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NICEIC launches top new industry event


Winter 2010-11 | Issue 176

Make your firm stand out from the crowd Contract cancellations Public sector focus Test equipment

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NICEIC launches top new industry event


Winter 2010-11 | Issue 176


Make your firm stand out from the crowd Contract cancellations Public sector focus Test equipment

Winter 2010-11 | Issue 176

Regulars View from the top A brave new world News NICEIC unveils top new industry event



SECTOR FOCUS: 20 PUBLIC ANXIETY Spending cuts have led to a slump in public sector contracts, but it’s not all over



Rogue traders face shaming exposure


Apprentice academy to tackle skills gap


Women encouraged to join the profession


TV personality Cable exposes cowboys


Product news Hellermann’s rod range



WARMING UP 26 The fire alarm sector could help contractors through the downturn, but it is essential that they are fully trained


Advice 17 It’s worth seeking damages when faced with a contract breach, says Tony Chapman Opinion 18 Upskilling to meet demands for green energy will help you survive, says Keith Marshall Customer care Correct certification


Case study Software saviour


COVER STORY: 22 MAKE SOME NOISE With competition as fierce as ever, firms that can stand out from the crowd are at a significant advantage

SPOILT FOR CHOICE 30 Faced with a bewildering range of test equipment it’s worth spending time on finding the best solution TRAINING CPD can help you stay ahead of competitors



Technical Earthing for high protective conductor currents: 48 How RCDs work:

Ask the experts 45 Some of the NICEIC technical helpline’s more frequently asked questions answered Current Affairs All fired up

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Loop impedance testing: 54


Snags and solutions:


Using existing trunking:


Main protective bonding: 62 NICEIC Connections Winter 2010-11 3

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Redactive Publishing Ltd, 17 Britton Street, London EC1M 5TP

EDITORIAL General 020 7880 6200 | Fax 020 7324 2791 E-mail

A brave new world A very happy and prosperous new year to all Connections readers! Last year was a tough one for our industry, economy and the UK as a whole. We can only hope 2011 proves to be a real turning point for the electrical contracting industry and the wider construction sector in general. A future vision for our economy and industry is really important at times like this. Short-termism and the inability to see past public spending cuts could lead us to despair and cloud the reality that businesses will survive ‘NICEIC will continue to and eventually thrive. offer its full support to Companies that ride its customers through out recessions emerge TechTalks, technical leaner and fitter for the advice and the best brand better times ahead. promotion in the industry’ NICEIC is looking to the future with a sense of purpose. We have already launched our apprentice academy and we are campaigning for more women to enter our industry. Ignoring 50 per cent of the population just doesn’t make sense when the economy is at rock bottom and the skills shortage is beginning to bite. For our apprentice academy, we will be providing funding and ensuing that the young people who pass through it will have the most up-to-date skills and techniques for the years ahead. We have also launched a “wall of shame” on our website, naming and shaming those unscrupulous cowboys who use our logo but don’t submit themselves for assessment. We’re having continuing success with Trading Standards too, bringing prosecutions and hefty fines. Protecting our customers and the specifiers of those that carry the logo is paramount to us. This year may not be the promised land for the UK economy and our industry, but NICEIC will continue to offer its full support to its customers through TechTalks, technical advice and the best brand promotion in the industry.

Editor Nick Martindale Technical editor Mike Clark Sub editor Victoria Burgher Art director Mark Parry Art editor Adrian Taylor Picture researcher Akin Falope Head of business development Aaron Nicholls

ADVERTISING AND MARKETING Sales manager Jim Folley Senior sales executive Mark Palmer Sales executive Darren Hale Display 020 7882 6206 | Fax 020 7880 7553 E-mail

PRODUCTION 020 7880 6239 Production manager Jane Easterman Senior production executive Kat Anastasiou General: 020 7880 6239 Fax: 020 7880 7691 E-mail

SUBSCRIPTIONS Should you require your own copy of Connections or multiple copies for your staff, subscriptions are available by calling 020 8950 9117

REDACTIVE PUBLISHING LTD Managing director Brian Grant Chairman Lord Evans of Watford

CONTRIBUTIONS Connections welcomes ideas for contributions. Please email © Redactive Publishing Ltd 2011. by Redactive Publishing Ltd, 17 Britton Street, London EC1M 5TP. Registered No. 122038. All rights reserved. This publication (and any part thereof) may not be reproduced, transmitted or stored in any print or electronic format (including but not limited to any online service, any database or any part of the internet) or in any other format in any media whatsoever, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Redactive Publishing Ltd accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein. Printed by St Ives (Peterborough) Ltd. Paper by Denmaur Papers plc The paper mill that makes the text paper for this magazine states that it uses at least 80 per cent wood pulp from sustainable sources.


Head of communications Richard Pagett 01582 539 020 Subscriptions 0870 013 0382 Technical helpline 0870 013 0391

Emma McCarthy Chief operating officer, NICEIC 4 Winter 2010-11 NICEIC Connections

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Customer services 0870 013 0382 Sales 0870 013 0458 Training 0870 013 0389

15/12/10 15:32:36

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NICEIC brand building public recognition

NICEIC unveils top new industry event NICEIC is launching what promises to be the industry’s biggest and best conference and exhibition, designed to offer contractors a one-stop shop for business advice and technical information, as well as discounted prices on the latest products and services. NICEIC Live will be held on Thursday 19 May, 2011, at Epsom Downs racecourse and will build on the success of the regional TechTalks. “NICEIC Live is a new, innovative and exciting event for the electrical contracting industry,” said Mark Smith, marketing manager. “We’ve put together the most comprehensive selection of seminars and speakers ever seen at an electrical industry event aimed specifically at contractors. “It will be very much a learning event, with talks on technical, business, industry and renewable energy topics. “NICEIC TechTalks have been hugely popular, with more than 5,000 delegates

during the last two years, so it is a natural step to develop an exhibition and conference on a much larger scale,” he added. “I’m confident that NICEIC Live will become a permanent fixture in the industry calendar for years to come,” he said. Delegates will hear from leading industry figures including NICEIC’s own Tony Cable and former minister for trade and deputy chairman of Dyson Sir Richard Needham. Seminar topics include microgeneration, counterfeit goods or RCDs, home automation and environmental systems management. Attendees will receive a voucher book of discounts and special offers from leading electrical suppliers and a free ticket to an Epsom race meeting. Early-bird rates are available until February 25 and NICEIC-registered contractors qualify for a discount. Visit

The message about NICEIC and what it stands for is reaching the wider public, according to the results of an independent survey. The research found that more than four out of 10 people recognise the NICEIC logo and associate it with being a brand they can trust. “The results show that when it comes to hiring a qualified and well respected electrical contractor, the NICEIC brand is something consumers clearly look out for,” said NICEIC chief operating officer Emma McCarthy. “We have done a great deal of work in recent years to get the NICEIC name out there and customers are more aware than ever of the logo and what it means. “By hiring an NICEIC Approved Contractor consumers feel more comfortable that the work carried out will be safe and carried out to a high standard,” she said. Just under half of all those questioned said they would never employ an electrician who was not NICEIC registered, while more than two-thirds said safety was more important than cost when it came to looking for someone to carry out work on their home.

> Highlights of NICEIC Live

Belated gong marks Cable’s contribution NICEIC’s senior marketing and events engineer Tony Cable was finally presented with his award for outstanding contribution to the electrical industry at the Electrical Times Awards in October. Cable originally won the award in 2009, but the credit crunch meant the ceremony was cancelled that year. But the organisers were keen to recognise his achievement and called him up on stage to receive the accolade. NICEIC itself was shortlisted for two awards: the marketing campaign of the year for the “Don’t Take the P” promotion and the innovative software product of the year for the virtual reality PIR training tool. “It was a great night and a real surprise when they called me up to collect the award,” said Cable, pictured here with former Electrical Times editor Ben Cronin. “It was a shame NICEIC did not win the other awards, but the nominations are great recognition of the work the teams are doing and I’m sure they’ll be back next year,” he said. The title of electrical contractor of the year went, for the second consecutive year, to Middlesex-based Electrical Management Services, while David Dossett, former executive chairman of the British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers Association and chairman of the Electrical Safety Council, earned the 2010 award for outstanding contribution to the industry.

