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					IEE COLLOQUIUM - TOWARDS SAFER ELECTRICAL INSTALLATIONS
THE CONTRACTORS’ VIEW - D N McGUINESS (SELECT)

SELECT

SELECT is the new trading style for the Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland.
SELECT is the employers’ organisation and trade association for the electrotechnical industry in
Scotland and it is an independent and autonomous body. It adopted its new identity in
recognition of the reality that the majority of SELECT members now carry out a significant
proportion of their work in the new technologies and not simply in the more traditional electrical
installation contracting. The new trading style is therefore intended to reflect both the broader
scope of its members and their activities and to present a more dynamic and forward-looking
focus and image.


The Contractor’s Role in Electrical Safety

Historical Context

SELECT was founded in Glasgow as The Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland in
1900 and the first meeting was in fact held just around the comer from the Teachers building in
Glasgow at 168 St Vincent Street. From its beginning, almost 100 years ago, SELECT has led
industry standards and has sought to ensure that the work carried out by SELECT members is of
the highest quality, employs the best of modem technology and, above all, is safe.

It achieved this in its early years by providing a forum for discussion of problems and issues
affecting the industry and by disseminating information to its members and the wider
community. It also played a key role in the work of early standards writing committees and
organisations, not least the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

This level of activity proved reasonably effective in promoting electrical safety in what were
much less competitive times when workmanship, community and integrity were valued. This
changed to a great extent in the post war years with an expanding economy heling growth in the
construction industry, movement of labour and a changing industrial relations environment, all of
which tended to drive standards of electrical installation work down. It therefore soon became
clear that a greater degree of regulation was going to be needed in the industry and this resulted
in the two electrical contractors’ associations @CA of Scotland and ECA) and the former
Electricity Supply Authorities setting up the National Inspection Council, the forerunner of the
NICEIC, in 1956. The idea then, as now, was that contractors would be regularly inspected to
make sure their work complied with Standards. The fear that electrical installation standards
were falling, also led to the introduction of requirements for electrical installations into the
Building Standards (Scotland) Regulations in 1963, following vociferous lobbying by the
Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland. The inspection regime in the industry was
hrther bolstered some 10 years ago when The Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland
recognised that close to half its members were no longer enrolled with the NICEIC and


dmcg/l/IEEcoUoquium



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introduced its own Inspection Service to plug the gap. Since then all members of SELECT have
been inspected annually, either by the NICEIC or SELECT and to the same standards. Taken
together these three factors have been reasonably effective and have managed to maintain a
relatively good and safe level of electrical installation work over the most recent past.

Recent Context

There has however been growing concern within the industry that we are lapsing back to the
situation of the late 1950s and that standards of electrical installation are once again falling.
Mainy reasons are cited for this. Firstly, the emergence of an entrepreneurial culture promoted
by the recent and current governments has led to an explosive growth of companies undertaking
electrical work where entry costs are low, and many are only in business to make a quick buck
and are not formally committed to the voluntary standards of the industry. Secondly, all
businesses are currently under threat fiom commercial cost pressure, particularly in the
construction industry, arising fiom the lowest price mentality. This encourages even reputable
contractors to cut costs and possibly comers, which can result in an increased risk of an unsafe
electrical installation being taken into service. Thirdly, the deregulation of the Electricity
Supply industry has had an impact. The new regional electricity companies (RECs) are now
hugely competitive businesses and the changes to The Electricity Supply Regulations to
accommodate privatisation have given the opportunity for all RECs to take on a lesser regulatory
role than that which was previously evident. Finally, the initial very favourable effect on
awareness of electrical safety through the introduction of The Electricity at Work Regulations
1989 and the consequent effect of this on improved accident statistics appear to be waning. This
may be because complacency among firms has set in with the passage of time and the scarce
resources of the Health and Safety Executive have meant perhaps less enforcement.

All these factors are borne out by what appears to be once again a slow growth in electrical
accidents and fires, by the number of complaints being received by SELECT and other
organisations and the quality of work viewed by SELECT Inspectors on site. Appendix 1 lists
just some of the examples of poor work recently viewed by SELECT engineers.

