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Issue13 | Summer 2009 | ÂŁ5.00

www.esc.org.uk

Anti-counterfeiting measures established


WELCOME he welcome note for this issue is brought to you by the new Chairman of the Electrical Safety Board, Bill Wright.

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Bill Wright

Writing the welcome note for this issue of Switched On, I am delighted to be able to provide a brief update on the start of a new phase in the growth and development of the Electrical Safety Council. This phase underpins the launch of the new strategy, approved by the Trustees last year and reported on in the previous issue. As of Tuesday 5 May, following a rigorous selection process, we appointed Phil Buckle as Director General of the Electrical Safety Council.

Phil Buckle

My fellow Trustees and I are confident that Phil will lead the Charity through a period of change that will see it emerge as

a leading Third Sector organisation, able to work with organisations across all energy sectors within the UK to provide advice and support to people in their homes and at the workplace on electrical and other energy-related safety issues. We will be seeking to further develop the role of the Council by working in partnership with all stakeholders, and will also be canvassing views on what consumers and contractors feel are the key issues that we need to tackle. We have already started this process, using a number of research techniques to obtain the views of a wide range of consumers. Further work needs to be done before we are in a position to confirm our agenda for the next

five years. Please may we have your support in this process should you receive a questionnaire or be invited to an event in the near future. I hope you find the content of this latest issue of Switched On interesting. If you do please pass your copy on to colleagues, friends, and family. The issue of electrical safety is not always high on everyone’s agenda so, by talking through the subjects covered in this issue, you will be helping to make people more aware of their own safety and the safety of others. Bill Wright As always, we would welcome your feedback on the content of, and issues raised in, Switched On. Please send your comments to switchedon@esc.org.uk

TRUSTEES APPOINT NEW CHAIRMAN AND DEPUTY CHAIRMAN Chairman Mr Bill Wright MA CEng FIET has been appointed Chairman of the Electrical Safety Council’s Board of Trustees for a two year term with effect from 1 April this year. He was previously Deputy Chairman. As Chairman, Bill heads the Electrical Safety Board, which has responsibility for setting the overall strategic direction of the Electrical Safety Council, and the group’s performance. Bill is a nominee of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (formerly the Institution of Electrical Engineers), and has been a Board member since 2001.

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Bill is currently Corporate Energy and Environmental Manager of John Lewis plc. He is a member of JPEL 64, the Joint IET/BSI committee responsible for the technical content of the national standard for the safety of electrical installations (BS 7671, formerly the IEE Wiring Regulations). Until April, Bill had also been Chairman of Panel A of JPEL 64 for 13 years. Panel A has particular responsibility for the fundamental principles and the inspection and testing requirements set out in BS 7671. Bill is also a member of the Electrical Safety Council’s Technical Committee.

Bill takes over from David Dosset, who had held the office of Chairman since 2007 and who, as the immediate Past Chairman, continues to have a particularly active role on the Board.

Charles Tanswell

Charles is the National Secretary of the Society of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers serving local government (SCEME). He has been a member of the Board of Trustees since 2001. Founded in 1951, SCEME is an organisation for professional engineers that represents senior engineers working for public authorities, related organisations and commercial companies serving local government (Borough, County, District, Metropolitan and Unitary) in England, Scotland and Wales.

Deputy Chairman Mr Charles Tanswell C Eng MIEE MCIBSE succeeds Bill Wright as Deputy Chairman of the Electrical Safety Board, again with effect from 1 April.

Charles is a member of JPEL 64 and Chairman of the Electrical Safety Council’s Technical Committee.


Changes to the hazardous area standards - Page 18

issue 13 Summer ‘09

switchedon industry news

features

your insight into the electrical safety industry

12 Best Practice Guides

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Trustees appoint new Chairman and Deputy Chairman Also, Welcome

13 RCDs still in the spotlight

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News in brief Also, IET publishes updated guidance for electricians, Gas safety

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Grants to improve the safety of electrical installations Also, Electrical quiz rewards endeavour, Events in 2009, Creating a buzz

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Electrical contractor prosecuted after groundworker receives electric shock Also, Mandatory Property Information Questionnaire

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Access to service fuses for temporary de-energisation purposes

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Firms exposing untrained workers to asbestos to be penalised Also, Downlighters – can they be a fire hazard?

Also, HSE targets property developers

inspection standards

A united front against the threat of counterfeit electrical installation products

14 Electrical Installation Forum Also, Safe to rent?

15 New product standard for

prefabricated wiring systems Also, Landlords’ guide to electrical safety

16 Have you ever been asked … Why

are RCDs sometimes referred to by different names?

17 Portable appliance testing - IEE Code of Practice updated

18 Changes to the hazardous areas standards

11 Improving domestic periodic

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19 RMI could help build the way out

of recession Also, Government acts to bust myth of ‘elitist’ science

20 Want to be a film star?

Published by: The Electrical Safety Council 18 Buckingham Gate London, SW1E 6LB www.esc.org.uk www.switchedonkids.org.uk Tel: 0870 040 0561 Fax: 0870 040 0560 email: enquiries@esc.org.uk SwitchedOn 3


NEWS IN BRIEF Amendment No 1 to BS 7671: 2008 The Joint BSI/IET Committee responsible for the technical content of BS 7671: 2008 (17th Edition of the IEE Wiring Regulations) has started work on the first amendment to that version of the standard, which is currently scheduled for publication in mid-2011.

This followed the electrocution of a scaffolder in 2006 who, whilst standing on the first 'lift' of the scaffold, came into contact with an external security light fitting that was fixed to the wall.

Private landlords to be registered?

The metal enclosure of the fitting was found to be at a continuous potential of 230 V because the fitting had at some earlier time developed an earth fault, but the circuit protective conductor was not connected to the enclosure. Had the protective conductor been connected, it would have caused the circuit protection to operate as soon as the fault had occurred.

As this issue of Switched On was being finalised, The Times newspaper was predicting a government Green Paper that would call for all private landlords to be registered before letting residential property in England and Wales.

Competent persons would be expected to identify and correct dangerous conditions such as this during the course of routine period inspection and testing of electrical installations.

Anyone letting a residential property would have to pay about £50 to register with a national body. This would include developers, buy-to-let investors and the growing ranks of ‘accidental landlords’ who cannot sell their homes and who have been forced to let them out instead. There are estimated to be about one million private landlords in England and Wales. Registered landlords would have to comply with certain standards and those who fail to carry out repairs could be struck off. The Electrical Safety Council will be campaigning to help ensure that the required standards include electrical safety. A similar registration scheme is already in place in Scotland to ensure tenants are protected.