6 Winter 2010-11 NICEIC Connections

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Rogue traders face shaming exposure NICEIC has announced it will name and shame rogue electricians caught incorrectly using its logo, following a marked increase in traders fraudulently posing as being NICEIC registered. Anyone caught misusing the logo will be named on the wall of shame section of the NICEIC website. “We take misuse of our logo very seriously and feel this hardline approach is needed to uphold NICEIC’s reputation,” said NICEIC’s chief operating officer Emma McCarthy. “NICEIC is synonymous with quality and a job well done. We cannot have rogue traders going around posing as NICEIC-registered contractors when the quality of their work has never been approved by our organisation. Specifiers need assurances that when they appoint a registered contractor that is exactly what they are getting.” Offending companies will be reported to Trading Standards and could face a heavy fine or sentencing. Shaun McKever, trading as S&M Electrical Contractors in Milton Keynes, was recently given a 12-month community order with 150 hours’ unpaid work

> Frauds face online shame after he was caught using the logo on business cards and a website listing. The current economic climate means more and more untrustworthy traders misuse the logo to win work. NICEIC received 185 reports in 2010, compared with 156 and 154 in 2008 and 2009. NICEIC recommends anyone who is suspicious of a contractor to check the NICEIC website list of Approved Contractors registered with NICEIC.

PowerBall raises £220k The electrical sector raised £220,000 for the industry charity EEIBA at last year’s powerBall, held at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel in November. The sum was raised through ticket sales, donations, an auction and other events on the night, including a tombola and a raffle. “The ball was a big success, for the money raised and the great feedback we got,” said Ian Humphreys, EEIBA president. “The food was excellent, the entertainment outstanding and the atmosphere fantastic.”

Delegates were entertained by the cast of the top West End musical The Jersey Boys and Bee Gees tribute band Apache Disco. EEIBA has also announced a free telephone helpline for anyone from the industry who is in need of its assistance, on 0800 652 1618. “Making that first call can be a big step for many and they need to be able to speak directly to someone in complete confidence,” said Francis North, EEIBA’s head of welfare operations.



Free pocket guide Inside this issue of Connections you will find Pocket Guide 22 ICEL Emergency lighting pictorial checklist 2003. The guide, which deals with escape route lighting, is part one of two, with part two covering emergency lighting for control rooms, high risk task areas and open areas (Pocket Guide 23, to be distributed with the next issue). A printable version of each pocket guide will be available on the NICEIC website and additional copies can be obtained by contacting the customer service department on 0870 013 0382 or at

NICEIC insurance services NICEIC customers will be able to access several new insurance products after the appointment of Towergate Partnerships as the organisation’s broker for the next four years. Electrical contractors will have access to a wide range of additional products, including multi-comparison van and company car insurance, personal motor and household cover, and travel insurance. Visit for further information.

Dossett retires after 50 years Former Electrical Safety Council (ESC) chairman David Dossett has retired after almost five decades serving the electrical industry. Dossett spent 20 years working with the British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers Association, most recently as executive chairman but previously as director-general and chief executive. He will continue in his role as immediate past chairman of the ESC until March. Everyone at the NICEIC and Connections wishes him all the best for the future.

Clarification In the Sector Focus article in the last edition of Connections, we referred to Wearside-based Alex Scullion Group’s use of salaried and casual labour. We would like to clarify that the company uses agency labour employed through recruitment agencies to help it cope with periods of high demand. Contractors are treated as if they were the company’s own employees and paid through the agency concerned. We acknowledge that the term “casual labour” had the potential to mislead and the piece should have referred to “agency labour”. We are happy to set the record straight.

> Industry fundraisers enjoyed an evening of musical entertainment

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NICEIC has launched an apprentice academy to give students a solid grounding in the electrical industry and help alleviate skills shortages. The scheme is being run in partnership with Bedford College and apprentices will take part in a series of fortnightly courses over a two-year period before embarking on a final year of professional development under the guidance of NICEIC. “NICEIC is committed to improving standards within the industry and our academy will give those starting out in their careers the knowledge to complete electrical installations in line with current and future working practices,” said NICEIC’s chief operating officer Emma McCarthy. “Apprenticeships can make industries more effective, productive and competitive by addressing the skills gap directly. They are the proven way to train the workforce of the future,” she said. Training will cover a wide number of topics, including asbestos awareness, first aid, aluminium scaffolding, risk assessments, certificate completion and periodic inspection and testing, alongside teaching in new technologies such as microgeneration.


Apprentice academy to tackle skills gap

NICEIC has teamed up with Virgin Experience to offer members some exclusive deals, with up to 20 per cent off usual ticket prices. Contractors can access discounted rates for a wide variety of experiences, ranging from a relaxing stay at a spa to a trip around Silverstone racetrack. Visit

NICEIC will help cover the cost of the apprentice’s salary by subsidising their wage by up to £2,000 per academic year. All other costs associated with the student’s learning are covered by the partnership with Bedford College. “These young people are quite privileged because they’re getting the best training there is,” said Jeff Welch, course manager at Bedford College. “The NICEIC programme includes six or seven additional modules compared with traditional courses, including training on solar photovoltaic installations,” he said. Those interested in sending an apprentice on the course should email

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Big fine for misleading claims A building company and its director were fined more than £8,000 and made to pay costs of over £1,100 for falsely claiming to be approved by NICEIC and CORGI. UK and Ertan Gokay each pleaded guilty to the charges at Brent magistrates court, after NICEIC reported the matter to Brent and Harrow Trading Standards following a complaint by a customer about a substandard installation.

First NICEIC webcast launched NICEIC has sent out the first webcast from its newly launched NICEIC TV platform. Webcasts will be sent every month to trade contractors, keeping them up to date with the latest developments at NICEIC. For more information visit


> Demand for new skills is rising energy target meant scrapping the RHI was not an option. “The real challenge now is to ensure the scheme is attractive to customers and help grow the market for important technologies such as heat pumps,” said Kelly Butler, BEAMA marketing director. The association estimates 1.4 million heat pumps will need to be installed by 2020, adding to the demand for those skilled to fit renewable technologies. NICEIC has seen a growing number of installers registering with its microgeneration certification scheme and enrolling on related courses.

The Autumn/Winter 2010/11 version of the Electrical Safety Council’s Essential Guide to the Wiring Regulations is the last to be issued on a CD-ROM and will be online-only after April. The guide offers practical information on a wide range of subjects, including meeting the requirements of the 17th edition, building regulations relating to electrical installations, and power supplies and wiring for fire detection and emergency lighting. If you have forgotten your username or password, you can reset your details via the BRCS site or call the building control team on 0870 013 0462.

Great deals for contractors

> Cutting-edge training at NICEIC

Industry backing for green energy push The electrical industry has welcomed the government’s commitment to retain the feed-in tariff scheme and the pledge to push ahead with the renewable heat incentive (RHI). The announcement, which was made as part of last year’s comprehensive spending review, will see more than £850 million invested in the RHI over the next 10 years and should provide new business opportunities for contractors. “This is a very encouraging sign for all those connected with the industry and the decision supports the coalition’s vow to be one of the greenest governments ever,” said NICEIC chief operating officer Emma McCarthy. “There is now a dedicated plan to put a low-carbon economy at the heart of this government’s plans and this can only be good news for those associated with the renewable energy industry.” The British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers Association (BEAMA) said the UK’s legally binding renewable

‘The Essential Guide’ goes online

Beware ‘China export’ mark Contractors involved in purchasing electrical equipment who rely on the CE mark as evidence that products comply with European standards are being warned of a similar mark that stands for “China Export”. The mark is not registered and does not confirm positive test results. The two marks are almost identical, but in the China version the two letters appear closer together. For more information visit

Marathon effort for EEIBA Electrical Engineering editor Joe Bush is running the London marathon to raise money for the industry charity EEIBA. NICEIC has already made a donation and anyone interested in doing the same should visit

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Women encouraged to join the profession


> NICEIC is campaigning for women will be launching its “Jobs for the girls” campaign, which will highlight examples of NICEIC-registered contractors currently working in the industry. “The image of our industry as an exclusive one is dangerous and if we are to plug the skills shortage gap then we can’t afford to dismiss half the working population,” added McCarthy. “As a woman in a senior position within the industry I feel a responsibility to contribute to its growth and development in a tangible way,” she said.

lifestyle magazines including Build It, Home Improvement and Your Home as well as the home supplements of national newspapers, reaching in excess of 1.3 million people. Winter 2010

Caution This Christmas NICEIC-backed press campaign urging homeowners to be cautious when installing festive lights. Winter 2010

Watchdog Appearance by Tony Cable on BBC flagship consumer show warning against the dangers of employing rogue tradespeople. November 2010

Buy with Confidence Campaign with Trading Standards to support and promote businesses with high standards of trading and commitment to customer care. Winter 2010

Cowboy Trap Appearance by Tony Cable on BBC programme, commenting on substandard electrical installation. October 2010

Advertising campaign Adverts in a range of home

MOT your electrics Campaign to encourage

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A NICEIC Approved Contractor has been forced to cease trading due to ill-health. Malcolm Page, who ran Skinners of Faversham, had been enrolled with NICEIC for many years. “He is one of the few contractors I see who can remember issues of DC industrial systems,” said NICEIC area engineer Paul Christopoulos. Everyone at NICEIC and Connections would like to wish him a very happy retirement.

