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Issue 22 | Autumn 2011 | £5.00


WELCOME he Council continues to develop electrical safety initiatives that bring benefit to the most vulnerable in our society and everyone at the ESC is particularly proud of our Fire Safety Fund (see page 20) and the Grants Scheme. This year we have initially allocated £215,000 to support initiatives that will make a real difference to the safety of many people throughout the UK. As in previous years, this year’s applications for funding far exceeded the monies available to support the many organisations that sought to help those most at need in their area. Because the funding we offer creates real and direct impact on consumer safety, we have, through cost savings, managed to provide an additional £25,000 to go to grants for essential remedial electrical work in homes for vulnerable people.


This is a shining example of how the ESC really brings about benefit to society through the gift aid it receives from its trading subsidiary the Ascertiva Group. On page 5 you will see that we are inviting anyone interested in getting involved in shaping the work of the Charity through focus groups to get in touch with us. Please consider doing this - with your help we can shape future campaigns and grant-making activities so that they have an even greater impact than they do now. The ESC continues to work with its industry colleagues on the consultation with government about the future of Part P. At the ESC there is a firm commitment to see Part P

retained and improved as we believe it is key to preventing the unregistered ‘electrician’ from carrying out unsafe electrical work in England and Wales, which we know cause fires and even deaths. Our position as an impartial safety body has helped us bring together the key scheme operators, NICEIC, ELECSA and NAPIT, in collaboration, and I believe that as one voice we are getting our collective message across to government. By the time you read this we will know the shape of the consultation document on Part P and whilst we are confident of a positive outcome we will continue to work hard to ensure the regulatory framework provided by Part P is both retained and improved. You too can have your say. If you believe Part P is important, please write to your MP or let us have your thoughts by emailing us at The Council has been working hard to ensure the inclusion of an isolating switch in the specification of the smart meter (page 6). Support for such a measure has come from a wide range of industry bodies and this solution would eventually bring an end to the long debate about the temporary removal of the cut-out fuse. It goes without saying that the proposal would provide a safer working environment for electricians as there should be no temptation to work on live equipment and would certainly provide a better solution for the customer in terms of safety and convenience. Initially, despite a very strong business case, the government had decided to reject the industry’s proposals. Now, following a challenge from the ESC, there is likely to be a public consultation on this and

other smart meter issues. Please look out for the consultation and express your views on this very important matter. I was recently invited to the launch of the ‘2021 Vision’ which was the culmination of a joint research initiative into the future of the industry undertaken as a collaboration between the NICEIC and ECA. The research provided insight into what the future holds and the opportunities that can be grasped by a professional and dedicated industry. It also flagged up the potential threats that could impact on all of us if we become complacent and let those opportunities slip away. What impressed me most was the fact the NICEIC and ECA had come together to collaborate in such a way. Only two years ago most people would not have thought such an initiative could have happened. The fact that it did shows strong leadership from both CEOs of NICEIC and ECA, which must bode well for the industry as it seeks to meet the challenges that it will inevitably face as more competitors enter the market in areas such as renewable technologies. The Council moved offices recently so please take note of our new address and contact details, which you will find on page 4. Our move was brought about by the need to consolidate all employees into one building. We plan to be in our new space for at least five years and we look forward to inviting you here should you be coming to a meeting with members of the team. As always, we would welcome feedback on Switched On, to help us improve the content. Email Phil Buckle Director General

ESC Essential Guide now available FOR JUST £35 A year’s subscription to the ESC’s online Essential Guide to the Wiring Regulations is now available for a limited period at the bargain price of just £35 (plus VAT)!

studies. Subjects are clearly explained with the aid of full

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The effects of using compact fluorescent lamps with switching and dimmer devices - see page 14

issue 22 Autumn 2011

switchedon your insight into the electrical safety industry




2 4 5 6



Spotlight on… The risk from asbestos

12 Enhanced protection against


Have you ever been asked... what is the difference between earthing and bonding?


Electrical Product Safety Conference 2011


As safe as …sheds? Also, The Part P review

News in brief Plug into Safety campaign ESC challenges smart meter design decision

requirement raised for 10 Competence proposed Qualified Supervisors Also, New consumer video highlights the dangers 11 Prosecution of live working guide to the wiring 17 Essential regulations being updated Also, 17th Edition guidance


Partners announced for this year’s Fire Safety Fund

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011

Letters I’m sure that there are many within the electrical industry that will have strong feelings about some of the issues raised in Switched On. So feel free to shout about them. Please email your letters to the Editor of Switched On at:

fires caused by laundry appliances

14 The effects of using compact

fluorescent lamps with switching and dimmer devices

Published by: The Electrical Safety Council Unit 331, Great Guildford Business Square 30 Great Guildford Street London SE1 0HS Tel: 0203 463 5100 Fax: 0203 463 5139 email:


news IN BRIEF Electrical Safety Council relocates The Electrical Safety Council has now moved from its offices in Buckingham Gate and Canterbury Court to new offices near London Bridge.

The new address is: Unit 331 Great Guildford Business Square 30 Great Guildford Street London SE1 0HS

Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats The ESC has contributed to the writing and production of new fire safety guidance for purpose-built blocks of flats in England. The work was initiated by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The guidance is intended to ensure adequate fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats, regardless of age. Practical advice is offered on how to assess the risk from fire and how to manage fire safety in such buildings. The document also includes case studies based on the commonly-found issues in blocks of flats, with suggested fire safety solutions.

Amendment 1 to BS 7671: 2008

The amendments have been incorporated in a new full version of the standard which, for the first time, will also be referred to as the ‘IET Wiring Regulations’, rather than the ‘IEE Wiring Regulations’. Following a sixmonth transition period, the revised requirements will come into full effect for the design of installations from 1 January 2012. Significant changes include a new model Electrical Installation Condition Report form in Appendix 6; this supersedes the Periodic Inspection Report form. Guidance on the application of the new Classification Codes for the new Condition Report can be found in Issue 3 of ESC Best Practice Guide No 4.


Scottish Trading Standards had received complaints from consumers who claimed they had brought the lethal iPhone chargers for 99p each from shopping website eBay. Birmingham officers posed as customers and purchased some of the devices from eBay in a bid to trace where they were being supplied from, tracking them to the Tyseley warehouse. As well as the raid on the warehouse, in which they seized more than 2000 substandard chargers and other mobile accessories, they also searched the home of an eBay trader in Birmingham city centre suspected to be selling the goods.

Tel: 0203 463 5100 Fax: 0203 463 5139

BS 7671:2008 incorporating Amendment No 1 was published, on schedule, on 1 July.

Birmingham City Council’s Trading Standards officers raided the warehouse at Rovex Business Park in Hay Hall Road, Tyseley, after a tip-off from colleagues in Aberdeen. Steve Curtler, product safety manager at the ESC, attended the raid to confirm that the chargers were substandard prior to seizure.

