Electricity & The Law

We all take electricity for granted – but in the wrong hands its could be a killer. According to the government, every year faulty electrics in the home kills ten people and injures 750 more. In 2003 alone, electrical faults led to 2,336 house fires that caused yet more death and injury.

So on January 1st 2005 the current laws cracking down on cowboys and shoddy workmanship came into force. New electrical safety requirements were added to Buildings Regulations, the rules enforceable by local authorities to ensure the health and safety of people in and around buildings.

The requirements, known as Part P of the Building Regulations, say that anyone carrying out fixed electrical installations in England and Wales must comply with the national safety standard for them (BS 7671). A fixed installation is the term for wiring and appliances that are fixed to a building: the sockets, switches, consumer units/fuse boxes, and ceiling fittings etc. Under the new regulations, electrical work must be “suitably designed, installed, inspected and tested so as to provide reasonable protection against them being the source of a fire or a cause of injury to persons”. This applies to almost all electrical installations in the home and garden: from adding the electrics to a newly built house or extension, through to garden lighting and pond pumps, even to DIY works.

  • Cowboy crackdown

Of course, any reputable electrician would have made sure that his or her work was safe without having these new requirements in place. But the aim of the changes is to crack down on those who had operated with little regard for their customers’ safety. So now, not only will every electrician have to demonstrate that their work complies with the national safety standards, but it will be the legal requirement of homeowners and landlords to ensure that they do.

So how do you know that you’re staying within the law? There are two ways of going about getting the proof that you need. Firstly, if your electrician belongs to one of the handful of organisations that monitors the industry, they will be considered a ‘competent’ electrician, able to self-certificate their own work. So, for example, if you choose Harland & Voss, which is an NICEIC Approved Contractor, you’ll be able to get your certificate of compliance with Building Regulations as soon as your work is completed.

The other way involves your local authority. If you use an electrician that is not registered with one of the industry organisations, you’ll have to notify your local authority’s building control department before the work is going to take place. When its completed, a local authority representative will need to look at the work (for a fee) to ensure it is safe before they issue you with your certificate. Local authorities will also have the power to remove or alter any work that does not comply with Building Regulations standards.

  • Controversial – or consumer protection?

The changes were controversial when they were first announced, as media pundits complained of ‘over-regulation’ and claimed that ‘perfectly good’ electricians would be forced out of business. But what would you rather have: the knowledge that your home is safe, or the potentially tragic consequences of faulty installations? The law now gives some measure of consumer protection for home owners having electrical work done. Customers have the option of either choosing an electrician who has gone through some process of accreditation, or opting for local authority inspection of the safety of their home. As most of us are not really in a position to judge the quality of electrical work for ourselves, this is a welcome measure to help us keep our homes and loved ones safe.

If we can help you with your electrical needs, please call us on 020 8451 0345 or send us a message.