Christmas safety message NICEIC was on hand in the Christams build-up to warn people who really wanted to go to town with electrical decorations to call in a registered electrician to fit extra sockets. The organisation also offered consumers tips on the safe use of indoor and outdoor lighting. “If you are worried about faulty electrics call out a professional,” warned Tony Cable, NICEIC’s senior marketing and events engineer.

N NICEIC is constantly working to raise public awareness of the need to use registered electricians and to t promote its Domestic Installers and Approved Contractors. Recent campaigns include:

Wall of W Sh Shame Web Website naming and sha shaming rogue contractors who misuse the NICEIC logo. Winter 2010

Electrical apprentices from N.G. Bailey landed the top two spots in the annual SkillELECTRIC competition, held at the M&E show at London Olympia in October. Matthew Crane and Darren Wiley came first and second respectively at the event, organised by SummitSkills. “Standards were very high and I was up against some stiff competition,” said Crane (pictured, left, with Summitskills chief executive Keith Marshall). See our Opinion piece by Keith Marshall on page 18

Contractor finally calls it a day


NICEIC is stepping up its campaign to encourage more women into the industry in 2011. Despite making up half the UK workforce, women are severely under-represented in trade professions, which are traditionally seen as male-only occupations. But with many customers preferring to hire female electricians, there is now a good business case for more women to become professional electricians. “Challenging stereotypes and ingrained prejudices is key to succeeding in business and vital to the industry’s future,” said NICEIC’s chief operating officer Emma McCarthy. “The electrical contracting sector is constantly updating its technical competence and proves it is a forward-thinking industry that cares about standards. These should also apply to its people.” NICEIC has now produced a guide, in partnership with training provider JLT, to help companies understand equality issues and give guidance to employers. McCarthy is also planning to hold a lunch with female contractors to get their input into how the situation could be improved. In add addition to this, the com communications team

Bailey boys take top billing

householders to bring in a professional to service their electrics. Autumn 2010 Help! My House is Falling Down Appearance by Tony Cable on Sarah Beeny’s show, highlighting the dangers of poorly maintained electrics. Autumn 2010 DIY electrics survey Local and national press coverage for NICEIC research which found that three in 10 householders had botched a potentially dangerous job. Summer 2010 Alfresco lighting Campaign urging householders to get outdoor electrics checked ahead of the summer months. Summer 2010

Luton Town FC sponsorship More than 45 matches; online match coverage; ITV coverage of FA Cup games. 2010-2011 Sarah Beeny’s House Rescue Appearance by NICEIC engineer on three episodes. Spring 2010 Cowboy Builders on Channel 5 Providing technical input and promoting the use of NICEIC contractors to viewers. 2010 Google Paid-for advertising to boost NICEIC contractors’ position in Google searches. Ongoing Homebase stores Promoting NICEIC contractors in more than 300 stores. 2010

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TV personality Cable exposes cowboys NICEIC has featured prominently on two national television programmes, offering advice on sub-standard and over-priced installations. Tony Cable, senior marketing and events engineer, was first called in by the producers of BBC’s Cowboy Trap to offer his expert opinion on some poor-quality work carried out by an electrician at a house in Brighton. Once the substandard installation had been exposed, local NICEIC-registered contractor Troy Murphy of Bournemouth-based TM Electrical Services was called in to put it right. In November Cable appeared on prime-time consumer show Watchdog for an investigation into rogue electricians charging fortunes for work



> TV stars: T Tony C Cable bl (above) and Troy Murphy (left)

NICEIC is supporting a scheme run by a number of Trading Standards services to promote reputable businesses. The Buy with Confidence (BWC) initiative allows firms that have been checked and approved by Trading Standards to use the BWC logo. See

Promise for more apprentices The government has pledged to create an extra 75,000 adult apprenticeships a year. Business secretary Vince Cable said around 200,000 people over the age of 18 would be able to start apprenticeships by 2014-15.

Free media guidance NICEIC is offering free advice to any registered contractors who are approached to comment in the media or on TV. Please call 01582 539 148 or email

NICEIC discount deals at Ecobuild NICEIC will be attending Ecobuild in 2011, giving contractors the chance to find out more about the growing market in installing renewable technologies. Contractors will also be able to discuss the benefits of registering on NICEIC’s microgeneration certification scheme and take advantage of a £50 discount for those who sign up.

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Visitors to the NICEIC stand will also be able to access discounts on other NICEIC products and benefit from special show prices for gas and renewable technology merchandise. Ecobuild takes place on 1-3 March in London’s ExCeL arena. Anyone interested in attending can sign up free of charge at

Aico issues renewable warning Smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarm manufacturer Aico is warning contractors using an alternative energy source such as a solar panel or battery-powered uninterruptible power supply as part of the 230VAC supply to the alarm that a “pure sine wave” inverter to give a true sine wave 230VAC output must be used. See our feature on fire alarms on page 26

January 18 NICEIC TechTalk Ricoh Arena, Coventry

24 NICEIC TechTalk Stormont Hotel, Belfast



including the Uttoxeter Echo and the Horsham Advertiser. “The campaign seemed to strike a real chord and we are delighted at the coverage it has received,” said Emma McCarthy, NICEIC’s chief operating officer. “This is not the end of the campaign, however, and we will continue to promote this important message throughout 2011.” NICEIC launched the campaign in September after its own research revealed that 32 per cent of people had never had the electrics in their homes fully tested.

The Electrical Safety Council has launched a new guide designed to provide practical advice and guidance for electrical installers, verifiers, inspectors and other ibili ffor competent persons who have responsibility testing electrical installations. Test instruments for electrical installations: Accuracy and consistency can be downloaded from both the NICEIC and ESC websites.

Grow with confidence

that often took less than 30 minutes to complete. “Both shows reached millions of viewers and enhanced the message that the best way to ensure a safe job is to employ an NICEICregistered electrician,” said Emma McCarthy, NICEIC chief operating officer. “Tony is recognised as an expert in the field and is becoming a bit of a regular on TV for anything to do with electrical matters. He is a real asset for us and does a wonderful job promoting the NICEIC name and brand.” Cable also featured in Sarah Beeny’s Help! My House is Falling Down, broadcast on Channel 4 in September.

MOT campaign hits the airways NICEIC’s recent “MOT your home” campaign helped spread the message about the benefits of calling in a registered contractor to check household electrics. The launch of the programme was followed up by an extensive series of radio interviews, featuring live and pre-recorded interviews with TV celebrity Linda Barker, who is fronting the campaign, and NICEIC senior marketing and events engineer Tony Cable. Fourteen local radio stations publicised the initiative, including Leith FM in Edinburgh, BBC Northampton, LBC in London and Swansea Sound, while the campaign also featured in regional newspapers

Best practice guide

19 NICEIC TechTalk 1-3 Ecobuild ExCeL, London Belfry Hotel, Nottingham 23 NICEIC TechTalk 26 NICEIC TechTalk St James Park Stadium, Odeon Cinema, Newcastle Worcester 24 NICEIC TechTalk February Carlisle Racecourse 8 NICEIC TechTalk April Aintree Racecourse, 5 NICEIC TechTalk Liverpool Celtic Park, Glasgow 9 NICEIC TechTalk 6 NICEIC TechTalk City of Manchester Odeon Cinema, Dundee Stadium, Manchester

NICEIC Connections Winter 2010-11 13

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Hellermann’s rod range Cable management specialist Hellermann Tyton has released its own range of rod sets, after years of distributing those of other manufacturers. The tools are designed to enable contractors to route and retrieve cables through problematic areas and include a strong magnet that can be used to lift metal items of up to 2.5kg. Other accessories include a whisk to allow cables to glide over uneven surfaces, a beam for dark areas and a

> One of Hellermann Tyton’s own-brand rod sets

range of hooks. The products come in three sets offering different numbers of rods and accessories, complete with a lightweight bag.