HSE warns local authorities about maintenance standards The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned councils and their contractors to have properly planned maintenance programmes and testing regimes in place, following the prosecution of Camden Council over the electrocution of a scaffolder. The London Borough of Camden was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £16,445 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

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Landlord fined for HMO offences A Carlisle landlord has been fined more than £1000 after it was found that the fire detection and alarm system in a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) he owned was not working. The system had failed to sound the alarm when a fire broke out in the property in September last year. A joint investigation by the local authority and fire service found that the landlord had no documentation relating to the maintenance of the fire detection and alarm system. It also emerged that there was no evidence that the electrical installation had been inspected and tested by a competent person. Carlisle City Council led the prosecution, supported by the Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service. The landlord pleaded guilty to offences under the Housing Act 2004 and the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation Regulations 2006. He was fined £800 for the fire alarm offence and £270 for the electrical installation periodic inspection offence, in addition to being ordered to pay the legal costs and a victim surcharge. The landlord had previously failed to respond to several attempts by the local environmental health officer to arrange an inspection of the property as required by law.

IET PUBLISHES UPDATED GUIDANCE FOR ELECTRICIANS The IEE, a registered trademark of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), has published new guidance for electricians. Guidance Note 1 – Selection and Erection enlarges upon and simplifies the relevant requirements of BS 7671: 2008. The guidance includes detailed coverage of external influences and factors affecting the installation of cables and equipment. The book has been updated to align with the 17th edition of the IEE Wiring Regulations and, for the first time, is published in full colour.

GAS SAFETY s previously reported, the Gas Safe Register replaced the CORGI gas register in Great Britain and the Isle of Man on 1 April 2009.

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The CORGI gas registration scheme in Great Britain and the Isle of Man ended on 31 March 2009. It is no longer recognised by law as the gas safety register in those places. However, CORGI still operates gas registration schemes in Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. A new section of the HSE website, www.hse.gov.uk/gas/ contains health and safety information gas consumers need to know in order to manage their gas appliances and equipment safely, and tells them what to do in an emergency. It also provides advice for landlords and letting agents on how to comply with the law with regard to gas safety.


CREATING A BUZZ

EVENTS IN 2008 his year’s events programme is now well underway.

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We have a new stand design for consumer shows which is more interactive and so helps to attract more people on to the stand. Children and adults alike are enjoying the electric buzz wire (steady hand) game, and the black museum pieces, which include burned-out sockets and melted cables, are proving intriguing to many visitors. Visitors to our stand can take away a variety of literature and discuss their electrical safety issues and concerns with our team. Additionally we have attended three of the Elex shows so far this year, with a great number of electricians taking the opportunity to talk to our technical team and take away copies of our popular Best Practice Guides. It has been very useful for our team to meet with electricians and hear their views and also to give them some insight into our role and how we work to raise installation standards and educate consumers. We are hosting a seminar theatre at each of the Elex shows to bring the technical

ELECTRICAL QUIZ REWARDS ENDEAVOUR

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he solution to the ‘extremely high potential’ quiz in the spring issue of Switched On has been published on our website, www.esc.org.uk, together with the names of the lucky winners. Most readers evidently found the quiz too much of a challenge, as only about 30 entries were received. Of these, a significant proportion appeared to be from students and staff at Bishop Auckland College, whom we congratulate for their collective initiative and enterprise! We did say that the chances of winning something were significantly better than the National Lottery!

expertise of the industry together to provide practical advice and guidance to those attending. Speakers from BEAMA, ELECSA, NAPIT and NICEIC have joined our own technical team to talk about a variety of topics including the 17th Edition, microgeneration, counterfeiting and fire protection. Our events programme for the remainder of this year: Elex 2009* Ricoh Arena, Coventry 17-18 September Liberal Democrats’ Party Conference BIC, Bournemouth 19-23 September Labour Party Conference Brighton Conference Centre 26-30 September Conservative Party Conference Manchester Central Complex 5-8 October Elex 2009* Sandown Park, Surrey 1-2 December *We have free tickets for the Elex events, which can be requested via our enquiries@esc.org.uk email address.

We are sponsoring the pollen count on ITV1 again this summer to further raise public awareness of the Electrical Safety Council. Last year’s sponsorship, in conjunction with our other consumer awareness campaign activities, resulted in a significant increase in the number of calls to our consumer helpline and visitors to our websites.

GRANTS TO IMPROVE THE SAFETY OF ELECTRICAL INSTALLATIONS s reported in previous issues of Switched On, we have been offering grants over the past two years to help improve the safety of electrical installations. The grants have been made available to resident homeowners aged 60 and over who are in receipt of a means-tested benefit.

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The 2008/9 programme of grant-aided improvements has now been successfully completed. During the year we received almost 100 applications, of which 77 were accepted. In each case, remedial work was carried out to restore the electrical installation in the applicant’s home to a safe condition.

The scope of the grants scheme is now being reviewed to see if the electrical safety benefits can be extended to a wider range of those in need. We expect to publish on our website towards the end of the year details of how the revised scheme will operate. We would like to thank all the electrical contractors that have helped us operate the scheme by providing periodic inspection reports and carrying out the necessary remedial works.

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ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR PROSECUTED AFTER GROUNDWORKER RECEIVED ELECTRIC SHOCK he Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned about the importance of robust and well supervised systems of work when dealing with the isolation of electrical systems after a worker was knocked unconscious by an electric shock in Southend.

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Earlier this year, the electrical contractor responsible, South Eastern Electrical plc, was fined £50,000 with costs of £20,000 at Basildon Crown Court. The company had been found guilty at an earlier hearing of breaching Section 3(1)* of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, namely failing to protect those not in its employment. The prosecution concerned an incident at a supermarket in Southend, Essex, in 2006. Major refurbishment works were being carried out when the store was closed on a Sunday afternoon. A groundworks subcontractor suffered an electric shock after coming into contact with a live cable during the replacement of lighting columns in the car park. He was unconscious for a short period and suffered burns and bruising.

The HSE Inspector said: "The risks of working with electricity are well known and this incident could easily have been avoided. Effective identification and isolation of the electrical supply, together with clear instruction and supervision from the very beginning and throughout such work, are essential in preventing such incidents from occurring. By failing to implement simple and well documented controls over such work, electrical contractors place not only themselves, but others who may come into contact with their work, at risk of very serious injury." The HSE investigation found that no circuit diagrams had been available and no attempt had been made by the electrical contractor to produce a diagram by surveying each column to identify its point of supply. The electrical contractor’s supervisor had pointed out a distribution board to the two electricians undertaking the work as the point of isolation for the lighting columns in the car park.

* Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not exposed to risks to their health and safety."

