our Venture Beyond on YouTube and Instagram so others can follow what we do.

I decided that when I exit I will stop my focus on the industry and to focus on my new lifestyle. It is something I have to do for my family and for me.

Since announcing my decision to leave, many people including industry influencers and leaders have got in contact either wishing me well, thanking me, and/or offering something for the future. Honestly, it is very overwhelming!

I love innovation. Any company who change the game by making a great product and making a difference is just brilliant – Linian Clips.

I do have a few final things to say though.

The electrical and fire industries are very similar in many respects in that each industry is very vast in what it covers but legislation is similar for both.

What I am about to say in generally speaking about both industries.

Anybody and I mean anybody can work on fire alarm systems…. Worrying right? In fact it is the same for electrics too. Legislation allows this which I will touch on in a minute.

A person or organisation who owns or is in charge of a property is also responsible for the electrical and fire safety. It is down to them to determine how they do this. There are many ways to achieve this but in my honest opinion, this is a slight conflict of interest due to money. There is little way of enforcement to be compliant.

Responsible people can have work carried out with the intention ‘to be compliant’ but it doesn’t mean they are compliant, and it is down to client / person ordering the work to ensure it is carried out correctly. The problem with this is that the client needs to either be able to assess the work carried out themselves or contract somebody who can on their behalf. There is a risk of relying on the contractor carrying out the work to ensure they have done it correctly because it is a conflict of interest in many cases. The way contractors make money is by pricing a job, there will be a margin on labour and materials so the quicker they complete a job, the more profit there is. They are hardly going to highlight to you any issues because it will cost them! There seems to be a horrible culture in the industry where many have reduced costs so much that it is very easy to be so tight on making a profit that there isn’t room for any errors. When there is, many cut corners to maintain profit at the risk of reducing safety! Don’t get me wrong…. there are some fantastic contractors out there who consciously think about their actions and strive for a great install regardless if it won’t make as much profit as they hoped.

The accepted level and quality of training needs improving. Training providers seem to be in battle with each other to provide the cheapest training possible to win over clients based on price more than anything else. It seems to be the accepted by society. We all like a bargain but the quality can vary so much and can make such a difference. Some trainers will be happy making a little margin which is fine, but there are too many courses available which do not offer a good outcome for the trainee. That is not ethical.

The level of knowledge and skill has been watered down. It is very easy to do a short course and get some tools and start working on life safety and electrical systems. System that can cause fires or prevent suitable means of detecting fire. It is an important job and there is far more to it other than it just ‘working’. Courses I have attended and feedback from others suggest that they passed the course via a very easy system such as multiple choice but walked away not really knowing everything they should do. It seems like the pass result percentage is what matters and measures the success of the training. A bit like the UK education system. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help the student. Correct and suitable training is vital!! IF people knew what they are doing and the dangers caused by their actions, they would have more of a chance in installing systems to a better standard.

Attitudes towards management of systems can completely change how effective a system is. I could install a brilliant compliant system, but if it isn’t maintained adequately, it is only as good as the day it was installed.

That doesn’t stop someone dying, does it?

I came across a project recently where the client has a procedure where the contractor has to sign a permit to agree that they will make good any penetrations to fire compartments to ‘the best of their ability’ as part of their works. They sign the permit in the morning, do the work and bring back the permit at the end of the day. When I carried out a survey I noticed tons of cable and pipe penetrations in the fire compartments, it was like swiss cheese and informed the client that clearly previous contractors have not installed fire barriers. The client turned around to be and said, ‘I have this bit of paper that says they have installed fire seals to their work’. I was gobsmacked!!!!! That paper DOES NOT STOP SOMEBODY DYING IN A FIRE!!!!

Common sense seems to be a thing from the past. It almost seems like we are trained to be robots who cannot think for themselves outside their pre-programme. I say, step outside of the norm and think for yourself. Question everything!! Why do we use this cable. Why do we install smoke detectors there. As a parent it can be funny at first but then frustrating when your child keeps asking why…. but honestly, I encourage my kids to ask why. Then we explore the reason why together.

Who on earth designed that?

In 2017, BS5839 Part 1 was revised and one of the good changes in my opinion was that manual call points are to have covers. So there is a plastic cover that you lift before activating the call point. This is to reduce false alarms by people accidentally pressing them. It is a great idea and has reduced false alarms in the many properties that I manage. But I have seen so many covers installed but have old signage above them advising how to active the call point by pressing it failing to provide the vital information that you need to lift the cover first! It seems obvious to people who are in the know, but in an emergency, a layman may not know this and it reduces the chance of activating an all important system. An example of this was a very fancy building in London I was in recently had manual call points with covers and pointless signage above and all the smoke detection was literally right by an air conditioning ventilation system blowing air into the room. If there were a fire, the smoke would be blown away from the detectors so manual call points would be vital because I believe the smoke detection to be pretty ineffective in this premises.

Who on earth designed that? Design is so important but what is more important is that the design is to be verified by the designer once installed. I strongly believe in third party consultancy where the consultant designs a system based on the clients needs who signs design documentation, oversees the installation and commissioning and testing, then signs a verification of the system to effectively takes responsibility of the system. This is supposed to happen with fire alarm systems but often what happens is either the contractor is the designer and carries out verification or a third party does it but doesn’t sign the documentation at all and leaves it to the contractor as well. Going back to my previous statement, I believe this is a conflict of interest.