Cagey way to cool lighting

TESTING TIMES Megger has unveiled a new professional range of portable appliance testers that offer rapid start-up and instant restart after temporary disconnection such as when moving between test locations. The PAT410 is for office and IT environments; the PAT420 for commercial, industrial and construction use; and the PAT450 for service organisations. Not to be outdone, Fluke has introduced two new models to its 1650 range. The 1654B (pictured

> Megger’s PAT450 portable appliance tester

below) offers RCB type B testing with increased data storage, while the 1652C includes a phase sequence indicator. Martindale has released the VT12 voltage and continuity tester, which features an automatic AC/DC detection range from 12V to 960V and continuity testing up to 200,000 ohms. The tester is designed primarily for domestic and industrial use. Seaward has upgraded its Supernova dual voltage PAT tester, meaning it is now able to test RCD trip times alongside its existing flash/hi-pot test and dual-voltage testing capabilities.

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Gland vision from Flexicon Flexicon has launched a range of flameproof barrier glands for use with its liquid tight conduit systems in hazardous areas. The glands, which are approved to the latest ATEX and IECEx standards, can be used for Ex d, Ex e and Ex t applications; in zone 1 and zone 2 areas where group A, B or C gases are present; and in zones 21 and 22 where explosive dust may be present. They are available in sizes from 16mm to 63mm in diameter and can be used with individual cores or oversheathed cable. Flexicon is selling the glands in a single pack, which also includes protective gloves and the two-part epoxy compound used to form the barrier seal.

p15 product news.3.indd 15

Ansell Lighting has released its novel iCage product, a cage-constructed, fire-rated luminaire that allows for lower operating temperatures for ceiling-embedded downlights. The device uses a unique “cool cage” to ensure lower temperatures than more traditional can-type devices and is designed to ensure contractors can maintain adequate fire-rating in plasterboard ceilings. It also offers sprung clips for sturdy fixing in variable ceiling thicknesses, while the open-cage design allows easy access to terminals. The iCage comes with GU10 and LV lampholders and uses the twist-lock technique to allow for easy lamp installation and replacement.

Lone worker safety call Contractors who regularly work on their own in potentially dangerous situations will be interested to learn of the new Sonim XP3 Sentinel mobile phone (pictured, above left). The device features an emergency button that automatically connects users to an emergency response centre as well as a “man-down” motion sensor that can detect impact, freefall and no movement. It is capable of providing a GPS tracking service at three-minute intervals for up to 24 hours. The phone can survive drops of two metres on to concrete and up to half an hour submerged in a metre of water. The keypad is designed for easy use even with gloved or wet hands.

NICEIC Connections Winter 2010-11 15

15/12/10 15:33:36

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21/12/10 09:47:37


Fighting back With government spending cuts well underway, businesses could face contract breaches and cancellations. But all may not be lost, says Tony Chapman


ast year’s public sector spending review will affect virtually every electrical business in some way. Many analysts predict a marked reduction in spend on anything other than essential care and maintenance, with new-build and refurbishment projects becoming rare. Get set then for contract renegotiations, deferrals and cancellations. Many electrical contractors will be left out of pocket, having geared up to service contracts that will be cancelled, shrink or be deferred. In such cases a contractor or supplier may have the right to seek damages for breach of contract. If there is a right to claim, the chances of success will be markedly improved if good evidence of the losses incurred can be provided. Too often good legal claims produce little reward because the claimant is unable to evidence properly the losses suffered. Here are a few simple tips that may improve your chances if you find yourself in a position where a party seeks to cancel, or vary, a contract and you are likely to suffer a substantial detriment as a result.

Seek legal advice Take advice promptly: you need to understand your rights and this is not straightforward. A solicitor can advise what rights and obligations are conferred by the contract and what you need to do. It may be important to ensure your position is not prejudiced by unwittingly accepting variations or cancellations, or even finding yourself accused of breach.


Record losses Take time to think through the full commercial implications of any variation or cancellation. You may well have a duty to take reasonable steps to mitigate any losses and it might be that you later have to justify what you did. Recording your thought processes contemporaneously may help to defend against arguments that you could, and should, have done something else. Legally, you may be entitled to be put in the position you would have been in had the contract been performed in accordance with its terms. Ensure

p17 advice.2.indd 17

that you identify and record your realistic expectation of the commercial outcome of the contract (the revenue and incremental costs expected, the risks and other consequential costs and revenues) because this may form the basis of the claim. Good evidence may be realistic contract costings or the information provided in tenders or pre-contractual documents. Make sure all the costs of taking mitigating action, including management time, are properly recorded. As an alternative, you may be entitled to recover the costs you have wasted. Record what you spent in bidding for the contract and in setting yourself

‘Tell the customer or client of your intention to seek compensation and provide an estimate of the level of losses and costs as soon as you can’ up to perform it, as well as the costs incurred in scaling down or terminating structures that are no longer required. Keep such records in an easily identifiable way. Treating the loss as if a separate business or cost centre and attributing or apportioning costs to it may be appropriate. It is easier to identify why a cost is incurred at the time rather than a year or so later.

Customer communication Finally, tell the customer or client of your intention to seek compensation. Provide an estimate of the level of losses and costs as soon as you understand there may be breach and update this as you go along. This might help persuade the customer that breaching the contract may not be such a good idea in the first place. In any litigious situation there are no guarantees that you will be adequately compensated. However, a little planning and effort can improve a bad situation. Tony Chapman is a forensic services partner and head of dispute services at Baker Tilly

NICEIC Connections Winter 2010-11 17

15/12/10 12:29:51


Green gains


If you have an opinion about an issue concerning the electrical industry, let us know. Email editor@ niceic connections .com


he comprehensive spending review had many businesses in the electrical sector worried, but it also further highlighted the government’s commitment to reducing the UK’s carbon footprint. Major new reforms and investments on low-carbon technologies will help position the UK at the forefront of the transition to a green economy. With households able to improve the energy efficiency of their homes at no upfront cost, and repaying expenditure simply through the savings they make on their energy bills, there will be more demand for qualified electricians to advise on, install and maintain household technology such as solar photovoltaic and ground-source heat pumps. Added to this, a total of £5.6 billion of support and increased expenditure through existing mechanisms to households and businesses investing in renewable heat measures will further increase the demand for fully trained staff. In our recent report, Potential Training Demand in Environmental Technologies in Building Services Engineering: Stage 1, we found that while business


engagement in electrical renewable technologies has increased, by six per cent in photovoltaic technology for example, a significant amount of training still needs to be done to upskill the electrical industry in environmental and renewable technologies. It is clear from the coalition government’s various statements and commitments that the focus on environmental technologies can only increase. It is essential that the electrotechnical industry takes maximum benefit from this and we can only do so if we are ready for the demand and have the appropriately trained and skilled people. If we don’t, unfortunately there are plenty of others around Europe who will. Now is the time to upskill our existing electricians in preparation for the demand that is undoubtedly coming. This is almost certainly the area of activity that will pull the industry away from recession. Keith Marshall OBE is chief executive of SummitSkills, the Sector Skills council for the building services engineering sector

James Clark

How did you come to set up the business? I did my apprenticeship and moved into electrical controls and panels. About nine years ago I met an old school friend who runs a swimming pool company and he said he needed an electrician. I saw it as my opportunity.

well as general domestic work and sub-contracting for a lighting company.

was steady; we installed 15 pools, whereas the year before it was only six.

How many people are there? Me and my former apprentice, who’s just qualified. We cover most of Buckinghamshire and bits of Bedfordshire and south Oxfordshire.

What’s the hardest part of working for yourself? Trying to make sure you take time off. We had a two-week holiday last year, but my wife has to really twist my arm.