However, it had not been made clear exactly which columns were supplied from this point and no written permit to work system was in place, which would have described exactly which columns had been made safe, how this had been done and by whom. The first three columns were replaced ahead of time and as a result a decision was made to continue with the replacement of a fourth column. Assumptions were made that the supply for this column was also fed from the same distribution board as the previous three and checks found the supply to it was dead. This fourth column was in fact supplied via a separate distribution board that had not been isolated and was also controlled by a light sensor. When the electricians had initially tested the supply at the fourth column there had been sufficient daylight to prevent the supply being switched on. However, during the replacement work, the level of light decreased to such an extent that the sensor energized the circuit. The resulting uninsulated ends of the now live cable were grabbed by a groundworker as he attempted to feed them into the new column and he received an electric shock.

MANDATORY PROPERTY INFORMATION QUESTIONNAIRE n 6 April this year, the Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ) became a mandatory requirement of the Home Information Pack (HIP) relating to the sale of residential properties in England and Wales.

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The PIQ must now be completed by the seller and included in the HIP before a property is put on the market. The PIQ must be filed as the first item in the pack after the index. Failing to provide an HIP could land house sellers with a £200 fine. The intention of the Property Information Questionnaire is to provide any potential buyer with a helpful checklist of information as they view a property.

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It is not intended to replace enquiries made during the conveyancing process but should help reduce the risk of nasty surprises arising further down the line of the buying process. Anyone who incurs expenses through relying on inaccurate information could claim for damages against the seller. As previously reported in Switched On, Question 12 in the PIQ asks the seller to provide details about if and when the electrical wiring in property was last checked.

This new question should draw attention to the need for the safety of the electrical installation in a property to be checked, and encourage prospective buyers to ask to see a periodic inspection report to identify any potential electrical safety issues before committing to a purchase. For full details on the Property Information Questionnaire, visit: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/ housing/propertyinformationquestionnaire


ACCESS TO SERVICE FUSES FOR TEMPORARY DE-ENERGISATION PURPOSES he Electrical Safety Council has been concerned for some years that the current regulatory and commercial framework governing public electricity supply does not adequately provide for safe working at the interface between electricity distributors’ equipment and consumers’ installations.

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In consequence, the distributors have withdrawn almost all of the contractor registration schemes which, in practice, were probably the most practical and cost-effective way for electrical contractors to work, and certainly the most convenient for their customers. As far as we are aware, there were no significant concerns about the safety, security or costs of those schemes. The result is that to effect temporary deenergisations lawfully, electrical contractors have no option but to try to make arrangements through the distributor and/or the relevant electricity supplier. However, by all accounts, the procedure is confusing, timeconsuming and frustrating for both electrical contractors and their customers alike.

However, it eventually became apparent that, even with the consumer’s consent, distributors no longer had, or considered themselves to have, authority to de-energise consumers’ supplies for such a purpose.

Recognising that it is dangerous for work to be performed live and that it is unsatisfactory for seals to be broken by unauthorised persons, the parties to the DCUSA agreement have established a Working Group to seek to understand what practices are happening and why.

DCUSA have issued a consultation document to gather the information they require from a wide range of interested parties, to which the Electrical Safety Council has responded in detail.

For example, when a consumer unit in a dwelling needs to be replaced, common sense and the Electricity at Work Regulations almost invariably require the consumer unit to be isolated from the electricity supply to enable the work to proceed in safety.

Until a few years after the privatisation of the electricity supply industry, such temporary de-energisations were achieved either by arranging for the distributors to remove their service cut-out fuse, or by taking advantage of registration schemes offered by some distributors, by means of which competent electrical contractors were authorised to remove and replace service fuses (and then to fit temporary seals).

DCUSA is a multi-party contract between the licensed electricity distributors, suppliers and generators of Great Britain. It is concerned with the use of the electricity distribution systems to transport electricity to or from connections to them.

In understanding the factors, the Working Group hopes to propose a solution to facilitate necessary work being done by authorised persons in a timely manner. Insofar as possible the Working Group, in determining a solution, will consider what work is required, what electrical competencies are required for the work, who should be authorised and what constitutes timeliness.

In particular, electrical contractors have continued to report difficulty in making satisfactory arrangements via electricity distributors and/or electricity suppliers for the supply to domestic premises to be temporarily de-energised to enable them to carry out certain repair, maintenance and improvement work in safety.

In most cases, de-energisation can be quickly and safely effected by the removal of the distributor’s service cut-out fuse.

consultation by the parties responsible for the Distribution Connection and Use of System Agreement (DCUSA).

As a consequence of the practical difficulties electrical contractors and other competent persons currently have in arranging for the temporary disconnection of supplies to domestic premises to suit their needs, particularly with regard to timescales, many if not most appear to have adopted unsafe and/or unsatisfactory working practices. These involve either live working or the unauthorised removal of service fuses. Consequently, in concert with other electrical installation industry bodies including the ECA, SELECT and NICEIC, we have been campaigning to get the situation improved in the interests of safety.

All responses to the consultation will be made available in a summarised form on the DCUSA website, www.dcusa.co.uk It is sincerely hoped that the eventual outcome of the consultation will be the introduction of a single, UK-wide scheme by means of which individuals (not firms) employed by non-supply industry bodies, including electrical contractors, will be authorised to remove and replace service fuses to enable certain work on domestic electrical installations to proceed safely and lawfully. Further developments on this important subject will be reported in future issues of Switched On.

We are therefore very pleased to report that the concerns are now being addressed by the electrical supply industry, in the form of SwitchedOn 7


A united front against counterfeit electrical i “

It provided a great opportunity to explore ways to build upon the good work already initiated through the Electrical Installation Industry Charter*

ounterfeiting was a hot topic for discussion at our inaugural International Product Safety Conference last year. Since then, we have been considering how best to translate the outputs from the conference into practical and effective action to support industry and to develop our agenda for future campaigning activities in this area.

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In April, as a starting point for delivering on this commitment, we invited senior representatives from the electrical installation industry, enforcement organisations and central government to take part in a round-table event to debate how all our efforts could be united to better tackle the global problem of counterfeit and non-compliant electrical installation products.