This guide is intended for buildings which have been constructed as purpose-built blocks of flats. It applies to existing blocks only. Fire safety design in new blocks of flats is governed by the Building Regulations 2010 but, once a block is occupied, the new guidance is applicable. This guide is aimed particularly at those who manage, give advice on and enforce standards in, purpose-built blocks of flats. This specifically includes those undertaking fire risk assessments of such buildings, including those contracted to do this on a commercial basis. Some aspects of the guidance may also be of interest to electrical contractors.

ESC helps in mobile phone chargers raid Thousands of potentially deadly mobile phone chargers have been seized from a Birmingham warehouse after shoppers complained they exploded when they were plugged into electricity sockets.

Tests showed that the chargers, believed to have been manufactured in China, had a catalogue of faults, including unsuitable electrical insulation and inadequately sized pins, some of which were too thick and risked overheating within the socket.

David Dossett awarded MBE David Dossett, who was chairman of the Electrical Safety Council from April 2007 to March 2009, has been awarded an MBE for services to the electrical manufacturing industry. David is the current president of CENELEC, the European Electrotechnical Standards body helping to manage the successful implementation of standards supporting industry initiatives such as electric vehicles, smart grids and smart meters, as well as longstanding EU legislation such as the Low Voltage Directive. David also continues to serve as a Trustee of the Electrical Safety Council.

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011

news PLUG INTO SAFETY CAMPAIGN MARKS ITS FIRST YEAR he Electrical Safety Council’s flagship campaign, Plug into Safety, has now completed its first year, following a successful launch in May 2010.


The five-year campaign aims to raise public awareness of the safety benefits of RCD protection and to promote and encourage the habitual use of this life-saving technology. One of the strategic aims of the Council’s campaign was to establish and build strong relationships with a wide range of partners. In particular, the ESC wanted to build on its relationships with electrical wholesalers and electricians, as key intermediaries, to help the charity to reach consumers. This would assist us in promoting the campaign’s key messages to the widest possible audiences and drive take-up of RCD protection by those most at risk. The Council also planned to influence consumer attitude and behaviour through a wide variety of media channels, using national, regional and online social media.

• • • • • • • • •

To further support this range of activity, the ESC aimed to secure partnerships with well-known and trusted brands from high street DIY stores and garden centres to carry the campaign’s key messages through in a variety of activities, including point of sale and online promotions. Over the past year, the Council has been encouraged by the level and range of support it has secured and the progress made to date. The ESC has:

• •

worked with 640 retail partner outlets to distribute point of sale promotional material; reached 2 million consumers via print and online methods; worked with a leading manufacturer to have 10,000 electrical products labelled at point of manufacture with an RCD safety message; achieved 200 pieces of national and regional consumer media coverage, plus a range of coverage in the trade and professional press; produced a film which was launched on social media sites. This generated strong media coverage and was praised by a number of organisations. The film can be viewed on the ESC’s website; influenced the introduction of the requirement for 50,000 inspections of privately-rented homes a year in Scotland from 2012; secured an opportunity to influence the Scottish government on tenant information packs; gained support from 37 parliamentarians in the Westminster and Scottish parliaments, enabling the Council to lay 10 parliamentary questions; gained support of 18 key industry and housing sector stakeholders.

The Council’s partners are vital to the success of the campaign to help promote the use of RCD protection. The ESC is grateful for their continued support and looks forward to continuing to work with them. During the second year of the campaign, the Council plans to strengthen the relationships it has with existing partners and to seek to establish relationships with a number of new ones.

secured 23 electrical industry and retail partners to undertake partnership marketing activity and act as intermediaries to reach consumers;

The key message of the Plug into Safety key campaign is simple:

developed an Electrician’s Toolkit and distributed 27,000 of them via electrical wholesaler outlets;

“RCD protection could one day save your life”

Get involved with the campaign Do you follow the ESC’s campaigns and wonder how you could get involved? Do you use the Council’s leaflets or information on its website to communicate safety messages to your customers? Electricians are an important link for the Electrical Safety Council in communicating best practice to consumers and the Council would like to hear from you on how the industry can work together to spread vital safety advice to everyone. You can make a real difference to electrical safety. Why not join a regional focus group to discuss ideas for initiatives that involve electrical firms and domestic installers? Right now the ESC wants to hear from installers who can help with the development of local initiatives to encourage homeowners to upgrade their consumer unit to one that is RCD protected. Meetings are on an occasional basis and the Council won’t contact you too often. For more information, or to register your interest in becoming involved in this and/or future focus groups, please email

If you would like to find out how to obtain an Electrician’s Toolkit, obtain more information about the campaign or get involved, then visit the ESC website at: SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011



he Electrical Safety Council has challenged an initial decision by the government not to accept the recommendation to include an isolating switch in the smart meter specification. The ESC had strongly recommended that a manual isolating switch should be incorporated in all smart electricity meters to provide a safe and convenient means for non-electrical industry parties, such as electricians, to isolate the supply to domestic premises when necessary for safe working on consumers’ installations (for example to replace consumer units).


The Council has been campaigning for the inclusion of a manual isolating switch in all smart electricity meters as a safe and convenient means for electricians to isolate the supply to domestic premises when necessary for safe working on consumers’ installations. This facility would avoid the need to arrange for the supplier or meter operator to remove and later replace the cut-out fuse, as continues to be the current unsatisfactory situation. The provision of such a means of isolation would also be of considerable benefit to consumers in terms of cost and convenience when having certain electrical work carried out.

The provision of an integral isolating switch would also help address another safety issue that the ESC had drawn to DECC’s attention – the risk that meter tail connections at the main switch in consumer units may be loosened when meters are replaced, possibly introducing a fire hazard. The ESC believes that the meter installer should be responsible for checking the tightness of these connections before reenergising an installation and The leaving site. Department for However, this Energy and safety issue is still Climate Change under (DECC) initially consideration by the electricity advised the ESC suppliers/meter that the Smart operators. Meter Design Existing meter with integral isolating switch Authority had In conjunction decided not to with an integral accept the means of isolation, the ESC also Council’s safety recommendation. DECC had recommended that the functional design also ruled out the installation of a separate requirements should permit the outgoing isolating switch at the same time as a smart (load side) terminals of the smart meter to meter. be accessed by electricians, that is, not sealed. This would enable the consumer’s However, shortly after registering its meter tails to be replaced (for example dissatisfaction with the decision, the ESC when a consumer unit is relocated) without was advised by DECC that, contrary to the needing to call in the meter operator to initial indication, the isolating switch issue, remove the cut-out fuse and to connect the together with a number of other issues, was meter tails to the meter. to be the subject of public consultation.


