Governments across the United Kingdom have been increasing their efforts in recent years to improve electrical safety standards in dwellings. The significance of inspecting and testing electrical installations in homes is clear, given that taking England alone, there were 12,851 accidental electrical fires in 2021/22.
Regulations have been introduced UK wide, with Scotland introducing legislation for mandatory electrical safety checks in the Private Rented Sector in 2015, England following suit in 2020, and Welsh Regulations coming into force from the beginning of December for all private and social rented properties to do the same.
Despite the nuances between each of the country’s legislation(s), the five-year maximum period between inspection and tests and the requirement to use a qualified and competent person to conduct an electrical inspection and test remain unchanged.
The owner of a dwelling is ultimately responsible for complying with regulations and is liable in the event of an accident. Using the English private rented sector as an example, it equates to 19% of the housing stock, or 4.4 million homes, highlighting the scale of awareness required.
Whilst reports that recent regulations have led to a ‘race to the bottom’ on pricing and quality of electrical inspection and testing in some areas, support from the electrical industry for landlords, tenants, and homeowners to help understand the legalities of electrical safety requirements is widespread.
Additionally, through the existence of consumer-friendly websites, the industry has simplified the task of finding and using a registered, competent electrical inspector and tester.
Encouraging landlords to use electrical inspectors and testers registered with a UKAS-accredited government authorised electrical CPS is crucial to maintaining standards in the sector.
Registration with an electrical CPS holds electrical contractors to account through regular on-site technical assessments, minimum qualification, competence and insurance requirements and confirms the acceptance of scheme rules.
This allows the CPS to act against those registered organisations that are not maintaining the standards set. Reviewing statistics from NAPIT, in the past year, over 450 sanctions have been taken to support compliance, ranging from additional inspection, formal improvement actions and suspensions. It also included 92 certification withdrawals.
Whilst the sanctions taken illustrate the ability and commitment of electrical CPSs to act, they highlight that in 97% of cases registration is maintained without action. In addition, the fact that 99.8% of installations are completed without complaint shows that the majority of registered organisations are compliant and are acting in accordance with the rules and requirements of the scheme.
NAPIT is committed to sharing knowledge by providing landlords, local governments, and electrical contractors with free guidance documents and webinars. These have been watched, downloaded and interacted with over 130,000 times across the past 24 months.
Alongside awareness campaigning, NAPIT provides technical assistance to its registered organisations (which include numerous local authorities) and has published dedicated publications to raise the profile of electrical inspection and testing best practice, whilst actively contributing to further enhancing electrical safety standards through participation at various technical, industry and government committee meetings.
Furthermore, the formation of the NAPIT Electrical Inspector Scheme (EIS), comprising of 9,500 companies, provides customers with additional confidence that the organisation they use to undertake electrical inspecting and testing meets the requirements set out in the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification – the official document which outlines the minimum requirements needed by an enterprise in order to be recognised by a certification body as competent to undertake electrotechnical work.
NAPIT’s EIS has been growing at a rate of 29% per year, demonstrating the increasing capacity for carrying out electrical inspection and testing. NAPIT’s online search tool also provides information about the competence of registered operatives within organisations along with photographs to provide additional verification for customers.
With more regulation expected over the next few years to improve electrical safety standards in dwellings across the UK, through the Private Tenancies Bill in Northern Ireland, the consultation on enhancing electrical safety standards within the social rented sector in England and the call for evidence for safety standards in holiday and short-term lets in England, the demand for appropriately qualified and competent electrical inspectors and testers is set to rise.
In addition, we’re seeing increasing numbers of electric vehicle chargepoints, solar PV and heat pumps, all of which require dwellings to have their electrical installations inspected and tested prior to installation to ensure the suitability of supply and safety of the installation. This will naturally impact demand.
To support the necessary growth in the electrical inspection and testing sector, and to maintain confidence, the electrical industry must continue to work collaboratively to support the awareness and promotion of using appropriately registered, competent and qualified electrical contractors.
This will, in turn, allow for the effective delivery of electrical inspection and testing needed to realise the government’s regulatory ambitions and further enhance electrical safety standards across dwellings within the UK.
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