Our intention in opening the debate was to initiate a process towards a long-lasting strategy which would mobilize both industry and public authorities to jointly combat counterfeiting and non-compliant products. It provided a great opportunity to explore ways to build upon the good work already initiated through the Electrical Installation Industry Charter* and to combine expertise and resources to further the agenda and to reinforce the need to unite our efforts. As the dangers of counterfeit and sub-standard electrical products are well rehearsed, it was important for the debate to move the agenda forward by focusing on what is being done, and what else can be done, to address the problem. Therefore, the object of the debate was to: • establish a view on the effectiveness of existing anti-counterfeiting measures and to consider what more can be done by industry, legislators and enforcers to combat counterfeiting

Signing the Charter

The event was chaired by Ron Gainsford, Chief Executive of the Trading Standards Institute, who welcomed participants representing the following organisations: • British Approvals Service for Cables (BASEC) • British Cables Association • British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers' Association (BEAMA) • Electrical Contractors’ Association • Electrical Safety Council • Intertek • Lighting Industry Federation • SELECT • The Alliance Against IP Theft • The Intellectual Property Office • Trading Standards

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• consider how areas of specific concern can be addressed, in particular the growing trade of counterfeit goods over the internet and the validity of CE marking when applied to electrical installation products • consider how we can best support those parts of the supply chain we represent to tackle the threat of counterfeiting • identify areas where joint actions can be taken to drive out this illegal trade in support of the Electrical Installation Industry Charter, and to improve consumer safety. The debate culminated in proposals that are likely to result in the Electrical Safety Council taking a leading role in mapping a way forward on actions to: • raise the profile and priority of the issues on the political stage


the threat of nstallation products • establish a central ‘hub’ of information on counterfeit activity to better co-ordinate intelligence-led operations

The facts about counterfeit electrical products

• co-ordinate public relations campaigns to raise awareness of the potential pitfalls of the trade in counterfeiting to industry and consumers.

The market in counterfeit watches, designer clothes, CDs and DVDs has enjoyed widespread publicity. But the market in counterfeit electrical installation products is far more serious because it may involve risk to life.

David Dossett, immediate Past Chairman of the Electrical Safety Council and Chief Executive of BEAMA, said: “I was very pleased to see the Electrical Safety Council take the initiative by bringing together key stakeholders to explore ways in which we can all work together to address the problem of counterfeiting.

Some products, for example fuses and circuitbreakers, are intended to provide electrical protection, so it is essential that they function correctly. Others products, like wiring accessories, switches, cables and controlgear, perform a more functional role but safety in use is vital, along with reliability and performance.

The distribution of electrical products not complying with safety standards represents a very real danger to goods, property and people’s safety. Up to 15% of world trade is thought to be in counterfeit goods and in some cases this may be used to help finance other criminal activity.

Counterfeit electrical products are almost always substandard, posing a risk of harm to consumers and installers alike.

For these reasons, we must all take practical and effective actions to counter the threat from counterfeit and non-compliant electrical products. It is in everyone’s interest that the electrical industry and others unite to tackle this global problem.” The event also served as an opportunity for participants to add their support to the Electrical Installation Industry Charter. New signatories to the Charter included the Trading Standards Institute, the Alliance Against IP Theft, and Intertek.

Counterfeiters are able to copy the external appearance of an electrical product and its packaging fairly well, but the internal design, materials or chemical composition may be significantly different from the genuine product and could pose serious dangers.

A full report and a transcript of proceedings from the event together with a copy of the Charter can be viewed on our website, www.esc.org.uk

Annually, an estimated £30m worth of counterfeit electrical products reach the UK. It is believed that more than 95% of counterfeit electrical installation products originate in China. Since 2000, BEAMA has seen over 200 factories in China raided and over 10 million products seized together with their packaging and tooling.

Back row, left to right... Newell McGuiness, Peter Smeeth, Eddie Taylor, David Dossett, Mike Lawson, Bryan Lewin, Andrew Jenner, Giuliano Digilio, Jeremy Hodge Front, left to right... Irja Howie, Susie Winter, Ron Gainsford (Chairman) Phil Buckle, Steve Curtler

* The Electrical Installation Industry Charter is a written agreement that confirms the commitment of all signatories to develop practical and effective solutions to drive out the trade in dangerous, non-compliant electrical products and improve consumer safety.

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FIRMS EXPOSING UNTRAINED WORKERS TO ASBESTOS TO BE PENALISED he Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned that firms exposing workers to asbestos will be penalised. It added that electrical contracting companies and other building and refurbishment trades must provide suitable asbestos awareness training to employees, or face prosecution.

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The warning follows the prosecution of Scriven Electrical Contractors Ltd of West Bromwich for failing to ensure that adequate information, instruction and training was given to its employees. The court heard that an electrician employed by Scriven installed three heat detectors and associated cabling in a commercial kitchen and boiler room of premises in Smethwick. Although the ceiling tiles contained 5–50% brown asbestos, no asbestos awareness training was given by his employer prior to commencement of the work, despite a legal requirement. Earlier this year, under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Scriven was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £2,757 in costs for breaching the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006*.

Exposure to asbestos is the biggest single cause of work-related deaths, with around 4,000 people a year dying from asbestosrelated disease, over 300 of them having been electricians. The overall number of deaths is rising because a large number of workers who have already been exposed to asbestos dust around 40 years ago will go on to develop mesothelioma, a terminal cancer, or other asbestos-related diseases. Today, asbestos still presents a real and relevant risk to electricians and many other maintenance workers as it may be present in any building constructed or refurbished before the year 2000. It is estimated that around 500,000 nondomestic buildings could contain asbestos and these buildings all need repair and maintenance work from time to time. But when the asbestos fibres are disturbed, for example by drilling or cutting, they are likely to be inhaled as a deadly dust.

* Regulation 10(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 states that: "Every employer shall ensure that adequate information, instruction and training is given to those of his employees a. who are or who are liable to be exposed to asbestos, or who supervise such employees, so that they are aware of i. the properties of asbestos and its effects on health, including its interaction with smoking, ii. the types of products or materials likely to contain asbestos, iii. the operations which could result in asbestos exposure and the importance of preventive controls to minimise exposure, iv. safe work practices, control measures, and protective equipment, v. the purpose, choice, limitations, proper use and maintenance of respiratory protective equipment, vi. emergency procedures, vii. hygiene requirements, viii.decontamination procedures, ix. waste handling procedures, x. medical examination requirements, and xi. the control limit and the need for air monitoring, in order to safeguard themselves and other employees."

DOWNLIGHTERS – CAN THEY BE A FIRE HAZARD? he Electrical Safety Council is working with the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service (F&RS) to investigate concerns that incorrectly selected and/or installed downlighters may have been the cause of a significant number of fires in homes.

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Surrey F&RS has produced a report for the Council which draws together anecdotal evidence from Fire & Rescue Services across the UK. In conjunction with the report, the Council has commissioned an independent laboratory to test the thermal performance of a small selection of downlighters bought on the open market. The downlighters are being tested firstly when installed in accordance with the

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manufacturer’s instructions (if any), and then when covered with a layer of thermal insulation. Being covered with thermal insulation or other material is reportedly one of the main reasons for downlighters starting fires. Another is positioning them too close to combustible material, such as floor joists. We will report on the results of the investigation in a future issue of Switched On. The issue of downlighters potentially permitting fire to spread is addressed in the Council’s Best Practice Guide No 5 Electrical installations and their impact on the fire performance of buildings: Part 1 Domestic premises. Copies can be downloaded free of charge from our website.


