What happens when it’s time for your annual assessment? PE’s Ruth Williams experiences a day in the life of both the assessor and the assessee.
When thinking of my own experience with examinations and tests, I can distinctly recall one particular teacher drumming into me: “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” But no matter how much preparation you do, no one enjoys being tested and for the majority of people, nerves are synonymous with the experience.
In order to maintain NICEIC registration, contractors must undergo a regular assessment. This face-to-face interaction between them and the NICEIC Assessor aims to iron out any elements of the working practice that needs improving and to ensure people are working to a safe and compliant standard. Competency is checked through technical discussions and site assessment.
The morning started with NICEIC Assessor Daniel Smith and I pulling up to the house of the contractor in question – David Morris. David has been an NICEIC Approved Contractor for five years and is the Director of Smart Home and Lighting Systems, based in Loughton. His team consists of four staff, two of whom are apprentices.
Before anything else takes place, a documentation check must be carried out. David, clearly familiar with the process, had all the necessary documentation laid out for checking. Among the paperwork was a dog-eared, colour coded copy of the 18th Edition Regulations – proof, if any were needed, that David’s copy gets a lot of use – and, after Daniel had checked the copy of BS7671 to ensure its authenticity, David revealed that he had passed the 18th Edition examination in December – a good start to proceedings.
As a scheme requirement, Daniel asked to see a signed and dated health and safety policy and a sample of the electrical installation certification issues by the contractor. This is to check the certification issued by the company is filled out in compliance with BS7671. Both requirements are designed to help cover the electrician for any potential discrepancies regarding the completion of a job and the risk David and his team take on when undergoing work. Proof of in date Public Liability Insurance is one of the most important pieces of paperwork Daniel must see – without this the assessment cannot take place.
Once Daniel filled out his own form to confirm David and his business carry the appropriate paperwork, he then checked David’s kit and asked him a series of technical questions before we set off to view his work on site. David offered a selection of jobs to Daniel, who then picked the two he wanted to assess.
This particular process can sometimes come under scrutiny, as some believe that it should be the assessor who chooses the work to be assessed at random, rather than the jobs that the assessee has chosen to put forward. When asked about this, Daniel said: “One of the reasons for this is that it’s not always practicable for certain scope of works. All Area Engineers need to see electrical work that reflects what the contractor normally carries out. That said, The Area Engineer must use due diligence when selecting the appropriate work to be sampled, based on factors including type of work and the geographical spread of work.”
When quizzed about the accountability of the individual assessors, Daniel explains that a Regional Engineering Manager is responsible for auditing all NICEIC assessors and their internal verification department reviews assessment reports for their content and accuracy. “Additionally, Certsure (the organisation that owns NICEIC) is audited once a year by UKAS, who also review files and assessment reports in order to maintain UKAS accreditation,” he says.
On arrival at each of the job sites Daniel assessed David’s safe isolation procedures when working on live circuits, along with the testing and quality of work being carried out by the company. At the end of the site assessment, Daniel and David discussed the assessment outcome and any improvements that should be made on future work.
Having viewed the work produced by David and his team and witnessed the thorough assessment given by Daniel, I was impressed by the quality and pride that both individuals take in their respective jobs. Daniel’s approach to his role exemplifies that the assessment process is something that should be embraced, not feared, and that an Area Engineer is an aid rather than an enemy.
“The assessor is there to help and support the assessee and we’re passionate in what we do,” says Daniel. “We’re there to provide technical excellence through education, raising awareness, promoting best practices and answering technical questions. We have a duty of care to check the work sampled is safe and meeting the minimum standard set out within BS7671”.
When asked what advice David would he offer to others that are due an assessment soon, he says: “It’s not as scary as you think. The NICEIC want to work with you and will answer any questions you have on the day. To help with the preparation, Daniel sent me an assessment checklist prior to the visit. Contractors may also receive a supplementary phone call from their Area Engineer and/or receive a checklist in the form of a text message.”
Clearly the annual assessment holds an enormous amount of importance to our industry, providing a chance for the scheme operator to check that the standards are consistent from year-to-year, and in line with the latest industry guidance and regulations. It also allows the assessee to get an idea of what needs to be improved moving forwards.
Asked if there is anything that could be done, from his perspective, to improve the assessment process, David responds: “I’m very lucky to have Daniel as my assessor and we’re in contact throughout the year. This makes my assessment a much more comfortable environment when it takes place I believe this helps the process enormously and takes away some of the anxiety that those being assessed can experience during the process.”
For more information on the NICEIC, please visit: http://www.niceic.com/