Electricity meters with integral isolating switches and unsealed outgoing terminals have been in service in some parts of the UK for the past 20 years. In early June, DECC called upon the ESC to submit a business case for the inclusion of an isolating switch into the smart meter specification. This was developed in collaboration with other interested parties including AMO (Association of Meter Operators), ENA (Energy Networks Association), ECA, ELECSA, NAPIT, NICEIC and SELECT, and submitted with their support to DECC at the end of June. In summary, the benefits of including an isolating switch in smart meters are:

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Good, safe, engineering solution No less safe means of isolation for electricians than is currently achieved by withdrawing the cut-out fuse Cut-out fuse secure and unaffected Significantly less costly than a separate isolating switch Avoids the need to call out meter operators to effect temporary isolations, avoiding wasted time for electricians and additional third party costs for consumers Significantly eases the regulatory burden on small electrical contracting businesses Reduces the likelihood of illegal abstraction by ensuring that all necessary seals can remain intact No additional space required for a separate isolating switch between the meter and consumer unit Provides for unsealed access to the outgoing terminals of the meter, enabling electricians to tighten connections, replace meter tails etc without the need to call out the meter operator In new properties, provides for the distributor’s service head and the meter to be installed and left energised awaiting connection of the electrical installation by the electrician No costs incurred in providing a separate isolating switch between the meter and consumer unit No initial or ongoing costs for electricians to be authorised to remove cut-out fuses (should a registration scheme need to be introduced.

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011

news If the industry’s preferred recommendation and the alternative option to install a separate double-pole isolating switch at the same time as the smart meter are ultimately rejected, only two other, far less satisfactory, options would remain to be considered outside of the smart meter programme:

• •

The authorisation of electricians to withdraw cut-out fuses – a solution previously blocked by the electricity supply industry Continued reliance on service provided by the electricity suppliers/meter operators.

Each of these other options proved considerably more costly and less beneficial than the strongly recommended integral isolating switch solution when considered in the business case. The full, costed, business case can be viewed on the industry section of the ESC website ( Details of the DECC consultation process were awaited at the time this article was written in early August, but the Electrical Safety Council and other stakeholders will welcome the opportunity to further

progress the case for an integral isolating switch. Readers are urged to look out for the opportunity to express their views because one thing seems certain - the current unsatisfactory situation, which relies on a large proportion of temporary deenergisations in domestic premises being unauthorised, cannot continue indefinitely. This is because smart meters will be designed to give a ‘last gasp’ alarm signal if the supply to the meter is cut, which will alert the authorities immediately there is an unauthorised removal of a cut-out fuse.



he Electrical Safety Council’s second Electrical Product Safety Conference will be held at the Church House Conference Centre in Westminster, London on 26 October. With the timely theme of “Market Surveillance – overcoming the cut-backs through a combined approach”, the conference will offer an excellent opportunity for product safety professionals and stakeholders to seek opportunities for working together to help ensure that market surveillance remains effective during these challenging times. The product safety community needs to combine expertise and resource to ensure that only safe electrical products enter and circulate within the UK market. This is particularly true now that there is reduced funding for the public sector and local authority job cuts and new legislation is needed to meet our obligations under the “New Legislative Framework”. Delegates can listen to industry leaders and experts and discuss the current big issues in consumer product safety. The programme includes:

Initiatives in market surveillance Priorities in the UK national market surveillance programme

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011

• • • •

The safety of imported goods Co-operation with the Customs and Border authorities, the successes and challenges and how manufacturers are helping to improve unsafe/counterfeit product seizure

Electrical Prod uct Safety Confere nce

Safety of electri cal 26 October 201


products in the UK market

1 | Church Hou

se | Westminster

| London

Local enforcement – dealing with reduced spending How is this affecting local enforcement? Learn more about local successes and project initiatives Product testing and third-party certification Is it time to call for third-party certification for higher-risk electrical products? Viewpoints from manufacturers, retailers, regulators, certification bodies and consumers Sub-standard products – the consequences Case studies based on fires caused by sub-standard and misuse of products, and the challenges to determine the source of the fire from leading experts from the Fire and Rescue Services Consumer protection communicating the risk and influencing changes in behaviour Overview of the Electrical Safety Council’s product safety activities: working with the Authorities, safety screening projects and consumerrelated campaign activity

The conference, organised by the Electrical Safety discuss UK Mark Council, will et Surveillance - overcoming the a combined appr cut-backs through oach – and will address the curre consumer prod nt big issues in uct safety.

This event promises to be the definitive view on electrical product safety in the UK market and everyone is welcome to attend, but please note that registrations are limited and will be accepted on a firstcome, first-served basis. If your organisation is committed to electrical product safety and would like to be associated with this high profile event, a range of sponsorship, exhibitor and advertising packages have been developed and are still on offer. For updates on speakers and information on the conference programme, and to book your place, please visit or call Siobhan Doyle on 0203 463 5133.



COUNCIL SURVEY SHEDS LIGHT ON THE RISKS IN BRITAIN’S HUM heds are a British institution, providing anything from an escape from the rigours of daily life to a place where you can indulge your hobby in peace. The shed has thousands of devotees, there is significant media coverage on the topic and the importance of the shed in the British psyche is even recognised by National Shed Week, which took place in early July.


which helps prevent fatal electric shock by rapidly switching off the flow of electricity. Cherry Read, head of campaigns and communications at the ESC, took this message to the airwaves in a radio interview which was picked up by 14 local BBC stations and gained online coverage in a number of social media sites.

However, ESC research undertaken by YouGov shows that far from being a humble refuge, the garden shed could actually cost lives. And it was this fact that the Council has highlighted as part of its ongoing Plug into Safety campaign. Sheds present an increased shock risk because electrical equipment stored and installed in them is exposed to extreme temperatures and often damp, dusty conditions. All of these factors mean it is critical that shed enthusiasts check wires and plugs for damage before using equipment and ensure that they have RCD protection,


he Electrical Safety Council is concerned that government plans to review Part P of the Building Regulations could result in it being watered down or scrapped completely. This could leave householders exposed as Part P provides the only regulatory framework that addresses the safety of electrical installation work in domestic properties in England and Wales.


Maintaining Part P, albeit with improvements, is important for a number of reasons:

• • • 8

There has been a 17.5% reduction in fires attributed to mains wiring faults since the introduction of Part P (2004-2007) It aims to reduce electrical accidents in the home and the number of ‘cowboy’ electricians undertaking domestic installation work There has been a reduction in the number of unregulated persons undertaking domestic electrical work

Our campaign also got the thumbs up from Gordon Thorburn, author of Men and Sheds and The Pocket Guide to Sheds, who said: “Many sheddies are highly practical men and women, who know all about safety and the proper use of electricity in their workshopsheds, shed-offices, shed-studios and pub-sheds. There are also many who, like me, are a bit hazy, lazy and messy when it comes to wires and power points. It's not hard to see if you're protected by an RCD - if not, for goodness' sake get it sorted."

It seeks to improve the average level of competence of those undertaking domestic electrical work, as well as raise the awareness of builders and householders of the need for care.