IMPROVING DOMESTIC PERIODIC INSPECTION REPORTING STANDARDS s reported in last winter’s Switched On (Issue 11), we are taking a number of initiatives in conjunction with others to help improve the general standard of domestic periodic inspection reporting. These include:

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Changing the title, format and content of the model periodic inspection report form to make it easier for householders to understand, and for inspectors to report more clearly

Helping to improve the level of competence of domestic installation inspectors by making available to them more information and guidance

Calling for an appropriate national qualification for those reporting on the condition of domestic electrical installations

Defining criteria for the potential assessment of the competence of individual inspectors to report fully, clearly and accurately on the condition of domestic electrical installations

Raising awareness amongst consumers (householders, housing associations, private landlords etc) of the importance of periodic inspection and testing, what to specify, what to expect in the way of information, and what to do about it.

We have been making good progress in a number of these areas, including:

Report form Our proposal to improve the model periodic inspection report form given in Appendix 6 of BS 7671: 2008 has been taken up by Panel A of the Joint IET/BSI Committee (JPEL64) responsible for the technical content of that standard. The work was still in progress as this issue of Switched On went to print, but it is expected that the title the model form will be changed to ‘Electrical Installation Condition Report’, which should be more meaningful to recipients. Amongst other things, new, clearer, recommendation codes are also proposed for each recorded observation: •

Code C1 - Danger present. Risk of injury. Immediate remedial action required (preferably before leaving the premises) Code C2 - Potentially dangerous - urgent remedial action required

Code C3 - Improvement is recommended

It will be possible to indicate separately against each observation and recommendation code if the item requires further investigation. Currently, it is not proposed to include the equivalent of the existing Recommendation Code 4. A new ‘schedule of inspections’ more suited to a condition report is also proposed, to enable the condition of the various parts of an installation to be described. These and other changes to the model form and associated guidance notes are expected to be included in Amendment No 1 to BS 7671: 2008.

National qualification We have been in contact with Awarding Bodies concerning the introduction of a new national qualification or qualifications specifically for periodic inspection reporting (or more probably, electrical installation condition reporting). The proposed introduction of such a qualification appears to have strong support from electrical trade and registration bodies.

Assessment criteria

(EAS) Management Committee in the form of a draft specification for the assessment of the competence of individuals reporting on the condition of domestic electrical installations. The specification is intended to form the basis of an accredited scheme or schemes for the registration of individuals who have been assessed as competent to undertake domestic electrical installation condition reporting. Such a register or registers would enable consumers to readily check that a person they proposed to employ to produce a condition report was formally recognised as competent to undertake such work, or to readily find such a person.

Consumer awareness As reported in the spring issue of Switched On, we have produced a series of guidance sheets for consumers and electricians to clarify what each party should expect from the other when a report is required on the condition of a domestic electrical installation. These can be downloaded free of charge from our website.

Updates Further news about the development of these initiatives will be reported from time to time in Switched On and on our website, www.esc.org.uk

We have put a proposal to the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification SwitchedOn 11


BEST PRACTICE GUIDES Safe isolation Work has commenced on updating Best Practice Guide No 2, Guidance on safe isolation procedures for low voltage installations, which was published in March 2007.

The original working group that produced this guide on the all-important subject of safe isolation has been expanded to include other interested parties, including Part P scheme operators. The update is taking into account the findings of a court case in Scotland earlier this year that concerned the electrocution of an electrician. SELECT, in conjunction with HSE, has already updated their guidance on which the Best Practice Guide was originally based, and has kindly agreed to contribute their work to the updating of the Guide. Much of the revision is likely to be additional content addressing the management of health and safety.

Replacing consumer units Work on a sixth Best Practice Guide in the series, Replacing a consumer unit in domestic premises, has now been completed.

requirements of BS 7671

main earthing, bonding and meter tails

reason for change – planned change or distress change

pre-work survey and risk assessment

remedial work to the existing installation, where necessary

inspection, testing and certification.

The content of this new guide adds to that of Best Practice Guide No 1, Replacing a consumer unit in domestic premises where lighting circuits have no protective conductor, in order to cover more of the general aspects of changing a consumer unit.

Updates If you make use of our Best Practice Guides, we recommend that you visit our website at intervals to check if any of them have been updated since you last referred to them.

Other new guides The new Guide, which will be published on our website soon, covers: • Another example of inadequate and potentially dangerous ‘isolation’ practice found by the HSE

legal requirements, including the Building Regulations and the Electricity at Work Regulations

Other new guides in the series may include plug-in socket-outlet test devices, and the accuracy and consistency of test instruments. News about the development of these and other guides will be given in future issues of Switched On.

HSE TARGETS PROPERTY DEVELOPERS arlier this year, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched a campaign to increase health and safety awareness amongst those involved in developing property as part of their business.

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According to the HSE, since 1999, some 340 people have died on property refurbishment, repair and maintenance projects. Last year alone, 38 people were killed in this sector, mostly as a result of falls from height and electrocution. This accounted for over half (52%) of all construction fatalities. The HSE launched the awareness campaign after it discovered that many people developing property for business do not know about the legal responsibilities clients have under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. 12 SwitchedOn

This year, the HSE aimed to inspect 1500 refurbishment sites across Great Britain, to tackle poor health and safety standards. The inspections were enforcement-led with considerable effort being made to seek out poor performance – it was not a random sampling exercise. During similar inspection initiatives over the previous two years, HSE’s Construction Inspectors carried out over 2,400 refurbishment site inspections nationally, resulting in enforcement action being taken on around one in three of the sites visited. The HSE has urged all small-scale property developers to visit www.hse.gov.uk/property for free advice about what they need to know and what they need to do.

HSE’s key message to property developers is that appointing the right team of designers and contractors, allowing sufficient time for the projects, and providing the information needed to plan and work around problems like existing services and structures, or hazards such as asbestos, are more likely to result in safe, high quality projects. The guidance also covers notifiable construction projects – those lasting longer than 30 days or involving more than 500 person-days’ work.


RCDs STILL IN THE SPOTLIGHT new phase of our research is underway into the in-service performance and reliability of residual current devices (RCDs) in domestic premises.

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It was therefore decided to continue with our investigations into RCD performance to further consider the factors mentioned above.

The research, commissioned by the Electrical Safety Council, aims to:

We will also be working with manufacturers to encourage them to continue to improve the reliability of their RCDs and to design out the need for regular functional testing by users.

determine the adequacy of RCD main contacts under fault conditions

explore the circuit conditions that could affect the operation of RCDs

determine the influence of connected loads

investigate whether equivalent technologies exist that can be relied upon without the need for periodic testing by users.

It is also hoped that this latest research will explain why RCD test instruments sometimes indicate that an RCD has not tripped within the maximum time limit when installation loads left connected, but indicate that it has when the loads are disconnected.

ERA Technology Ltd is conducting the research over a period of six months using a combination of desk-based study and laboratory tests. The results will be published on our website later this year.