Are you still in that area? Yes, I’ve been doing it ever since. We do everything from call-outs to replace a pump to lighting and heating. We also do a lot of hot tubs, as

How were you affected by the downturn? We were lucky in 2009 because as well as the pool work we had a rebuild that saw us through. Last year

What are your hopes for the future of the business? I’d like to get my assistant a van and take on another apprentice. But I’m expecting a quiet year.

18 Winter 2010-11 NICEIC Connections

p18 opinion.2.indd Sec1:18


The move towards environmental technologies is likely to be what drives the electrical sector out of the downturn, says Keith Marshall

What about outside work? I’m a member of a bike club and we meet up every week and try to go away a couple of times a year. Otherwise it’s family and a bit of DIY. James Clark is owner of JHC Electrical Services based in High Wycombe. If you are a small business or sole trader and would like to feature in In Focus, email editor@

15/12/10 15:35:08

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17/12/10 11:46:34


public contracts

Public anxiety Uncertainty over exactly where the government’s spending cuts will fall has led to a slump in public sector business for many contractors. Yet there is still work to be won By Adrian Holliday


t almost seems doubly unfair. Electrical contractors stagger through the recession, taking the brunt of all that economising and cutting back. Then, just when the end seems in sight, government ministers start swinging the axe in multiple directions while talking loudly about leveraging central government buying power. If you’re a contractor that relies on public sector contracts, you’re potentially exposed, again, to another big contracts chill. Like many contractors, Trevor Roberts, managing director of RME Services based in Farnham, Surrey, has diversified hard in order to survive during the recession, offering not just mechanical and electrical repairs, but also building refurbishment. He’s needed to; 70 per cent of RME’s turnover comes from the public sector. Yet despite significant service expansion, things are still choppy for Roberts and his 40 or so employees. “We’ve been affected a lot [by the cuts],” he says. “Some people haven’t frozen budgets yet but they’re very unwilling to commission projects and are trying to keep cash in reserve. We haven’t heard precisely what’s being cut yet. We’ve tendered for a lot, but

20 Winter 2010-11 NICEIC Connections

p20-21 sector focus.2.indd Sec1:20

there are plenty of things hanging in the balance.” Opportunities to tender have plunged by about 50 per cent so far, Roberts estimates. RME carries out a lot of work for the police, mainly minor refurbishment projects. But police spending was targeted by chancellor George Osborne for a four per cent snip in his 2010 Spending Review. RME also has a bi-yearly contract with the Farnborough International Airshow and another with the Canadian High Commission. “The biggest problem for us is that maintenance is a place to cut budgets,” says Roberts. “You can always avoid minor refurbishment work by just making things last a bit longer.” Roberts is also now up against another problem: although there is plenty of talk about the government offering

more tendering opportunities to smaller firms, the reality is rather different, he claims. In an effort to cut costs, the government is increasingly lumping several contracts together in one go. “Because of the hurdles they set, these contracts are going out to much bigger companies,” he says. “So it means a bigger bite of the cherry for the big guys, but reduces the market for small firms like us.” Many small businesses simply don’t have the breadth or depth to take on such commitments.

Changing fortunes There are plenty of stories of work shortfalls around. In the case of Ian Jarvis, joint managing director of Norman Jarvis & Sons, based in Hessle, North Humberside, the phone “hasn’t stopped ringing” since September, but that was

15/12/10 15:35:49

‘Some people haven’t frozen budgets yet but they’re very unwilling to commission projects and are trying to keep cash in reserve’ until the end of March,” he says, “but I’m not sure what happens after that.” But the business recently missed out on a contract to work on occupied houses. “The way the contract was set up was that the first contractor would get 70 per cent of the total job. We lost out on that; two other contractors beat us on price,” he says. “Local authorities are looking at best price, rather than quality, as well as your history of carrying out similar contracts.” While councils are also putting in place policies to limit work to local contractors, Grant says there are more firms bidding for work, including those whose normal client base is the commercial sector.

Jumping through hoops

> Ronald Grant in Fife has enough work to keep his team busy until March, but competition is tough in the public sector

after an extended period of worrying quiet for this contractor, who traditionally relies on a lot of municipal waste work to support turnover. Part of the problem, says Jarvis, was that the landfill tax – part of new government legislation – soared from £40 to £48 per tonne, so client costs spiralled. “It has been a complete rollercoaster,” he says. “It was absolutely dire up to September but we’ve just had our best two months in two years. I think the waste industry has possibly changed tack. They haven’t spent cash for so long that things have had to be done.” But Jarvis’s firm needs to turn over £10,000 a month to break even (he has two young men working for him and office support one day a week). In October it turned over £20,000 but before this was averaging only £8,000

p20-21 sector focus.2.indd Sec1:21

a month. “We’ve got work well into this year now,” says Jarvis. “We’re doing lots of external repairs that haven’t been done for two years.” The business is currently in the throes of offering heating and systems lighting to one of its main clients so it can reduce its energy costs. “It’s booming in that department,” says Jarvis.

Price focus So far a lack of work has not been an issue for Fife-based contractor R.B. Grant, despite the cuts. Owner and director Ronald Grant says around 70 per cent of its work – it has 42 employees and had a turnover of £2 million last year – is public sector-based, much of it for local authorities and housing associations. “We have enough contracts to keep the workforce busy

Then there are all the red tape, paperwork and health and safety hoops to be negotiated. “Often it’s more about covering your backside than getting the job done,” says Aidan Brady, managing director of Colliers Wood-based Elektratek, which had a turnover of £500,000 last financial year. “We do a lot of private school work now. Some Surrey schools will source work themselves. We go in there and tender and it’s very much price-driven. We don’t say we’re the cheapest. We say we’re the best because we know what we’re doing and we price effectively. Everything will be tested from start to finish; we don’t do labour only.” But it takes guts to take a line on price and stick to what is realistically financially viable for your operation, whether it’s private or public work. That determination looks set to be increasingly tested as public sector cuts start to bite deep in 2011. > Adrian Holliday is a freelance business journalist

NICEIC Connections Winter 2010-11 21

15/12/10 15:36:11


marketing your business

Make some noise With competition for work as fierce now as it has ever been, firms that can stand out from the crowd are at a significant advantage for winning business By David Adams


n times as financially tricky as these, just hoping things will get better is not good enough. You’ve got to keep trying to expand your customer base. As John Grange, a business advisor at Business Link, puts it: “You should spend more on marketing exactly when you don’t think you need to, because by the time you know you need to, it’s usually too late.” Nor does this have to be expensive. There are plenty of cheap, cost-effective ways of enhancing the way you market your business.


Do more with your website

22 Winter 2010-11 NICEIC Connections

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An ever-increasing number of domestic consumers and businesses in need of an electrician’s services either search online or use the internet to find out more about the firms they come across in a directory. To increase the chances of them getting in touch with you – rather than your competitors – at that initial stage, you’ll need to improve your website. A site that says very little and looks neglected is as bad for your public image as a shoddy-looking van or office. This shouldn’t require a vast amount of time or money. Prospective clients aren’t interested in flashy web design; they want to know more about the company. But the website does need to be easy to access and navigate. “The key is to know exactly what you want your website to achieve,” says Mark Blayney Stuart, head of research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), who suggests asking customers what they’re looking for from your site. “Whether the aim of the website is to sell or purely to be an information source, companies must make sure the designer is properly briefed.” You also need to ensure as many people as possible can find you online. “A website is a marketing tool; it’s not there for fun,” says Grange. “You’ve got to drive people to it so have the web address on vans, on your invoices and on your quotes.” Search engine optimisation is also important and more straightforward than you might think. There’s a useful section on how to ensure your site gets close to the top of the results page in a Google search on the Business Link website at

15/12/10 12:30:17

‘Think of social networking in the same way as having a real-life conversation with a customer. Speak to them in the way they want to be spoken to’

Blayney Stuart suggests considering pay-per-click advertising on search pages as another way of driving traffic to your website.