Since the review announcement in December 2010, the ESC has been working with partners to look at how Part P can be improved without compromising safety. The ESC has established strong links with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which is evaluating any benefits Part P has made, since its introduction in 2005, to improving electrical safety in and around the home. The Council has submitted ideas and views to the responsible Minister Andrew Stunell on the forthcoming consultation for the Building Regulations; convened a round table discussion on the future of Part P; and established a working group which developed an industry response to the review. In addition to such partnership working, the Council is also refining its approach to the consultation process which focuses on safeguarding the interest of consumers. The ESC-led roundtable in March this year brought together a diverse group of stakeholders - including various electrical and related trade bodies, as well as the consumer watchdog Which?, the Trading Standards Institute and the Chief Fire Officers Association. The general consensus

was that there was a need to retain Part P – although concerns about compliance, in particular, were raised. The need to clarify and simplify documentation, and increase the awareness of both consumers and electrical contractors to the benefits of Part P, was also highlighted. The working group, which met in April, was comprised of representatives from ABE, BEAMA, DCLG, EAL, ELECSA, IET, LABC, NAPIT and NICEIC. Members confirmed the view that Part P did provide additional consumer protection by requiring notifiable electrical work to be designed and installed to protect persons from the risk of electric shock and fire. The group thought that the present scope of notifiable work should not be reduced as it covers all higher risk electrical work, including kitchen installations. However, the working group agreed that there was no longer a need for the Defined Competence Scheme. Instead, a recommendation that the minimum technical competence requirements for other self-certifiable work which may include electrical installation work as part of a job - should incorporate relevant competencies for that electrical installation work. This debate led on to the question of whether or not certification of electrical installation work not carried out by a registered competent person could be undertaken by a competent third party SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011


MBLE GARDEN REFUGE “Our ultimate objective is not only to increase awareness of electrical safety but also to change individuals’ behaviour, by ensuring they are RCD-protected,” said Angela Murphy, ESC’s media manager. “This won’t happen overnight - electricity is such a part of the modern world, that people tend not to think of its potential dangers. But by linking into seasonal themes or particular activities we can continuously raise awareness of how to use electricity safely.”

tified in the survey, Of the top five shed hazards iden ty: three relate to electrical safe d - 32%; storing mains-powered tools uncovere - 28%; not checking leads or plugs for damage ual current device using mains-powered tools without resid (RCD) protection - 26%; as weed and pest killer storing unsecure tins of chemicals such or paint - 38%; and uncovered - 58% leaving the sharp edges of garden tools

• • • • •

other than Building Control (or their agent). It was felt that the risks with this approach – which ranged from the possibility of encouraging work by unregistered contractors, to an increase in electrical installations without a warranty or complaints procedure – could reduce consumer safety and so could not be supported.

It was also noted that under amendments to the Conditions of Authorisation, Part P scheme operators will be required to contribute to the cost of promoting Part P to the general public. This is something the ESC wants to be closely involved with, as it would draw on the Council’s existing expertise in campaigning and ensure an integrated approach to promotional activities.

Other issues considered at the meeting covered how the cost of becoming Part P registered might be reduced and how central guidance (from, for example, the Building Control Alliance) could help building control bodies establish levels of cost based on the competency of the person undertaking the work. Much time was also spent considering how compliance could best be improved.

It is because the ESC believes that it is vital that the electrical industry and consumer groups work together to inform proposed changes to Part P generally – and the Competent Person’s Scheme specifically – that the Council has promoted collaborative working. The intention has been to offer government an informed view to help balance the competing need of the public to be confident in the standards of work being carried out in their homes, while respecting the industry’s desire to avoid unnecessary red tape. The bottom line is that the industry needs to reduce the complexities of Part P without compromising safety. The ESC is working on it.

Changes to the DCLG Conditions of Authorisation for Part P scheme operators, which will take effect from October, mean that registered contractors will be required to report unregistered contractors that they know to have undertaken notifiable work without notifying that work to the Local Authority in advance. The group also suggested that an ‘administrative offence’ be introduced, to allow Local Authorities to issue on-thespot fines or ‘stop notices’ to unregistered contractors who have not complied with the Building Regulations. SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011

A Building Regulations Advisory Committee Technical Working Party will be making its initial recommendations on the scope and content of the Part P consultation to the Minister in September. It is expected that the DCLG will launch its consultation in December 2011 and close it in March 2012, with a view to revised requirements coming into force, after six months’ notice, in April 2013.

New survey shows support for Part P According to a new industry survey, 85% of registered electricians believe that Part P of the Building Regulations for England and Wales should be retained – but with improvements.

More than 3,500 electricians who are registered under Part P completed the survey, which was co-ordinated by the Electrical Safety Council. And 90% of respondents also believe that all electricians undertaking notifiable work in domestic premises should have to register as competent persons. Data based on an online survey of 3,763 electrical contractors registered with ELECSA, NAPIT and NICEIC, undertaken between 6 May and 1 June 2011.


news COMPETENCE REQUIREMENT RAISED FOR PROPOSED QUALIFIED SUPERVISORS he industry bodies represented on the management committee of the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification (EAS) have agreed that, with effect from 1 January 2012, a level of technical competence equivalent to Level 3 NVQ will be the minimum requirement for all new proposed Qualified Supervisors.


There are five different routes to achieve this standard including on-site assessment, off-site assessment, a mixture of both, and the gaining of appropriate qualifications. Existing Qualified Supervisors The new requirement does not apply retrospectively to existing Qualified Supervisors. Persons who already have a competency-based qualification as outlined in the EAS document will not have to have the new qualification if they apply to become a new Qualified Supervisor after 1 January 2012. What about proposed Qualified Supervisors applying before January 2012? The new requirement applies only to proposed Qualified Supervisors applying after 1 January 2012. What about persons previously registered as Qualified Supervisors?

Persons who have been working as registered Qualified Supervisors within the two years preceding 1 January 2011 will be eligible to be proposed as a Qualified Supervisor for a new employer without needing to demonstrate the new level of technical competence. Qualifications For those choosing the qualification route, the Level 3 NVQ certificate in “Installing, Testing and Ensuring Compliance of Electrical Installation Work in Dwellings” is expected to be available from 1 January 2012. This will be the minimum qualification level for Qualified Supervisors having responsibility for electrical work in domestic premises subject to Part P of the Building Regulations (for England and Wales). For compliance with Building Regulations in Scotland, Approved Certifiers of electrical installations must be eligible to be graded as Approved Electricians and be suitably qualified, such as having an SVQ Level 3 in electrical engineering or equivalent. For work in commercial and industrial premises, the minimum qualification for Qualified Supervisors will be the new Level

3 NVQ “Diploma in Installing Electrotechnical Systems and Equipment (Building and Structures)”. Relevant electrotechnical NVQ qualifications are currently certificated through two UK awarding bodies: City & Guilds ( and EAL ( More information about Electrotechnical Level 3 NVQs is available on the SummitSkills, City & Guilds, and EAL websites. About the EAS Management Committee The EAS Management Committee is the national committee responsible for determining the minimum technical standards against which companies in the electrotechnical sector are assessed. The committee comprises representatives from organisations across the electrical installation industry, including the Electrical Safety Council and the electrical competent person schemes. The EAS document can be downloaded free of charge from the website of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), by searching for ‘EAS specification’.



ownlighters have become an increasingly popular form of lighting in the home but if incorrectly fitted or using the wrong lamp or bulb, they can be a fire risk. A new ESC video aims to address this issue by helping consumers choose safely when replacing or buying downlighter lamps.