We hope finally to answer the question – Do connected loads affect the test readings or the operation of the RCD itself? This question often arises when installers return what they believe to be faulty RCDs to suppliers only to be told that, according to the manufacturer, the device is working correctly!

The project builds on the initial research we commissioned ERA to undertake in 2007. This involved in-situ testing of RCDs in more than 600 domestic premises to gauge their reliability and to check that they still operated quickly enough to protect consumers from electrocution.

Steve Curtler, the Campaign Manager responsible for the research, said: “We are determined to further our knowledge of the performance and reliability of RCDs to help ensure we provide the best and most

accurate advice to consumers whilst raising awareness of the benefits of RCDs and encouraging their wider use in the home. Also, the revised requirements for electrical installations introduced last year put significantly greater emphasis on the use of RCDs for additional protection against electric shock, so we need to ensure industry can support and provide the latest guidance to designers and installers on the correct selection and application of RCDs. In the meantime, we will be continuing with our campaign to promote the wider use of RCDs and to encourage consumers and landlords to use the test button regularly to check that they are still functioning.” We would like to thank the ECA, BEAMA, Schneider Electric Limited and Greenbrook Electrical for their support to this study through participation in our RCD Research Steering Committee. If you would like to support this project by sharing your RCD experiences with us, please email us at rcds@esc.org.uk or write to: RCD Project, Electrical Safety Council, 18 Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6LB.

It was concluded from this initial research that, overall, RCDs in domestic installations are reasonably reliable in the long term, provided they have been selected and installed correctly, and that the integral test button is operated regularly. However, of the RCDs tested in the 2007 research, almost 3% failed the timing test. This was largely attributed to ingress of moisture or contamination, component misalignment, or severe disruption of the main contact surfaces causing contact welding. The research also confirmed that consumers do not operate the test button regularly, if at all, and that other factors, such as the condition and use of the electrical installation, may adversely affect the operation of RCDs. There were also indications from the desk-based study that electromechanical and voltage-dependent RCDs may perform differently in service. SwitchedOn 13


ELECTRICAL INSTALLATION FORUM he answers to several new commonlyasked questions have been added to the Forum’s website since the previous issue of Switched On was published, including:

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Are there any particular requirements relating to the mounting height or location of consumer units for electrical installations in new dwellings? Is the space within an airing cupboard in a bathroom or shower room that would otherwise be in a particular zone were it not for the cupboard door, considered to be within that zone? As the designer of an installation, am I allowed to rely on the RCD element of an RCBO for fault protection in order to allow for loop impedance values greater than given in Table 41.3?

For the industry-agreed answers to these and many other commonly-asked questions relating to the application of the 17th Edition, visit www.esc.org.uk/forum Regular visitors to the site will see that the original answer to the question - When a Grade D fire detection and alarm system to BS 5839-6: 2004 is protected by an RCD, should the RCD operate independently of any circuits supplying socket-outlets or portable equipment? – has been clarified by the addition of a new final paragraph. The answer now reads: There are no particular requirements or limitations in BS 5839-6 concerning the use of RCDs with Grade D fire detection and alarm systems. For Grade D systems, which comprise one or more mains-powered smoke alarms each with an integral standby power (such as typical domestic smoke alarm with battery), BS 5839-6 simply recommends that the mains supply to

the smoke and/or heat alarms should take the form of either: i) an independent circuit at the dwelling’s main distribution board, in which case no other electrical equipment should be connected to the circuit (other than a dedicated monitoring device installed to indicate failure of the mains supply to the smoke and/or heat alarms), or ii) a separately electrically protected, regularly used local lighting circuit. We recommend option ii) on the grounds that disconnection of the supply to the fire detection and alarm system will be more readily noticed. In our opinion ‘separately electrically protected’ does not preclude sharing an RCD with several other circuits where this is permitted by BS 7671. We recommend that those following the guidance provided by the Forum visit the site at least every couple of months to see what additions and amendments have been made.

SAFE TO RENT? any of us will have lived in rented accommodation at some stage of our lives, possibly as students or while saving to get on the housing ladder.

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confusion about landlords’ legal obligations coupled with a lack of awareness amongst tenants about electrical safety generally can put householders in HMOs at risk. To coincide with the launch of our new Landlords’ Guide to Electrical Safety, we’ve embarked on a PR campaign to reduce electrical risks in rented homes.

Even so it may still come as a surprise to learn that around 7.8 million homes in the UK are rented. Of these, some 840,000 are defined as houses in multiple occupation or HMOs that is a property let to three or more tenants who form two or more households. HMOs are a key source of housing for often vulnerable groups in society. While most HMOs are well maintained by responsible landlords and careful tenants,

Tenants need to be aware of their rights when it comes to the electrical safety of their accommodation and know how to identify any problems. They should also understand their own obligations and responsibilities including safe use of the electrical installation and appliances in the home.

Working with specialist landlord publications and online forums to target particularly those landlords operating in the private rented sector, we’re trying not only to raise awareness amongst this audience of their legal responsibilities, but also offer guidance as to how these obligations may be met.

We’re working closely with organisations such as the National Union of Students, major universities, local authorities and migrant community groups around the country to gather information about the safety standards in rented accommodation and provide essential safety advice for tenants, as well as delivering safety messages through a wide range of media channels.

Of course landlords aren’t the only parties involved. Students, migrant workers and 1830 year olds on a low income make up a significant number of the tenants in multiple occupancy housing.

To help with our PR campaign, we’re on the look out for tenants, landlords, electrical contractors and others who have had to deal with a potentially dangerous electrical problem in a rented home.

If you know anyone who may fit the bill, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact peta.barsby@ridgemountpr.co.uk for further information. 14 SwitchedOn


Courtesy of WAGO Ltd

NEW PRODUCT STANDARD FOR PREFABRICATED WIRING SYSTEMS

refabricated, or modular, wiring systems can be used in applications where the quick and easy connection of different parts of the installation is required.

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Prefabricated wiring systems are designed to provide rapid connection which guarantees the correct connection. The use of prefabricated wiring systems facilitates

installation and disconnecting, and enables changes and repairs to be made easily after installation. However, in response to concerns raised by electrical contractors about such wiring systems, a new British Standard has been produced which sets out particular safety requirements for their manufacture.

BS 8488-1: 2009 – Prefabricated wiring systems intended for permanent connection in fixed installations. Part 1 - Specification sets out safety requirements for prefabricated wiring systems incorporating installation couplers conforming to BS 61535 with a rated voltage up to and including 500 V a.c. for permanent connection in fixed installations. This part of the Standard includes tests to be carried out as part of the manufacturing process, and also a guide to the use of such wiring systems. Recommendations for the design and installation of prefabricated wiring systems will be given in Part 2 of the Standard, which is in preparation. BS 8488-2 is expected to invoke the standard on-site inspection and testing requirements for electrical installations given in BS 7671 (Requirements for Electrical Installations).