Make use of case studies Telling potential customers about work you’ve already done is a great way to sell your company. Putting case studies together doesn’t have to be difficult. You can make them as big or as detailed as you like, but all you really need is a few hundred words explaining what a customer needed from you and how much they liked the results. “Case studies are brilliant tools,” says Grange. “They’re easy to do and they work. A case study has a sort of impartiality. It’s an example of a customer that a prospect can relate to.” Customer testimonials can act as mini case studies, in the customer’s own words. A series of testimonials on your website, particularly if they carry a customer’s name and details of the job done, are compelling evidence of your successful track record.

Make the most of your expertise Making more noise about specific areas of expertise also helps you to stand out from the crowd. You can signpost this on the homepage of your website, with links to a section dedicated to solar energy equipment, for example, alongside testimonials or case studies. You can also advertise your expertise in publicity material or on company vehicles. You may also want to try using your website as a repository for useful information, posting links to documents or other sites about the products you sell, the services you provide, or regulatory or safety standards.

Spread the news If you deal with regular customers by email, consider sending out short email newsletters a few times a year about interesting work you’ve done, new qualifications your staff have gained, and so on. The key is not to abuse the privilege of being able to send messages direct to a customer’s inbox; irrelevant and overly

p22-25 Marketing.2.indd 23

15/12/10 12:30:35


marketing your business

‘Try new things, but don’t beat yourself up if they don’t work. The only wrong thing you can do is not to do anything’ frequent emailing will feel like spam to the recipient. It’s also essential to comply with data protection legislation, and to remove from your list anyone who doesn’t want to be contacted as soon as they ask you to do so.

Attend networking events Local business events can be very useful places to meet new prospects, but choose carefully which ones you attend. For example, says Business Link’s Grange, if you want to attract local businesses, meetings at the local chamber of commerce could be very useful, as could local associations of retailers. Linda Rogers, key accounts manager at Weston Electrical Services in Somerset (see case study, page 25), says she and her colleagues have attended various events, including some run by a client – a large construction company – where she and her colleagues were able to introduce themselves to managers of other companies within the client’s wider group and also to some of the client’s clients. The business also attends events run by, and for, local firms.

Network online Stephen Alambritis, chief spokesman at the Federation of Small Businesses, believes using Twitter or blogging can both be useful ways for businesses to keep in the public eye, particularly if you’re commenting on events affecting the local community. There are also now plenty of electrical services companies using Facebook.


Similar rules to those for websites apply: keep the pages updated regularly, particularly if it’s plain to any visitor on the page just how long it’s been since you were there, as is the case with Facebook. Once the page is up and running, updates should only take a few minutes of your time. Business social networks such as LinkedIn can also be a good way of contacting businesses that already deal with your clients. “You should think of social networking in the same way as having a real-life conversation with a customer,” says the CIM’s Blayney Stuart. “Speaking to them in the way they want to be spoken to makes them want to engage with you. LinkedIn also offers a quick and easy way to engage with customers, through making professional contacts or even marketing events via the events function on the site.”

Enter awards Winning – or just being nominated for – a local or national business award can have multiple benefits. It gives you a great message to add to marketing or advertising materials and another way to increase traffic to your website. Just attending the ceremony can be useful, says Alambritis. “Different groups of people get to hear about you,” he says. “You’ve got the institution making the awards – that could be a local authority or a local or national company – and you’ve got the judging panel. You’ve also got the other shortlisted companies, the audience and sponsors. Awards can, and often do, lead to new business.”


Visit SMD Electrical Services’ website and the first thing you’ll see is a picture of owner Steve Daws receiving the Which? magazine award from TV presenter Kirsty Young at a ceremony in 2010 (pictured, along with Which? chief executive Peter Vickary-Smith on the right). He says winning the award felt great after he was nominated by satisfied customers. It also felt like just reward for the work he’s done building up the business, which is based in West Byfleet in Surrey, from scratch since 2005. The award is highlighted on the website alongside sections detailing Daws’s areas of specialist expertise, which include solar photovoltaic equipment, consumer unit and distribution boards, swimming pools, hot tubs and security lighting. The site also features a downloads section providing access to technical and regulatory information, as well as a long list of customer testimonials. Having a good website means that if Daws is called by a prospective customer while on site he can sometimes send customers to the site to find out more information until he has time to call them back. “It’s just more contact with the customer and it allows them to get the information they need,” he says. “Or they go to look at it and then they might think ‘Oh, this is more complicated than I thought!’ and then they call me back to get me to do the work.”

24 Winter 2010-11 NICEIC Connections

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15/12/10 12:30:49

> CASE STUDY: PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES Weston Electrical is a family-run business that has been trading for more than 27 years. It employs around 40 engineers and 10 office staff in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. Its marketing strategy and canny maximising of existing client relationships has helped the company win customers far beyond its natural catchment area; it now has so many customers in the south-east that it is opening a new office in south London. Weston’s website includes helpful information about products and services and the company uses email for targeted marketing campaigns and is setting up a Facebook page to drive more traffic to the website. In addition to networking events with existing and prospective clients (see main feature), key accounts manager Linda Rogers (pictured) says the firm has also strengthened its reputation with the local community through its involvement in the Rotary Club and work in schools teaching pupils about health and safety issues.

Develop a PR strategy There are various other steps you can take to market yourself more effectively to prospective customers. If you’re looking to find more customers in a particular industry it may be worth considering working with a trade magazine for that industry, either through advertising or, better still, by trying to get some editorial coverage of a project you’ve been involved with or are about to start. Depending on the industry, the publication and the story you have to tell, you might be able to do this yourself, looking up target publications online, then making some telephone calls or sending emails. Photography and quotes from customers may also help. Larger companies might want to consider hiring some public relations expertise to help compile case study or news material and to approach trade, local or national publications or media outlets. That could mean using a PR agency, but you could also consider using a freelance PR or marketing consultant.

Find out what works There’s an old cliché that half the marketing you do works, but no one knows which half. You can find out, however, by asking new clients how they found out about you. This helps to build a picture of your most effective marketing activities. “Do the simple, cheap things well,” says Grange at Business Link. “Try new things, but don’t beat yourself up if they don’t work. The only wrong thing you can do is not to do anything.” > David Adams is a freelance business journalist

p22-25 Marketing.2.indd 25

15/12/10 12:31:07


fire alarms

‘We have seen horrific examples of electricians installing fire alarms when they are not competent to do so’ 26 Winter 2010-11 NICEIC Connections

p26-29 fire alarms.3.indd 26

15/12/10 15:36:42

Warming up The fire alarm sector could provide electrical contractors with a specialist area to help them through the downturn. But it’s essential they’re fully trained and comply with the relevant standards


any electrical contractors are looking for ways to extend their business opportunities during the downturn and one that is attracting a good deal of interest is the installation of fire alarms. Yet while this sector can be potentially lucrative, it also has its dangers; the most notable being the risk of a badly installed fire alarm, which can lead to injury or even death. In such a case the contractor could end up having to explain in court how he or she was qualified to install the alarm and to produce documentary evidence. This rather bleak scenario is not designed to put off contractors thinking of entering this field, but rather act to as a spur to make sure that any move into this area is done properly, with the correct training.

Fire systems training The starting point for most electrical contractors or companies is likely to be the Fire Industry Association (FIA), which offers a wide range of courses from fire detection design through to installation and maintenance, ensuring contractors are able to comply with the requirements of part one of BS 5839. The Fire Protection Association, meanwhile, provides modular training covering the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of systems. BS 5839 covers what constitutes a fire alarm system and how it should be installed, including the type of cabling, which must be fire-resistant. There are three core areas that define competence; the first of which is to understand the standard. There are training courses to help with this, and these are often themselves broken up into different modules. The second area is product training. Manufacturers will often provide this because it is in their interest that they are installed correctly, and the more people trained to install their products, the more they can sell. “It is important before doing

p26-29 fire alarms.3.indd 27

any installation work to approach the manufacturer, even if it is just downloading manuals from their website,” says Rex Taylor, technical support manager at Kidde Safety. Reading the manuals, for example, can give information on the best mounting positions for alarms on ceiling and walls, and even which side of the room they should be on. “If you do this part wrong, you can give more time to a fire before the alarms go off,” explains Taylor. “We will provide training if required, and this is a good way of learning about a product before buying. Most manufacturers are willing to show you their products and explain them.” The third area focuses on understanding the legislation and health and safety requirements, and again courses are available for this. There is also an NVQ for the sector, but this is really aimed at apprentices to existing installers rather than for electricians coming into the field, and there is a City & Guilds qualification on the building regulations. Many of the courses can be taken in one day. For example, the FIA has one-day courses on installation and risk assessment. Manufacturers’ training can be anything from one day to a week, depending on the product or products covered. Anyone thinking of skipping the training and jumping straight in should think twice. “Anyone can set themselves up to do this,” says Martin Duggan, general manager of the FIA. “There is no way of policing it. No licence is needed. But if something goes wrong and it is traced back to them, they could end up in court having to prove they are competent.” Local approvals bodies and trade associations often have information that can help. “It is best to do the research before you start rather than starting and then learning by your mistakes,” says Taylor. “The danger otherwise is that you install a system that does not work as intended.”