The video also provides viewers with a safety checklist for any downlighters they currently have fitted and tips on how to keep them safe to use – such as ensuring they are clear of any combustible material and making sure that downlighters fitted in floor or ceiling cavities have sufficient space around them.

The short video explains the different type of lamp available and clearly shows how to ensure the right choice is made. “Dichroic or cool beam lamps and aluminium lamps look very similar and it is possible to fit either type into an extra low-voltage downlighter,” explains Martyn Allen, ESC head of technical development. “However, fitting the wrong lamp type can cause overheating, so it’s important to choose the correct type.”

“While we recommend using a registered electrician to install downlighters, people will obviously want to replace the lamps themselves but, if they select the wrong type, they could be putting their families and their homes at risk,” says Allen. “We have produced two separate leaflets on downlighters – one for consumers and one for the trade - but given the popularity of ‘teaching’ videos on the internet, it seemed a logical extension of


our information to put our downlighter safety video online.”

The video can be found on the general public section of the ESC website:

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011

news PROSECUTION HIGHLIGHTS THE DANGERS OF LIVE WORKING As all electrical engineers and electricians should know, regulation 14 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 states that: No person shall be engaged in any work activity on or so near any live conductor (other than one suitably covered with insulating material so as to prevent danger) that danger may arise unless:

• • •

it is unreasonable in all the circumstances for it to be dead; and it is reasonable in all the circumstances for him to be at work on or near it while it is live; and suitable precautions (including where necessary the provision of suitable protective equipment) are taken to prevent injury.

In this case, the failure to isolate the equipment safely resulted in the severe injury of two persons, and legal and commercial consequences far more serious than 36 hours of lost production. lobal packaging firm Innovia Films Ltd has been fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £26,790 towards the cost of the prosecution after a works electrician and his apprentice suffered life-threatening injuries when they were engulfed by an electrical arc at a factory in Cumbria. The electricians were working on an energised 1 MVA low voltage (400 V) distribution board supplying the production plant when the incident occurred in 2006.


A fire had broken out in one of the compartments of the distribution board the previous day, possibly due to a short circuit. A damaged switch fuse had been removed, with some difficulty, from the board by other workers to enable them to restore power to the production plant. The distribution board remained energised. In normal operation, the design of the distribution board allowed individual switches to be safely withdrawn for maintenance purposes whilst the board remained energised. However, in addition to damaging the switch, the fire had damaged or destroyed at least one of the plastic shutters that were designed to close automatically when a switch was withdrawn, to prevent access to live parts in the busbar chamber behind. The following morning, the works electrician and his apprentice, who had not been involved the previous day, were asked to clear

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011

away some of the combustion debris from the switch compartment before bolting a plate over the front; the normal door to the compartment had also been damaged by the fire. The board was not de-energised before the work was undertaken on the grounds that it would take 36 hours to resume production once shut down. As they began the work, an explosive arc of electrical energy engulfed both electricians. In addition to the effects of radiated heat, the ultra-violet light from electrical arcs caused severe skin burns, and molten metal particles penetrated the skin, causing further damage. With their clothing also set alight, both men suffered burns to over 40% of their bodies.

Detailed advice and guidance on safe working practice can be found in the ESC Best Practice Guide No 2 – Guidance on the management of electrical safety and safe isolation procedures for low voltage electrical installations. Free of charge, the guide can be downloaded from the industry section of the Council’s website:

The works electrician was in intensive care for six weeks, four weeks of which was in an induced coma. In total, he was in hospital for five months. Nearly five years on, he is still undergoing treatment for his injuries and will never be able to return to work. Although in hospital for nine weeks, four in intensive care, his less severely injured colleague has since been able to find employment. This case graphically illustrates what can happen if electrical work is undertaken without first safely isolating the equipment to be worked on, or taking other necessary precautions after due consideration of the circumstances and the risks.



Enhanced protection aga by laundry appliances fire was “ caused by a faulty tumble dryer located in a small laundry room

An examination of recent fire statistics shows that in 2007 there were 1425 fires in domestic premises involving tumble dryers and washing machines. This indicates that these appliances are a significant cause of fire. It is difficult to quantify the number of fires in non-domestic locations due to such appliances but there is no reason to believe the numbers are less significant.

discovered and to increase the likely severity of any fire caused by such an appliance.

The cost and inconvenience of fires caused by tumble dryers, washing machines and similar appliances, such as dishwashers, should not be underestimated. The following case study is not atypical. The fire was caused by a faulty tumble dryer located in a small laundry room next to a kitchen in commercial premises. As the door to the room was closed, the fire was not discovered until it was well established. Although the Fire and Rescue Service extinguished the fire before structural damage was caused to the building, there was fire and water damage to the laundry room, extensive smoke damage throughout the establishment, and the kitchen was out of action for several days. It can only be surmised that the excess on the insurance, loss of income and general disruption resulted in a significant cost to the owner.

For tumble dryers in particular, other typical factors that can increase the likelihood or severity of fire include the following:

In many electrical installations, such appliances are connected to the supply by means of plugs and socketoutlets located behind the appliances. In this situation, in the event of a fire, local switching off of the supply to remove the source of heat within an appliance is impossible.

• • •

Reduced airflow in the dryer, mainly due to build up of lint in filters/traps but also from poor venting arrangements. This can cause overheating by considerably slowing down the drying action Insufficient ‘cooling cycles’ for reducing the temperature of items in the dryer. This will result in higher temperatures of the items being dried and longer periods for the heat to dissipate from the items Inappropriate fabrics or fabrics contaminated with combustible substances (grease, oils, fats). These may ignite spontaneously when exposed to the temperatures generated in a tumble dryer.

Factors that contribute to the likelihood or severity of fire The continuing rise in energy prices is encouraging consumers to use time switches to operate their laundry and similar appliances during the hours when cheaper electricity tariffs are available. However, operating these appliances when the occupants of the premises are asleep is likely to introduce delays in fires being


Control measures that can be put in place in the electrical installation Whilst it may be unreasonable in many cases to advocate the installation of push-button emergency switches of the type used in industry, it is good practice to provide laundry and similar appliances with

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011


ainst fires caused a suitable switch that could be used in an emergency, located in a position that would be accessible in the event of a fire. In certain situations the use of a master switch that disconnects a number of appliances may be appropriate. Also, where such an appliance is frequently left unattended in use, particularly if used during the night, a suitably selected smoke detector or, where appropriate, heat detector will provide enhanced protection (if such a detector has not already been installed as part of a fire alarm system in accordance with BS 5839 and/or national building regulations). Looking to the future, although the planned introduction of smart meters is likely to encourage consumers to use laundry and similar appliances at times when low cost tariffs are available, the associated establishment of home area networks (HANs) will provide the opportunity to link smoke/heat detectors to the HAN. The HAN could then be configured so that, in the event of a fire, the fire alarm would sound and the electrical supply to the appliances would be automatically disconnected. Until the provision of automatic disconnection systems becomes the norm, disconnection arrangements based on current practices will generally need to be used. However, it is important to realise that BS 7671 (IET Wiring Regulations) and other standards provide for a minimum standard of safety. Thus, where the likely consequences of a fire are particularly severe, the provision of additional safety measures may be appropriate.