LANDLORDS’ GUIDE TO ELECTRICAL SAFETY he Electrical Safety Council has published a comprehensive new guide for landlords to help them understand their responsibilities for electrical safety in their properties and to give them practical advice on the actions they should take to help ensure the safety of their tenants.

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Supported by LACORS (Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services), the guide is designed to be a one stop shop for landlords requiring answers to their electrical safety questions. The guidance covers current legislation, fixed electrical installations, portable appliances, fire alarms and emergency lighting, certification of electrical work and lots more. The guide is available as a free interactive and downloadable pdf on our website at www.esc.org.uk/business-andcommunity/guidance-for/landlords.html A limited number of printed copies are also available. If you need a printed copy, please email leaflets@esc.org.uk SwitchedOn 15


HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ASKED… WHY ARE RCDs SOMETIMES REFERRED TO BY DIFFERENT NAMES? ‘RCD’, which is short for ‘residual current device’, is the generic term used to describe a range of devices that are designed to provide protection against earth fault current and/or additional protection against electric shock.

supplying the SRCD. In the event of an earth fault occurring in the supply circuit to the SRCD, there will be a risk of electric shock to anyone touching any earthed metallic parts of the SRCD and the equipment plugged in to it until the fault is cleared by a fuse or circuit-breaker in the consumer unit or distribution board.

An RCD constantly monitors the magnitude of the currents in the line and neutral conductors of a circuit. If the circuit is healthy, the currents are balanced. However if, for example, the circuit develops an earth fault or a person comes into contact with a live part, some of the current will ‘leak’ from the circuit, causing an imbalance which the RCD is specifically designed to detect. If the difference between the line and neutral currents reaches a predetermined value (the rated residual operating current, I∆n), the RCD mechanically interrupts (or trips) the circuit. The value of I∆n is generally marked on the device, for example 30 mA or 0.03 A.

RCCB (residual current operated circuitbreaker without integral overcurrent protection). These devices are not designed to provide protection against overcurrent. A circuit or circuits protected by an RCCB must also be provided with a device for overcurrent protection, such as a suitable fuse or circuitbreaker.

There are four types of RCD that are commonly used in electrical installations, as follows.

PRCD (portable RCD). These devices incorporate a plug-pin part and may have either a socket-outlet part or may include terminals for connecting external flexible cords. PRCDs have a rated voltage not exceeding 250 V a.c. single-phase, a rated current not exceeding 16 A and a rated residual operating current not exceeding 30 mA. PRCDs may also have integral overload current and/or short-circuit current protection.

SRCD (socket-outlet incorporating an RCD). These devices provide an alternative to protecting a circuit supplying a socketoutlet with an RCCB or RCBO.

RCBO (residual current operated circuitbreaker with integral overcurrent protection). These devices are designed to provide protection against overcurrent (overload current and short-circuit current), as well as to perform the function of a residual current device. RCBOs are often used in consumer units and distribution boards to protect individual circuits. 16 SwitchedOn

An advantage of using an SRCD is that only the equipment that is plugged into the SRCD is disconnected when the device detects an earth fault. The circuit supplying the SRCD remains unaffected, as does the supply to any other socket-outlets or SRCDs that the circuit serves. A disadvantage of using an SRCD is that it does not protect users of the installation from earth faults occurring in the circuit

Research carried out by the Electrical Safety Council in 2007 found that the in-service reliability of RCCBs fitted in consumer units was about 97%. The research confirmed the importance of consumers testing their RCDs by pressing the integral test button at regular intervals (at least quarterly) to confirm that the devices are still functioning correctly. For further information, see the article in the winter 2007 issue of Switched On and the detailed results of the research – all available in the ‘business and community section of our website, www.esc.org.uk


PORTABLE APPLIANCE TESTING IEE CODE OF PRACTICE UPDATED he third edition of the IEE Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment, published at the end of 2007, gives the latest advice on the inservice inspection and testing necessary to determine whether electrical equipment is fit for continued service, or whether maintenance or replacement is necessary.

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Although this subject is commonly referred to as ‘portable appliance testing’, or ‘PAT testing’, the term electrical equipment covers many other types in addition to portable equipment, such as movable equipment, stationary equipment, IT equipment, built-in appliances, extension leads and adaptors. All these types are covered by the Code of Practice. The Code of Practice gives guidance for users of electrical equipment, persons managing a maintenance scheme, other duty holders such as company directors and managers, and those responsible for the inspection, testing and maintenance of electrical equipment.

The users of electrical equipment also have safety responsibilities, including ensuring the equipment they use has no obvious visual damage or defects. Information is provided in the Code of Practice for duty holders to assist them in meeting the requirements of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. The text specifies the frequency and scope of inspections and testing in different environments, as well as providing model forms for equipment registers and inspection and test records to assist persons managing a maintenance scheme. The Code of Practice includes additional information relating to the categories of equipment covered by the Code of Practice, additional explanation of the term ‘competent person’, and inclusion of an alternative test method. New information is also included in relation to test leads, RCD adaptors, extension leads and commonly encountered deficiencies relating to plugs, flexible cords and extension leads.

Qualifications Personnel involved with managing or inspecting and testing electrical equipment should be aware of the City & Guilds Level 3 Certificates for the Code of Practice for In-Service Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment (2377) qualification. The qualification is split into two units; the 2377-11 Level 3 Certificate in Management of Electrical Equipment Maintenance and the 2377-12 Certificate for the Inspection and Testing of Electrical Equipment. The qualifications are aimed at those with administrative responsibilities for the maintenance of electrical equipment and for those undertaking practical inspection and testing of electrical equipment respectively. The City and Guilds qualification is based on the contents of the third edition of the Code of Practice.

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CHANGES TO THE HAZARDOUS AREA STANDARDS t’s all change for the hazardous area standards. The two main International Standards used to correctly design, select, erect, inspect and maintain electrical equipment in hazardous areas have not only been updated, but also combined into one under the BS EN 60079 series.

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This was a relatively simple exercise, as most of the requirements relating to combustible dusts were very similar to those relating to gases and vapours. The only Part which could not be readily combined was Part 10, Area Classification, because the requirements for gases and vapours are substantially different from those for dusts. For example, dust can settle out and accumulate on horizontal surfaces whereas gases and vapour cannot. Part 10 is therefore now in two parts, Part 10-1 for gases, vapours and mists, and Part 10-2 for combustible dusts. Part 10-1 now covers ‘mists’ as well as gases and vapours. A mist behaves in a similar way to gas and vapour, but has different characteristics. Flammable mists can sometimes be formed when a normally nonflammable liquid is atomised, for example when it escapes through a small leak at high pressure. ‘Equipment Protection Levels’ are now used as a risk assessment method for determining equipment protection and its suitability for the intended use.