It hias therefore become clear that the current voluntary regulatory role of SELECT, ECA and
NICEIC which worked so well in the past can no longer cope with the current business
environment and once again the industry needs to play an active part in controlling itself better
and ensuring the safety of electrical installation work.


Indlustry Action

The challenge to improve the current situation was led by SELECT and the ECA who, through
an existing industry committee the Electrical Installation Industry Liaison Committee (EIILC),
proposed the writing of a Standard for the assessment of electrical installation enterprises.




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A Working Group of EIILC was therefore set up and in order to give absolute credibility to the
process it included representatives fiom all the following major players in the industry -
       British Standards Institution - Consumer Policy Committee
       Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions
       Electricity Association
       Electrical Contractors’ Association
       Health and Safety Executive
       Institution of Electrical Engineers
       National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting
       SELECT
       Society of Chief Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in Local Government
       Federation of Small Businesses
       Electrical Installation Equipment Manufacturers Association
       Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union
       British Fire Prevention Systems Association
       Industry Committee for Emergency Lighting.
                  -
The idea was that organisations that currently assess the capability of electrica installers w0u-J
do so in the future against the requirements of a nationally recognised standard rather than to
their own criteria. The organisations undertaking assessment would also require to be formally
accredited for the process by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (WAS), the
Government’s lead Body for the Accreditation of Certification Bodies, Laboratories and Test
Houses and Inspection Bodies.


The process is intended to be of assistance to clients and specifiers by giving a level of assurance
that registered electrical installation enterprises are technically competent, aware of design and
safety prindples and capable of carrying out safe electrical installation work, and are accredited
by a robust and credible system.

The requirements of the Standard are very tough and include measures relating to the resources,
facilities, personnel and technical standard of electrical work (including design, verification and
certification) of the electrical installation enterprise being assessed. The criteria for assessment
and the requirements for the reporting of the outcome are also included. The contents of the
Standard are noted below and are very extensive. They cover the full range of activities of the
electrical installation industry, not just BS 7671 work, and include stringent criteria, which will
raise standards in the industry.
         Electrical Work
         Technical Reference Documents
         Test Instruments
         Certification
         Personnel
         Requirements relating to a Principal Duty Holder
         Requirements relating to a Qualified Supervisor
         Insurance
         Applications for Registration




                                              613
       Technical Assessment
       Assessment Decision
       Registration
       Change of Registration Details
       Re-registration
       Cancellation of Registration
       Appeals against Cancellation of Registration
       Appeals, Complaints and Disputes
       Safety Assurance Scheme
       Registration Marks and Logos.


The Future

The concept of introducing a more visible and authoritative means of assessing and of registering
the competence of electrical installation enterprises is a major step towards safer electrical
installations. It does however have one major flaw which is that it has no effect on those
businesses that currently are, and choose to stay, outside the control of the assessment bodies,
i.e. SELECT, ECA and NICEIC and of course it is these companies that are responsible for most
of the problems in the industry.
The initiative should however still be viewed as a positive contribution towards safer electrical
installations. It will drive up standards amongst registered enterprises and get rid of any
connpanies who can not measure up, and there are some of these currently within the
Association, ECA and NICEIC. The introduction of this tighter level of control will therefore
assiire the wider industry of the capability of registered companies and provide a valuable
veh.icle to deliver safer electrical installations. All clients have to do is make sure they specify
contractors registered with accredited organisations.

Perhaps more importantly it will give Government confidence in the ability of industry to
respond to the market place and endeavour to control itself in a responsible and professional
manner. It will also hopehlly provide the catalyst for the Government to take the matter one
step hrther and grant some form of statutory recognition to the industry’s scheme. This small
step by Government has been called for by the industry for many years and is essential. It will
not be until there is some form of statutory recognition that we can all truly look forward to safer
electrical installations.    I believe it is absolutely necessary that some form of statutory
framework is introduced and I hope that the wider industry and Institution members think
similarly and will support any opportunity to bring it about.           There are currently many
Government initiatives around, anyone of which could with a little will, give statutory
recognition to the assessment regime being developed by the industry. The intention in England
to introduce requirements for electrical installation into their Building Regulations and to link
this to requirements for Competent Enterprises is an obvious vehicle to make use of the industry
scheme and it is indeed being considered for that purpose. Scotland will of course want to
develop its own proposals to improve its existing requirements for electrical installations in its
Building Regulations and it is to be hoped that whatever is being considered also takes account
of the measures introduced by the industry.