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Risk assessment Whether in a domestic situation or in a place of work, an assessment should be carried out of the risks involved in operating laundry and similar appliances unsupervised, and consideration should be given to appropriate measures to minimise the effects of any fire. When deciding if expenditure on additional safety measures is justifiable, the likely human and economic consequences of a fire should be considered, and factors such as the difficulty of evacuation (which depends on the age and fitness of occupants and the location of the appliance, amongst other things) should also be taken into account. Summary The growing trend to use laundry and similar appliances unattended, particularly at night, increases the likely severity of the effects of fires caused by the misuse or malfunctioning of such an appliance. However, for a moderate expenditure, suitable control measures can be put in place in the electrical installation. A small investment on fire alarm equipment and an effective means of switching off in an emergency can reduce financial burden and inconvenience. It may even save lives.

...for a “moderate expenditure, suitable control measures can be put in place in the electrical installation


Needless to say, it is also important for appliances to be used in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendations relating to safety. In particular, for tumble dryers, attention should also be paid to matters such as cleaning lint filters, not allowing lint to accumulate in and around the appliance, and not placing items contaminated with combustible substances (such as solvents, grease, oils and fats) in the appliance.



The effects of using com lamps with switching a Should consumers have any concerns over electrical safety when using CFLs with switching and dimmer devices? The ESC investigates. In the Winter 2010 edition (Issue 19) of Switched On the Council reported on consumer concerns over compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). As a continuation of that project, the ESC has looked at the effects of using compact fluorescent lamps with various switching and dimmer devices.

most “in cases the lamps started flickering and emitting noise from the control gear housing


Low energy CFLs generally come with instructions stating that the lamps are not suitable for use with dimmers and timer switches. In some cases the user instructions warn of a potential fire hazard in such conditions. The Council wanted to determine if there are electrical safety concerns when using CFLs with these devices and in particular touch dimmer devices. The ESC commissioned an independent laboratory to carry out limited endurance and thermal testing on a selection of commercially available low energy CFLs. The investigation revealed no excessive surface temperatures or apparent hazards when using CFLs with a touch dimmer, a table lamp with touch control or the timer and switching devices. In most cases, however, the lamps started flickering and emitting noise from the control gear housing. While there was no evidence of a potential fire hazard, one lamp sample did suffer a ruptured capacitor. The damage was contained within the lamp housing, and the lamp was considered to have failed in a safe manner.

The use of low energy CFLs with dimmers and timers might be considered to be consumer misuse. Yet the significant safety finding from this investigation related to the specific retrofit lamp, which was clearly intended for direct user replacement. After the initial switching cycles, live parts became exposed owing to the distortion of the control housing. The two halves of the housing actually separated after the subsequent thermal testing. Other observations from the investigation included:

• • • • •

All bayonet (BC22) lamp caps were a loose fit when inserted into a batten lampholder Heavy signs of blackening at the cathode were evident for two of the lamps Almost half of the lamp samples operated well below the manufacturers’ stated wattage Conflicting rated voltage markings were found on lamp packaging when compared with the lamps themselves Low power factor associated with dimmer, switching and timer usage

Sample election Ten self-ballasted CFLs were randomly selected and purchased. The lamps ranged from 7 W through to 250 W. A selection of switching, timer and dimmer devices and luminaires were purchased with the aim of simulating foreseeable installation conditions (see table 1).

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011


mpact fluorescent nd dimmer devices Table 1: CFL samples under test Lamp design

Stated wattage

Switching, timer and dimmer devices


Multi straight tube

7-20 W

Photocell kit

B22 lampholder

Spiral tube

7-12 W

Touch dimmer

E40 lampholder

Retrofit straight tube

24 W

Digital timer switch

Touch lamp

Large multi straight tube

250 W

Digital programmable timer

Floodlight with PIR

Movement sensor switch Sunset switcher Product testing Each lamp type was subjected to limited thermal testing, with some lamps being subjected to 5,000 switching cycles (10,000 operations) before beginning thermal tests. Each lamp was operated at its rated voltage, with the mean voltage being used for lamps marked with a voltage range. Generally, the tests were conducted with the lamp cap facing downwards. Thermocouples were positioned at appropriate points such as the lamp cap, control gear housing, lampholder mounting surface and mounting surface of the various devices. The switching devices were set for a one-hour on period, allowing stabilisation before temperature measurements were recorded. Voltage, current, power and power factor were also recorded. After consideration of possible installation conditions, the various test configurations were:

• • • • •

7 W – 250 W lamps mounted in B22 or B40 lampholder and used in conjunction with a touch dimmer 7 W and 9 W E14 (SES) lamp mounted in touch lamp on full brightness setting 24 W retrofit lamp used in outdoor use floodlight with PIR 7 W and 11 W lamp mounted in B22 lampholder and used with sunset switch 12 W and 20 W lamp mounted in B22 lampholder and used with digital programme timer

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011

• • • • •

20 W lamp mounted in B22 lampholder and used with digital timer switch

an internal “capacitor ruptured after approximately 30 minutes rendering the lamp inoperative.

20 W lamp mounted in B22 lampholder and used with movement sensor 250 W lamp mounted in E40 lampholder and subjected to 5,000 switching operations 250 W lamp mounted in E40 lampholder and used in conjunction with a touch dimmer, set at minimum and maximum brightness 7 W lamp mounted in B22 lampholder and used with photocell kit

Product testing results In each case the lamps when operated with the touch dimmer started flickering and emitting noise from the control gear housing as soon as the voltage was applied. Despite these findings, the surface temperatures were well within the applied standard limits and no hazardous conditions were evident. It was not possible, however, to record the surface temperature for the 12 W spiral tube lamp, as an internal capacitor ruptured after approximately 30 minutes rendering the lamp inoperative. The damage was contained within the lamp housing, with no hazardous conditions present. A pungent aroma typical of an overheating or failed electronic component was apparent but this was not considered hazardous, as the damage was limited to a single component only.