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Historically, not all types of protection provide the same level of protection against the possibility of causing an ignition. The method used to allocate types of protection to specific zones was on the basis that, the more likely an explosive atmosphere is to occur, the greater is the level of security needed. Generally, no account was taken of the consequences of an explosion or of other factors such as the toxicity of materials. A true risk assessment would consider all such factors. Acceptance of equipment into each zone used to be based on the type of protection. In some cases the type of protection is divided into different levels of protection which correlate to zones. For example, intrinsic safety is divided into three levels of protection, ia, ib and now ic. The encapsulation ‘m’ standard includes two levels of protection, ‘ma’ and ‘mb’. Nowhere was any account taken of the potential consequences of an explosion, should it occur, although plant operators have often made intuitive decisions on extending (or restricting) their zones in order to compensate for this. For the first time, the new standard contains a definition of knowledge, skill and competence required for persons working in hazardous areas. ‘Responsible persons’ and ‘technical persons with executive function’ are the people providing technical management, and they

all need to have specific skill and knowledge. They must confine themselves to the management of competent operatives and not engage themselves directly in the work, without first ensuring their practical skills at least meet the requirements. ‘Operatives’ need to possess certain practical skills in order to perform their tasks, and these are now defined. Designers also need specific skills and knowledge to perform their tasks, which are different again. Competencies must apply to each of the explosion protection techniques for which any person is involved in applying. For example, a person may be competent only in the field of inspection and maintenance of intrinsically safe equipment, and not be competent in other areas. The managers of such persons need to define and document the applicable limitations, and then ensure that they are taken into account in all work assignments. All persons working in, or responsible for, hazardous areas need to demonstrate their competency and provide evidence of attaining the knowledge and skill requirements relevant to the types of work undertaken or the extent of their responsibilities. The competency of these persons needs be verified at intervals not exceeding five years, on the basis of sufficient evidence that they are capable of performing their duties in a safe manner.


RMI COULD HELP BUILD THE WAY OUT OF RECESSION The Government’s target was for at least 240,000 new private sector homes to be built a year, but house building on this scale is not now going to happen for the foreseeable future says the National Home Improvement Council. The credit crunch has seen to that! In fact, at one point last year, the National House-Building Council reported a 65% decrease in new house starts compared with the same period in 2007. And it now seems likely that this year’s starts will drop to well below 100,000! So, with the nation’s accommodation requirement for at least four million new households over the next decade, there seems little hope that new build will meet this demand. However, there is the potential to make better use of what we have already and also to change the use of the thousands of properties throughout the UK that are standing empty. To put situation in perspective, we have a total private and social housing stock in the UK of around 26 million, but it’s the oldest in Europe. A considerable portion of our homes have been around for 100 years and will have

to be around for another century in order to meet the never ending demand for new homes. Some experts even say our current housing stock will have to last for thousand years! So we need to keep it maintained to the highest possible levels and now, with the emphasis on reducing our individual carbon footprints, our homes should aim to be 100% energy efficient, with maximum insulation and cost-saving, renewable energy systems fitted by experts. Yet nearly six million of our privately-owned homes are designated as ‘non decent’, which means they need some very special attention. In many of them, the wiring hasn’t been touched for 30 years or more! They are, indeed, in desperate need of substantial improvements to bring them up to date with modern housing standards. In fact it is claimed that there is some £23 billion a year to be spent in the repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) sector, just to bring all homes up to the standard required to meet the challenges of 21st century living with modern, energy efficient services.

But that’s only part of the potential housing solution. Look down virtually every high street, particularly at the present time, and you will see several small retail premises and offices standing idle. In other parts of town you may find large, rambling houses lying empty and sinking further and further into disrepair. Indeed, the Government’s own statistics suggest that there are as many as 850,000 empty premises crying out for change of use to convert them into attractive, habitable, energy efficient and economical to run homes for sale or rent. The types of premises that fall into this category are diverse and include redundant hotels, public houses, vacant care homes, churches, chapels and even multi-storey offices. And there are grants – not least of all the Redundant Building Grants – plus major VAT concessions to help move things forward. So there is much to be done by the professions and trades people in the RMI sector, which could help move us positively out of recession - if only the lenders would loosen their purse strings!

GOVERNMENT ACTS TO BUST MYTH OF ‘ELITIST’ SCIENCE Launching the campaign, Science Minister Lord Drayson said: “Science is going to be an important tool for getting us out of this downturn. We all need to be aware of the impact of science on our lives. We also need more trained scientists and engineers to help build the Britain of the future in key areas such as earth and life sciences.“ campaign was launched earlier this year to create a more science literate society, highlighting the science and technologybased industries of the future.

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Backed by Government, the science community and celebrities, Science [So What? So Everything] aims to show people how science benefits them in their everyday lives, is crucial in strengthening the UK economy, and is vital to meeting some of the major challenges of our time.

Independent projections argue there could be as many as 2.9 million jobs in STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and maths) occupations by 2017. Science [So What? So Everything] will complement and support existing work to increase the number of people studying STEM subjects and entering related careers. John Denham, Secretary of State for the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, said: “Driving up the number of people

who have the skills in science, technology, engineering and maths required by emerging and growth industries will help ensure the UK remains strong in an increasingly competitive global economy and win the jobs of tomorrow.” The Science [So What? So Everything] website is at www.direct.gov.uk/sciencesowhat The campaign is aimed at people of all ages but supports and compliments work funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families such as the websites www.futuremorph.org and www.scienceandmaths.net designed as a resource for young people and schools to show just some of the amazing and unexpected careers that studying science, technology, engineering and maths can lead to. SwitchedOn

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...and all things electrical

Want to be a film star? Are you enthusiastic about your job in the electrical installation industry? ...Would you recommend others to follow in your footsteps? ... Would you like to share your experiences in a short film? If so, we’d love to hear from you! We’re developing a new website to inform teenagers about

We’re looking for a variety of contributions from a wide range

electrical safety and to make them aware of career

of people in the industry, including male, female, young, old,

opportunities in the electrical installation industry.

the well-experienced and apprentices.

If you would like to get involved and tell us about your job, your

If selected, you will be contacted by a member of our team

career path and your experiences within the industry, please

who will make arrangements for you to be interviewed on

email us at teenagers@esc.org.uk, giving us a brief outline of

film for possible inclusion on the website when it goes live

your job, your work experience, and your outlook on the trade.

later this year.

We regret that we may be unable to individually acknowledge all emails received.

BACK ISSUES OF SWITCHED ON

All the previous issues of Switched On are available to read or download from the ‘Business & Community’ section of our website.

Switched On Issue 13  

Switched On the Electrical Safety Council's quarterly magazi...