By Steve Rogerson

NICEIC Connections Winter 2010-11 27

15/12/10 15:37:10


fire alarms

‘Anyone touching fire alarms needs to be very familiar with BS 5839 and also with BS 5266 – emergency lighting goes hand in hand with this’

Another recent change to the regulations that can create an opportunity is Part J of the building regulations, which has a requirement for a carbon monoxide alarm to be installed near new or replacement solid-fuel appliances. “An electrician can do that,” says Taylor, “but they need to know where to site it and which cable to use.”

Incorrectly fitted fire alarms can give rise to false alarms, while poorly located devices could create safety issues if and when they are called upon, warns Taylor. “You need to look at the fire risk assessment, which should show where most fires are likely to start and what the escape plans are,” he says. “The detectors are there to give time for people to escape the building, so you Fire Safety Order need to be aware of these things.” Another key piece of legislation is the One way to prove such competence is Fire Safety Order, introduced in 2005 for to use a third-party certification scheme. England and Wales and the equivalent The two main schemes in this area are run in the Fire Safety (Scotland) Act of the by the Loss Prevention Certification Board > Fire alarm and smoke detector installers same year. “The Fire Safety Order says (LPCB) and the British Approvals for Fire need to be familiar with BS 5839 that a responsible person has to carry Equipment (BAFE). out a suitable and sufficient fire risk The LPCB has a loss prevention scheme that is probably assessment,” says Duggan at the FIA. “Contractors should too detailed for most electrical contractors at the initial stage become competent or use competent people to help them.” because it is really aimed at large companies that do everything in this area. There are four disciplines covered: design, installation, commissioning and maintenance. The BAFE SP203 scheme, on the other hand, is modular. This > CASE STUDY: means people only need to take the modules that directly affect what they will be doing. “There is an installation module, but it is HOW ONE COMPANY SPECIALISES IN not cheap or easy,” says Duggan. FIRE ALARM INSTALLATIONS “We have seen horrific examples of electricians installing fire alarms when they are not competent to do so,” he adds. “We had NICEIC-registered Brighton Fire Alarms, established in 1993, installs fire alarm systems and emergency lighting someone punching holes in fire compartment walls to install an to BS 5839 and BS 5266 standards. alarm. These are designed to stop the spread of fire, but if you The company covers a wide area between London and knock holes in them it can help fire and smoke to spread.” the south coast, stretching from Southampton to Kent, installing systems in housing complexes, pubs and schools. The organisation’s 26 contractors are all fully qualified electricians and have received additional training under schemes run by the Fire Industry Association and Fire Protection Association. “Anyone touching fire alarms needs to be very familiar with BS 5839 and also with BS 5266 because emergency lighting goes hand in hand with this,” says Philip Hall, installation manager. Local authorities across the UK tend to take different approaches towards policing fire regulations and standards, he adds. “Some of them tend to be less stringent than others,” he says. “Some will leave it to the local fire services, but they have their own job to do.”

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Technological developments One element that any entrant into this market needs to be aware of is how quickly technology can change. Advances in electronics these days are quicker than ever and that affects the intruder and fire detection industry as well, with developments such as the move to multi-sensor alarms that can detect smoke, CO2, heat and so on. Video smoke detectors are becoming more popular, especially for large open spaces such as a warehouse or hangar. Here, it can take a long time for smoke to find its way to a detector and video systems can pick the smoke up earlier. Wireless technology is also growing quickly, so sometimes the alarms do not need to be connected to the central control but rather via radio waves. Voice alarms are becoming more common

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‘You need to look at the fire risk assessment, which should show where most fires are likely to start and what the escape plans are’

too – the alarm will shout warnings through need to be aware of these types of issue a public address system rather than using when negotiating the contract.” traditional bell or siren-based sounds. The problems of disposing of such alarms Whatever system that an electrician is why there is a move away from ionisation picks to install, it is worth doing a little alarms to optical alarms, but the ionisation research beforehand, not just on the basic alarms are still allowed and are cheaper prices, but on the time and possible extras than the optical type, although that is needed, such as special cable for example. changing quite rapidly. “They need to do some market research Again, for environmental reasons, some to see if they can make money,” says buildings will insist on ionisation alarms Kidde Safety’s Taylor. “Some electricians not being used and that becomes another try to price work to a competitive edge factor when it comes to negotiating a price. without leaving room for things they have Finally, it is important to keep in contact not considered if they haven’t done their with those working in fire regulation and > Carbon monoxide alarms must be research properly.” standards at the local authority. Not installed near new or replacement Most of the opportunities will be for only are these people a valuable source solid-fuel appliances new buildings, but refurbishment work of information on local and national is available. A good survey of the building is essential before regulations, they are often the people in charge of checking the installation. This will show if any old alarms need removing. If they work. Understanding the standards they require is essential are ionisation smoke alarms they contain a small radioactive before starting any alarm installation work. element and there may be local regulations about their disposal. > Steve Rogerson is a freelance journalist specialising in “You can put one in a wheelie bin,” says Taylor. “But if there are the electrical industry a large number, then the local authority should be contacted. You

> SOUND THE ALARM: EMERGENCY LIGHTING REQUIREMENTS Under the Fire Safety Order 2005 and the Fire Safety (Scotland) Act, all commercial and industrial buildings require emergency lighting schemes that can protect occupants in the event of an evacuation. The guidance document for BS 5266 offers advice on how to assess the requirements for high-risk areas such as kitchens, plant rooms and first-aid rooms. The ICEL – the emergency lighting arm of the Lighting Industry Federation – also urges contractors to consult the European standard EN1838, which covers minimum emergency lighting requirements relating to light levels and the location and specification of all emergency lights and signs. The body also advises contractors to only install products purchased from ICEL-registered companies or to use equipment that has been tested by a third party and approved to EN60598.2.22. Customers should be able to show contractors installing lighting applications a risk assessment of the premises that has been carried out by a competent person, highlighting the layout of points of specific risk such as staircases, lifts and any fire-fighting equipment.

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> Contractors installing emergency lighting must ensure they comply with the relevant standards

NICEIC Connections Winter 2010-11 29

15/12/10 15:39:23



Spoilt for choice Electrical contractors face a bewildering range of products and packages when it comes to test equipment. But it’s worth spending the time to find the solution that’s right for your business By Rob Shepherd


here’s certainly no shortage of choice when it comes to test equipment and sometimes the sheer number of manufacturers and products can be overwhelming. Seaward, Megger, Fluke, Martindale, Ideal Industries; the list goes on, and that’s before you even start to explore the different packages on offer. For most electrical contractors a test instrument represents a significant financial investment, so it is advisable to carry out some research before making a final decision. Test equipment producers are doing all they can to attract contractors and are using all their research and development know-how to make products that stand out from the crowd. Jim Wallace, product and technical manager at Seaward Electronic, believes this level of competition is healthy because it prompts manufacturers to improve the quality of their products. “Test equipment has to comply with all relevant standards and legislation, so all products should fulfil a minimum requirement,” he says. “But we have decided to offer a total solution by providing ancillary products, including software and certification systems, which improve the testing process and make our customers more efficient.” There are a number of important issues concerning the way tests are carried out and this has enabled manufacturers to focus on specific areas of their offering. One of the most significant is the need to test electrical installations near to the source – on or near to the LV transformer, for example. “Loop impedance testers struggle on these applications where customers expect perfect

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performance down to the last digit of resolution and accuracy,” says Julian Grant, Megger’s UK and international sales manager. “Unfortunately, the implications of resolution and accuracy are poorly understood in the industry in general.” RCD testing is particularly important for those involved in portable appliance testing. This has been addressed by the latest IEE code, which states that when extension leads or multiway adaptors are fitted with an RCD the operation of this should be checked using a test instrument to determine that the trip time is within specified limits. The use of test leads continues to be an issue and the changes driven by IEC61010 are also starting to filter down to instrument manufacturers, redefining what types of test lead can be used in various locations. Another key development in 2010 has been in microgeneration. These installations have specific requirements such as earth integrity testing.