It was also noted that all the bayonet (B22) lamps caps were a loose fit when inserted into a batten lampholder with the lamp cap facing downwards.

all the “ bayonet (B22) lamps caps were a loose fit when inserted into a batten lampholder

The surface temperatures measured for the two lamps when operated in the touch lamp were well within the standard limits applied and no hazards were present. The use of the sunset switch, digital timers and the movement sensor also resulted in satisfactory results, with no apparent hazards. It was clear, however, that the power measured for almost half of the lamps during these tests was way below the manufacturers’ figures, with one lamp recording a value of 6.6 W against a claimed 20 W. In one instance the measured power was higher, at 9.6 W, than the claimed 7 W. Ten of the lamps were subjected to 5,000 switching cycles before beginning thermal testing in the chosen configuration. Each lamp was inspected after the 5,000 cycles and in eight cases the lamp showed no signs of deformation or obvious hazards. The 7 W B22 lamp used with the photocell kit showed heavy signs of blackening in the cathode areas but this was not considered hazardous. The most significant safety finding was after 5,000 switching cycles for the 24 W retrofit lamp. Visual inspection revealed exposed live parts where the control gear enclosure had distorted. The lamp was operational,

Three other lamps had rated voltages marked on the packaging that were different from those marked on the lamps themselves. In two of these instances the packaging stated 100 - 110 V, with the lamps being marked 220 V. One lamp was also not marked with its rated wattage, which is a departure under BS EN 60968. Conclusions Testing with various switching and dimmer devices was an attempt to simulate foreseeable conditions of misuse. The findings of this limited investigation suggest that using low energy CFLs with such switching and dimmer devices does not necessarily result in a hazard, but is clearly misuse where the lamp is not designed for use with such devices. The flickering and noise emitted as soon as the lamps were used with the touch dimmer might prompt a consumer to realise that the lamp is not intended to be used with a touch dimmer, thereby avoiding a potential hazard. It cannot be assumed, however, that each lamp will fail safe if used with a dimmer or a switching device. The failure of the retrofit device is a concern, especially as the device is designed as an energy saving alternative for a typical floodlight. Its size exacerbated the confined space within a floodlight, and the ‘clip-on’ fixing arrangement for the control gear housing would appear to be a design fault. The conflicting rated voltage markings, as well as the presence of multiple markings on one particular lamp and the absence of the rated wattage on another, are disappointing and suggest that the product standards and safety regulations are not understood or not properly followed.

allowing the thermal testing to continue. At the end of the thermal tests the two halves of the enclosure had separated. The test laboratory considered this a hazardous condition and a departure under EN 605981: 2008 and EN 60968: 2000 – Safety Requirements – Self-ballasted lamps for general lighting services. The retrofit lamp also had two sets of product markings. Both sets of markings had different rated voltages, which also differed from the rated voltage marking on the product packaging.


The recorded wattage when compared with the manufacturers’ claimed wattage is a performance concern that the Council intends to bring to the attention of the lighting industry. As with all safety investigations, the ESC will liaise with the retailers and manufacturers concerned and keep the authorities informed of its actions. If necessary, an update will be published in a future edition of Switched On. A copy of the laboratory test report will be made available on the Council’s website

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011

news ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE WIRING REGULATIONS BEING UPDATED ow available for an annual subscription of only £35 (plus VAT), the ESC’s Essential Guide to the Wiring Regulations is really fantastic value compared with other guidance on BS 7671.


Would you be interested in an offline version of the Essential Guide? The Essential Guide is now accessible online only, which means that users need to be connected to the internet whenever using it.

Work is now underway on updating the 300 plus topics in the Essential Guide to take account of the changed requirements introduced by Amendment 1 to BS 7671: 2008.

Last year, we asked whether there was any interest in subscribing to an enhanced version of the online version of the Guide that could also be used on laptops, netbooks etc offline when internet access is not available, such as may be the case when users are away from their office or base.

If printed on each side of A4 paper, the topics would fill at least three or four large ring binders. But fortunately, all the information is fully searchable and, if required, any topic can be printed in colour as a fully-formatted PDF for ease of reference. And the search facility has now been improved to be at least as powerful as that on the now superseded CD version.

At that time, only 50 or so users registered such an interest, which meant that it was not economically viable for us to develop an offline version. However, now that the standard CD version (which effectively gave ‘offline’ access) is no longer available, we are reviewing users’ needs. If the level of interest is sufficient, we will look further into the cost of developing such an enhanced version and the effect this might have on the subscription rate for that version. To register your interest in subscribing to an enhanced, offline version of the Guide (at an additional cost yet to be determined), please go to

Like to know what you’re missing? Go to for further information and a free trial.

17TH EDITION GUIDANCE – UPDATED, EXPANDED, AND NOW SEARCHABLE ll the questions and answers in the renamed ‘Industry guidance on the Wiring Regulations’ section of the ESC website have been reviewed by the Electrical Installation Forum and updated as necessary to take account of Amendment 1 to BS 7671: 2008.


In addition, the answers to several new commonly-asked questions have been added, including:

• • •

With consumer units getting larger, there may not always be sufficient space to mount them horizontally. Is it permissible to mount them vertically, provided the manufacturer is in agreement? Is it permissible to use equipment (such as circuit-breakers, RCDs, main switches etc) made by one manufacturer in a consumer unit or distribution board made by another manufacturer? For an electric shower, can the copper cold

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011

• •

water supply pipe be contained in the same trunking as the insulated and sheathed BS 6004 supply cable? When undertaking a periodic inspection on a domestic electrical installation having more than one consumer unit, do I need to complete a separate Electrical Installation Condition Report for each part of the installation?

For the industry-agreed answers to these and many other commonly-asked questions relating to the application of the 17th Edition, please visit, where each section of the questions and answers is now searchable.

When carrying out a periodic inspection, is it acceptable to use a wander lead to carry out protective conductor continuity testing to exposed-conductive-parts (such as metallic accessory plates) with the installation still energised?

Also, a revised answer has been given to the previously-published question “After replacing a consumer unit, it is found that there is a shared neutral between the upstairs and downstairs lighting circuits. Would it comply with BS 7671 if I put the lighting onto one circuit to avoid the RCD tripping?”

We recommend that those following the information provided in the ‘Industry guidance on the Wiring Regulations’ section of the website revisit the site at least every couple of months to see what other additions and amendments have been made.


technical Are you sure that you don’t come in to contact with asbestos? If you are an electrician and work on buildings built or refurbished before 2000, you may come in to contact with asbestos. It’s not easy to tell asbestos from how it looks. It needs to be properly identified in a specialist laboratory, but here are a few examples of where it is commonly found:

For further information, visit:

Spotlight on… The risk from asbestos

• • • • • • •

Asbestos in switchgear and fuse assemblies in distribution boards and consumer units Asbestos used as packing between floors and in partition walls Sprayed (‘'impet') asbestos on structural beams and girders Lagging on pipework, boilers, calorifiers, heat exchangers etc Asbestos insulating board - ceiling tiles, partition walls, service duct covers, fire breaks, heater cupboards, door panels, lift shaft lining, fire surrounds, soffits etc. Asbestos cement products such as roof and wall cladding, bath panels, boiler and incinerator flues, fire surrounds, gutters, rainwater pipes, water tanks etc. Other products such as floor tiles, mastics, sealants, rope seals and gaskets (in pipework etc), millboard, paper products, cloth (fire blankets, etc) and bituminous products (roofing felt, etc)

Some of the materials listed above can only be worked on by a contractor who has been granted a licence from HSE. Other jobs can be carried out using the appropriate HSE method sheet, such as A33 – Replacing an asbestos-containing fusebox or single fuse assembly. Also check the equipment and method sheets for details on what to use and how.