                                                614
For the present however we must all play a part in ensuring the continued safety of electrical
installations. SELECT is playing its part in achieving this objective by leading the initiative for
the introduction of a standard for the Assessment of Electrical Contractors. This will at least
mean that until statutory requirements are introduced, clients can be confident that they will have
safe installations installed through using properly regulated contractors.




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                                                                                  APPENDIX 1


EXAMPLES OF POOR WORK RECENTLY VIEWED BY SELECT ENGINEERS


  An inspection of local authority housing in Fife provided a graphic demonstration of the
  problems associated with the commercial pressures sometimes placed on contractors. The
  contractor initially performed well until he came under pressure to complete the job to a tight
  deadline. He was forced to employ casual labour and inevitably standards dropped. In one
  particular house the electrician was in such a rush to install the wiring in the attic space he
  threaded a cable through the spokes of a bicycle wheel. This was discovered when the
  young lad of the house asked his Dad to retrieve the bike and it was found to now be a part of
  the electrical installation.


  An East Lothian man employed a national kitchen company to design and install a dream
  kitchen in the house he recently purchased from the Local Council. The man was very
  happy with his purchase until one day a 45 amp circuit breaker tripped and resulted in most
  of the electrical appliances in the kitchen failing. The Association’s Technical Department
  carried out an inspection and discovered that an old cooker supply cable made redundant by
  the new kitchen plan was used to supply practically all of the kitchen electrics. The 6mm2
  cooker supply cable was connected to several 2.5mm2 cables within a recessed metal cooker
  box and plastered over. The 2.5mm2 cables were used to provide power to the washing
  machine, fridge, cooker hoodextractor and even the display lights under the wall units.


  A recent new member inspection was carried out on a contractor who was responsible for
  Maintenance and Periodic Inspections on a quarry electrical installation. The inspection
  revealed a 1600 Amp Main Distribution Board which had inadequate protection fitted to
  prevent direct contact with live parts -the busbard terminals were readily accessible through
  a gap in the board approx. 500mm x 250 mm. The DB Lid was in place but was not locked
  and was lying open. The obvious concern was how easily it would have been to make
  contact with the copper busbars by physical contact if someone had fallen against the board.
  The worrying aspect of this was that the contractor was entirely unaware that this was a
  problem and of his responsibility under The Electricity at Work Regulations.


                                                       at
  The requirements of BS7671: 1992 with regard to P r 7 Inspection, Testing and Certification
  of Electrical installations also raises regular problems where contractors take the view that
  this is somehow an optional extra. This is particularly prevalent where work has been
  completed and the client does not specifically request a copy of the certification or indeed is
  unaware of the requirements of the regulations. This was graphically demonstrated when
  circuit cables on a new off-peak installation went on fire due to a neutral to earth fault on one
  of these cables. The neutral of the PME system became open circuit and all the current in
  the installation, when the heating switched on (approx 50 amps) flowed down the faulty




                                               616
    cable to earth.      The cable overheated and ignited setting fire to the building.                 The
    installation had not been tested on completion.


+   In a large shopping centre in Edinburgh 230 volt downlights had been connected with open
    strip connector. An electrician carrying out additional work in the vicinity of these
    downlights had been using a length of fence wire to install cables without lifting off ceiling
    tiles. The fence wire touched the live conductor at one of the strip connections and the
    electrician received a shock and fell of the steps he was using.


+   The Association was called to a property being rewired as part of a large contract in
    Edinburgh to investigate a problem of no power with two fused connection units that formed
    part of a ring circuit. Detailed inspection and testing revealed not only a number of loose
    connections but also that the two fused connection units were not incorporated in the ring
    circuit but were linked to and from each other, with no connection to any source of supply.
    A case where an apparently approved electrician could not wire a ring circuit. Of more
    concern was the attitude of the individual who could not care less when challenged. He was
    a little more sheepish when he discovered that he had become known as the Ring0 Kid
    around the site.




                                                       0 1999 The Instiition of Electrical Engineers.
                                                6/7     Printed and published by the IEE, Savoy place, London WC2R OBI

				
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