NAPIT Group Chief Executive, Mike Andrews, discusses the importance of individual competence in the electrical contracting industry and why NAPIT’s support of SparkSafe LtP (Licence to Practice) will provide increased levels of assurance to clients relating to the qualifications and competence of individuals.
As one of the leading Government approved and United Kingdom Accreditation Services (UKAS) accredited certification bodies, NAPIT has over 10,000 registered businesses operating within the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors. The key objective of ensuring the safety and competence of individuals working within the UK’s electrical contracting industry is something of upmost importance and has always been high on the agenda for NAPIT.
Alarmingly, there are tens of thousands of unqualified, under-qualified and self-designated workers within the UK’s electrical industry supply chain. Around 200,000 UK electrical workers operate outside of any common recognised system. There is currently no legal requirement for electrical workers to be registered in a manner where their qualifications and technical competence is verified, although this is something NAPIT are constantly campaigning to change. Clients who hire the expertise of individuals who are working in the electrical industry have a right to know that those individuals who are designing, installing and maintaining electrical systems on their sites are properly qualified and competent. Failure to ensure that individual workers are qualified and competent to carry out electrical projects can pose a very dangerous risk.
Since our establishment 27 years ago, NAPIT has continued to push for the recognition of individual competence at every opportunity; with an approach which registers the Company as being deemed to meet the requirements within the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification (EAS), and then to technically assess individuals onsite to ensure that they are technically competent by having the necessary training, qualifications, experience and knowledge of the electrical system to be worked on.
We have been working on ways to improve the ability to identify individual competence in recent years, which brings me on to discuss why NAPIT is supporting and promoting SparkSafe LtP. SparkSafe is an independent system which is designed to connect the competency of electrical workers to client contracts. SparkSafe emerged from the Electrical Training Trust (ETT), a charity based in Northern Ireland. SparkSafe launched their Licence to Practise (LtP) initiative in 2013. This was formally adopted as a policy document 01/16 – Licence to Practise Initiative for Electrical Workers by the Government in Northern Ireland in 2016, when the main Public Sector procurement organisations included the LtP requirement in tender and contract award requirements.
SparkSafe’s unique online system creates a connection between each electrical worker via their employer to Client projects. The online system requires electrical workers to register for one of three Licence types. These are QE (Qualified Electrician), REW (Restricted Electrical Worker) and AE (Apprentice Electrician). The result is an online Workforce Composition Report (WCR) which provides Clients with an insight into the occupational identity and licence type of each worker on a project by project basis. Clients get to see who is on their project and how well those workers are qualified to carry out the work based on independent, third party assessment. SparkSafe also provide Clients with an online and onsite compliance auditing service aimed at preventing the supply chain from resourcing projects with unlicenced electrical workers.
SparkSafe LtP and NAPIT share the same values and beliefs: high standards, individual competence, transparency and integrity. Increased acceptance of the LtP model will drastically improve the compliance and safety of electrical installations across the UK.
NAPIT have committed to endorsing the SparkSafe LtP model. We will be working closely with SparkSafe in the coming months to develop a fourth Licence type, which will bring together the qualifications, requirements and the UKAS accredited certification body technical onsite assessment model operated by NAPIT. NAPIT members who meet the qualification requirements of SparkSafe’s Qualified Electrician and have been technically assessed onsite will be awarded the higher standard fourth Licence type. I feel positive that this exciting development will be a step-forward for the electrical industry. We are making further progress towards raising standards, improving safety, and increasing the levels of recognition and credibility of electrical contractors throughout the UK.