How do I deal with asbestos waste? The Health and Safety Executive has issued further advice on the serious safety issue of asbestos. On average, six electricians die every week from the effects of asbestos.

You are mostly at risk when:

• • • • • •

You are working on an unfamiliar site The building you are working on was built before the year 2000 Asbestos-containing materials were not identified before the job was started Asbestos-containing materials were identified but this information was not passed on by the people in charge to the people doing the work You don’t know how to recognise and work safely with asbestos You know how to work safely with asbestos but you choose to put yourself at risk by not following proper precautions, perhaps to save time or because no one else is following proper procedures

As long as the asbestos is not damaged or located somewhere where it can be easily damaged, it won’t be a risk to you. Asbestos is only a danger when fibres are made airborne, but remember:

• • • 18

You can’t see or smell asbestos fibres in the air The effects of asbestos take many years to show up - avoid breathing it in now Smoking increases the risk many times over

Make sure you double-bag and label it as asbestos waste. You can then get in contact with the Local Authority to find out if they will assist you in disposing of it. They may charge for this service. Alternatively, you can contact the Environment Agency ( or, if based in Scotland, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( The waste must be disposed of at a licensed tip.


It is easy to confuse earthing and bonding because:

• •


what is the difference between earthing and bonding?

Have you ever been asked...

both are associated with fault protection, where protection against electric shock is by means of Automatic Disconnection of Supply (ADS), and there are visual similarities between earthing and bonding, such as the green-and-yellow colour identification of the protective conductors that are used for both.

Nevertheless, earthing and bonding are distinct from each other in their purposes, their general arrangements, and in many of the requirements of BS 7671 they have to satisfy.

Description of earthing and bonding Earthing is the name given to the connection of the exposedconductive-parts of an installation (such as metallic enclosures of Class I electrical equipment) to the main earthing terminal of that installation. Equipotential bonding (‘bonding’ for short) is the electrical connection of the extraneous-conductive-parts (such as metallic service pipes and exposed structural metalwork that are liable to introduce Earth potential) and exposed-conductive-parts within the installation, to maintain them at substantially the same potential. Main bonding connects extraneous-conductive-parts to the main earthing terminal of the installation. Supplementary bonding (where required) connects together exposed-conductive-parts and extraneous-conductive-parts. The purposes of earthing and bonding, and how they are achieved The danger of electric shock due to earth fault conditions in an installation arises from what are sometimes called touch voltages.

These can occur under earth fault conditions between any combination of the exposed-conductive-parts and extraneousconductive-parts in an installation that are simultaneously accessible to a person. The purpose of earthing is to limit the duration of the touch voltages. This is achieved by the operation of the relevant protective device (such as a fuse or circuit-breaker) under earth fault conditions. This removes the touch voltages by causing the automatic disconnection of the supply to the faulty circuit within the maximum time specified in BS 7671. The purpose of bonding is to limit the magnitude of the touch voltages to a level that is insufficient to cause danger during the time taken for the relevant protective device to disconnect the supply to the faulty circuit. A by-product of main bonding and supplementary bonding is that they are likely to reduce the duration (not just magnitude) of the touch voltages. This is because the bonding provides conductive paths in parallel with the earthing arrangement of the installation. These paths allow a greater magnitude of earth fault current to flow, which reduces the time taken for the relevant protective device to disconnect the supply to the faulty circuit, and consequently reduces the touch voltage duration. However, bonding must not be relied on to satisfy the disconnection time requirements of BS 7671, which is the function of earthing.

Summary Earthing and bonding are distinct from each other. The purpose of earthing is to limit the duration of touch voltages, whereas the purpose of bonding is to limit the magnitude of touch voltages.


Protective device


Supplementary equipotential bonding conductors


Special installation or location (such as a bathroom)




cpc Bonding conductor


Metallic water service pipe Main equipotential bonding conductors

Means of Earthing

Figure 1: Typical earthing and main bonding

SwitchedOn Issue 22 Autumn 2011

Metallic gas installation pipework

Extraneous-conductive-part other than pipework (eg exposed structural metalwork)

Water meter

Gas meter

Main Earthing Terminal

Figure 2: Typical main and supplementary bonding (where required)


PARTNERS ANNOUNCED FOR THIS YEAR’S FIRE SAFETY FUND s part of the Electrical Safety Council’s commitment to reduce electricallyrelated fires in homes, the ongoing Fire Safety Fund provides an opportunity for the Council to continue working with partners to support fire prevention schemes at a local level.


The Fund supports local electrical fire prevention schemes UK-wide that aim to influence safety standards and help to change behaviours to keep people safe, with a particular focus on areas of highrisk and vulnerable groups. Last year, £100,000 was shared among 23 organisations, ranging from Fire & Rescue Services to Trading Standards officers and from District Councils to the Royal Association for Deaf People.

shared among 33 projects UK-wide: 21 in England, 8 in Scotland, 3 in Wales and 1 in Northern Ireland. A number of safety centres across the country have been funded to assist them in creating electrical safety scenarios at their premises. These centres help members of the community to learn about home, road and leisure safety through the use of realistic settings and scenarios, which enables visitors to experience risks in a controlled environment. One such project aims to replicate a burnt-out bedsit which will be used to demonstrate the dangers of various household appliances, with preventative guidance provided to groups attending the centre.

Another project aims to introduce a “bobby” van scheme which will offer home safety checks to the elderly and disabled in their local community in an area of Wales. The scheme will be run by local police and will provide vulnerable local people with a range of advice, including electrical safety. This scheme plans to work with the local Fire & Rescue Services to make some referrals, where necessary, for a full fire safety home check. To find out about the full range of projects supported this year by the Fire Safety Fund, visit: news-and-campaigns/campaigns/ current-fire-safety-projects

There was a diverse range of funded projects, including the testing and replacement of unsafe electrical appliances and initiatives aimed at raising awareness of electrical safety issues. Some of the funding contributed towards the refurbishment of a Fire & Rescue community safety vehicle, which will have a stock of electrical safety literature on board when the vehicle is used at local community safety events. Last year’s funding directly benefited almost 18,000 people and helped to reach almost a million across the UK. In addition, 2390 unsafe products, such as electric blankets and other small electrical appliances, were removed from use. This time round, the Fire Safety Fund 2011-12 has provided £140k which will be



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

Switched On Issue 22  

Switched On the Electrical Safety Council's quarterly magazine - Feature: White goods under fire PROTECTION AGAINST FIRES CAUSED BY LAUNDRY...

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