If a third party was involved from the outset, it would be in everybody’s interest to make sure everything is how it should be! The problem being is cost. It would cost much more contracting a consultant or third party but can a client who isn’t able to make the necessary judgements themselves afford NOT to have a third party? I mean, I know clients responsible for the electrical systems and fire safety who have never read or even heard of the Electricity At Work Regulations 1989 or the The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Guess what? Both are free. Click each link and you can download it. Every person involved in systems and management inside the scope of these documents should read them from an apprentice to a manager. They really are not complicated.

I walk around premises all the time and notice issues with fire and electrical safety. The problem is, you cannot un-see them. It could be a pub where a fire exit sign is pointing down instead of left. Or a hanging exit sign which is double sided effectively directing you back into the property. I believe that exit signage is confusing to the layman. Professionals keep saying it isn’t confusing at all. Well of course it isn’t confusing to someone who deals with it day in a day out but in the event of an emergency, the majority of people who need to understand signage, won’t. When I was in the US recently in Disney World, Orlando, in most of the areas, the signage is so clear I felt confident I would be able to find my way out. Every sign was electrically illuminated, directional, says clearly EXIT, and was supplemented by low level signs in places. It just made sense yet I was standing in a very large shopping centre in the South of England the other day and it has the smallest exit signs only located at the exit point which are not obvious unless you look for them because generally they are not at the main entrances and the colour clashes with the colours of all the fantastic shop front displays. It is confusing in normal circumstances. I hold little hope when the place is full of smoke!

Poor escape signage in a pub / restaurant I noticed whilst on a jolly up with the #e5 group in Coventry.

A few years ago a client has a fire in their property and it was reported that people struggled to see to get out due to smoke filling the place as the emergency lighting did not illuminate. Well it wouldn’t! It is run in FP200 fire rated cable and only activates when the mains fails. The mains didn’t fail because the cable withstood the fire! Nobody could turn on the functional light due to the panic of the emergency and didn’t want to locate the switches as they were near the fire.

And just to clarify to a few contractors…. exit signs are not necessarily emergency lights. Think about it.

Just because a contractor is part of a CPS (Competent Person Scheme) does not mean they are competent and/or carry out works to the relevant standards. It is up to the person ordering the work to carry out due diligence to assess if they are able to carry out the work and then review the work is acceptable. Cost SHOULD NOT be the main factor on choosing who does the work and just because they are part of a CPS is not good enough due diligence at all.

Remember, the British Standards are a GUIDE. However, unless you have sufficient knowledge and experience to deviate from the standards, you should stick to them as the minimum. There has been many situations where I have deviated as a designer but I have been happy to take that responsibility without reducing the risk of the level of safety of the system(s).

I believe we all have a duty to improve standards in the industry and can all make steps to assist this:

  • Individuals and companies to continue training externally and internally
  • Review management procedures
  • DO NOT put pressure on time to complete tasks but penalising individuals but also financial incentives to complete tasks in impossible times. There will be errors in this way
  • Stop boasting how cheaply jobs can be done. I am all up for saving money where possible, but under cutting others usually isn’t as transparent as it may seem. When cost goes down, often quality does too
  • Putting safety first…. always…. without compromise. Let’s go to bed every evening, knowing what we have done could save a life
  • Use this fantastic site as a forum to help each other, share experiences and ideas. There are some seriously clever guys and girls on Linkedin who can provide so much help. This is pretty much what #e5 is all about so being part of it is to help each other.
  • Remember that people are humans and not robots
  • We all need to earn a living, but let’s not allow offers to suffer as a result of greed

In the words of Paul Meenan, we should have assurance, not insurance when talking about electrical and life safety systems. Ask yourself, have you done everything you possibly can to ensure you have done your part including highlighting any shortfalls on the parts you may not necessarily be responsible for. If not, you may be breaking the law!

Grenfell was a national disaster but speaking to professionals within the industry, it is no surprise a tragedy like this occurred. The problem with fire and electrical safety is that it only tends to be apparent there is a problem when an accident or disaster occurs, not before hand. IF all fire measures were in place in Grenfell, it may have been a different story. One where many people wouldn’t have lost their homes and lives.

This is how I see ‘The Industry’

I am about to leave my company to set off on an amazing trip, but I believe that every one of my team who works for my company matters. Whether it be my head electrician, my fellow director, receptionist, clients, the guy who supplies my materials and even the cleaner! We all have a role and together, we are a team. The team cannot operate without the team players. This is how I see ‘The Industry’ . We are all involved and linked together. We have our roles and the goal should be to provide safe systems to protect each other and the public. If one team player doesn’t pull their weight, the goal will not be achieved.

I could keep going with this but I hope you get the idea of what I am talking about and can relate, maybe stop and think about a few things I have mentioned.

I would post lots of fancy pictures for this article but my van got broken into and my photos were on a hard drive that also got stolen. Those photos probably will mean nothing to the thieves but little do they know, that they are evidence that could potentially save their lives one day!

Now you’ll have to excuse me because I am currently doing some research on mountain hikes 😉 Must go!

Tradesman van broken into parked in the car park at the Excel in London


Written by Dan Jackson AKA Dans the Engineer in Kent, England

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