Building Regulations: We must all be sure to protect Part P

Emma Clancy
CEO at National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC)
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Post date: Wednesday, 1st August 2012

As the government prepares to overhaul England’s Building Regulations, Emma Clancy, CEO of the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC), makes the case for evolution not revolution – particularly for Part P.

Part P was established as part of the Building Regulations on January 1 2005. It was brought in amid growing concerns over the number of fires, accidents and fatalities caused by shoddy electrical work around the home – mainly by people not correctly trained to do so. The new Regulations say the local Building Control authority must be notified of all electrical work carried out in the home other than simple changes.

Competent Person Schemes (CPS) were set up so electricians and businesses could self certify. For those not registered with a CPS it meant they would have to notify the work and get someone from Building Control to test and inspect.

Registration with a CPS, such as NICEIC’s Approved Contractor or Domestic Installer Scheme, means installers are required to undergo annual inspections of their work. Electricians registered with NICEIC are assessed on a regular basis to ensure high standards and their work is checked against the IET Wiring Regulations BS 7671 as well as other standards.

Registering with a CPS such as NICEIC not only demonstrates to customers and specifiers an electrician’s skills and professionalism, it also gives them peace of mind that the work carried out will be of a sufficiently high standard.

In addition, many CPS operators provide an independent complaints procedure governing the technical standards of its registrants. If the work of an NICEIC registered contractors is found to be below the accepted technical standard, NICEIC can require the contractor to correct the work at no additional cost to the customer. These extra checks have helped drive up standards in the industry. In just over seven years it is estimated that more than 40,000 people have registered with a CPS and notified more than a million jobs each year. This is work that Building Control would have had to carry out at a significantly increased cost.

Whilst some within the industry have argued against Part P, claiming it is nothing but an unnecessary burden, there is no doubt it has served a purpose. Injuries and fatalities are down and the amount of skilled workers has increased. There is always room to improve, but we must be careful of cutting too many corners in the process.

There is also demonstrable evidence that the quality of the electrical installation work in England and Wales has improved.

NICEIC engineers carry out visits to our 24,000 registered contractors each year. They inspect more than 300,000 domestic jobs and the reports back prove that standards are on the increase. Contractors, more than ever it would seem, want to be seen as carrying out professional and safe work.

The number of unregulated persons undertaking electrical work in dwellings has also declined in recent years; more individuals have also subjected themselves to electrical training than previously was the case – a sign that people no longer adopt such a laissez faire attitude to work carried out in the home.

There are undoubtedly aspects of Part P that can be improved and amended, and NICEIC welcomes the fact that the government is looking to improve or streamline the Building Regulations.

After seven years in operation the time is right for a review of Part P, but NICEIC believes the proposals outlined in the recent consultation have the potential to dilute much of the Regulations, with a complete disregard for safety – and has expressed this view to the CLG during its recent consultation. This view was supported by a cross party Select Committee who compiled a report into Building Regulations after meeting with several key leaders from the industry, including myself. The select committee report said it could not back deregulation of the Building Regulations if electrical safety was compromised.

This report gave us encouragement about what the government is thinking. For a long time now NICEIC has been voicing its concerns that electrical safety must not be jeopardised by any amendments. Carrying out any electrical work around the home can be potentially fatal. It should not be taken lightly and should always be undertaken by a competent person who is registered with an accredited body.

We now hope the government take on board the views of the committee when it completes its consultation into proposals surrounding the Building Regulations. An official announcement is expected imminently, with the new regulations coming into force in 2013. 

This article first appeared in BC&DS, Summer 2012. To read the entire publication, click on the ebook.

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