Trend setting Although multifunction test instruments are still popular, it is their integrated features that are influencing purchasing decisions. It is not uncommon for modern testers to have embedded firmware and features such as Bluetooth, which allows the wireless connection of barcode scanners, label printers and other accessories, ensuring totally cable-free testing. For those who are unfamiliar with such > The PAT450 from Megger

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‘Calibration ensures the accuracy of test equipment and should be part of any contractor’s quality procedure’

features, most manufacturers have developed excellent support facilities to help contractors get the most from these products. Yet while testers may comply with certain standards, the quality of the materials and the ancillary products used in the manufacture of lower-cost instruments usually fall short compared with high-specification products. “To a large extent it’s common sense,” says Seaward’s Wallace. “A £50 multifunction tester is unlikely to come with the support, additional features and all-round quality that can be found with more expensive products.”

Safety first Test equipment is assigned a usage category that is defined by IEC61010-1: 2010. This relates to the energy level of the transients the instrument can withstand without exposing the user to any risk of harm. Any contractor whose work involves carrying out tests on mains circuits must use an instrument that is fit for purpose. On these applications a risk assessment should also be performed to establish if fused leads should also be considered. “Contractors working on high-energy LV installations need an instrument designed for that environment, in terms of test capability and electrical safety,” says Grant. “Standards, such as EN61010 and EN61557, are excellent guides to the suitability of products. However, very cheap products should be treated with caution; safety does not come cheaply.”

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Hand in hand with safety comes certification; a necessary part of any electrical installation because it provides a statement to the client that the work carried out complies with BS 7671. Multifunction 17th edition testers carry out the required circuit tests and display the reading for manual transfer on to the certificate. Some, however, allow readings to be recorded on a PDA and transferred to a desktop application for certificate printing, while others can be connected to smart phone and portable laptop applications. These work in the same way by gathering data collected in the field, which is then transferred to a master certificate. “Where instrumentation offers the facility to store and download test data, it can dramatically reduce the time it takes to produce deliverable documentation, reduce errors from poor handwriting and increase the quality of the presented documentation to customers,” suggests Grant. Some test equipment manufacturers have gone one step further and built 17th edition certificates into the test equipment itself so that details can be recorded during the process. Data is automatically entered into the correct certificate fields as testing is undertaken and can be validated onsite without the need for repeat visits. An accurate certificate provides an invaluable breakdown as to how an electrical system is installed and will provide a valuable tool for work carried out at a later date. Conversely, > Seaward’s Supernova, complete with RCD tester

NICEIC Connections Winter 2010-11 31

15/12/10 15:40:46



‘A £50 multifunction tester is unlikely to come with the support, additional features and all-round quality that can be found with more expensive products’ “It is highly advisable to make sure this is done, especially when working in applications where the inaccuracy of a non-calibrated piece of test equipment could jeopardise the operator’s – and customer’s – safety.” Most manufacturers recommend that electrical contractors self-check their instruments between periods of full calibration. This ensures faults can be picked up quickly, reducing the risk of leaving an installation in a dangerous condition. However, a check box with full EN61557 test capability must be used, otherwise all the test parameters required by BS 7671 may not be verified. In the face of tougher competition, test equipment manufacturers are likely to continue to differentiate their products and introduce even more features and benefits. While this may make the decision of which bit of kit to go for even more difficult, it can only be good news for electrical contractors in the long run. > Rob Shepherd is a freelance journalist, specialising in the electrical industry

> CASE STUDY: > Fluke’s 1650B series installation tester

an inaccurate or false certificate can cause confusion and possibly danger.

Grand designs Modern test instruments have been designed with ease of use in mind and features that were once only found on premium products – such as backlit displays that are easy to read under any conditions, clearly marked buttons and non-slip materials – are now common. That said, accidents happen and test instruments do get dropped, hit and battered. Robust construction is another major benefit of modern designs and it is important to choose a sturdy product. Depending on the type of work carried out, an ingress protection rating – usually IP54 – is also useful, because it confirms that the product will be unaffected by water sprayed from all directions, including exposure to rain. In order to ensure optimal performance and product longevity, test instruments must be regularly calibrated. “Most manufacturers specify regular maintenance and recalibration at least every 12 months,” says Tony Kumeta, general manager UK and export at Ideal Industries. “Calibration ensures the accuracy of test equipment and should be part of any contractor’s quality procedure. The process usually involves sending the equipment away to a laboratory.

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WHAT ONE FIRM LOOKS FOR IN ITS TEST EQUIPMENT Eione Bucknell, testing and inspection manager for Graham Barber Electrical Services in Ely, Cambridgeshire, admits weighing up the benefits of testing appliances can be a daunting task. “We need our test equipment to be reliable,” she says. “Our test instruments are used on a daily basis and if an item is out of use it can cause problems. “Value for money is also important, but you have to balance price with quality.” Features that can help make life easier are always welcome. “An auto-test feature is a good example, as having this means we don’t have to keep going backwards and forwards to a consumer unit when the tester trips an RCD,” she says. Graham Barber Electrical Services, which uses a combination of testers from Megger and Fluke, carries out in-house calibration every quarter and also sends the products back to the manufacturer to be serviced and calibrated every year, says Bucknell. Customers are also more aware of the need for regular testing, she adds, to ensure they have all the necessary certification and to comply with the Electricity at Work Regulations.

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Skilled labour Continuous professional development can help individuals and companies stay ahead of their competitors, says Darren Staniforth Further information on NICEIC’s training provision can be found at www.niceic. com/training or 0870 013 0389


PD is vital for individuals looking to enhance their skills or improve their CV. For those responsible for the business activities of their organisation it can help to ensure the workforce has the understanding and skills they need to do their job. Within the electrotechnical industry, CPD usually consists of a City & Guilds 17th edition update. However, it can also include learning a new skill rather than just updating existing ones. Extra skills make individuals and organisations stand out from the crowd. That’s why NICEIC Training has increased its current offering of CDP courses to cover other areas that support the electrical contracting industry. CPD has always played a big part in a professional’s career. It allows them to keep up to date with developments and stay ahead of competitors. In this current economic climate the need to have an edge on rivals is more important than ever. That’s why many electrical contractors have decided to return to the classroom and complete a short course that will allow them to diversify and grow their business in a new direction, or to refresh their understanding of skills they developed some time ago. Others that have decided not to update their

‘By completing a nationally recognised CPD event or course on the first amendment to BS 7671:2008, contractors will have a much better understanding of what is required to comply with the latest standard’


knowledge run the risk of being left behind in a rapidly changing industry. The announcement that BS 7671 will soon have its first amendment will find many asking themselves whether it is now worth going back to do another course. By completing a nationally recognised CPD event or course on the first amendment to BS 7671:2008, contractors will have a much better understanding of what is required to comply with the latest standard. The alternative is to attempt to interpret the requirements on your own and run the risk of not fully complying with BS 7671.

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NICEIC Training is working hard to ensure it meets the needs of its contractors by offering local CPD courses or events throughout 2011. The majority of these course and events are already available via NICEIC Training. We believe CPD should be considered by every person within the electrotechnical industry, and that’s why we aim to make our courses and events as accessible as possible. With the development of NICEIC’s new virtual learning environment (VLE) there is no need to take time out of the working week to ensure you or your staff stay up to date. The VLE allows you to learn at your convenience and at a time to suit you. It is now possible to complete a three-day City & Guilds 2382 course online, without having to set foot in a classroom. It has proved a very popular way of learning for many of our contractors who simply don’t have time to attend a learning centre or take days off work. In fact, it has been so successful that NICEIC is now committed to rolling out many of its other courses in this way. To view the CPD courses currently on offer from NICEIC and for more information on NICEIC Training visit Darren Staniforth is technical development manager at NICEIC

15/12/10 15:41:30



A wealth of experience NICEIC’s area engineers are the public face of the organisation for many contractors, who rely on them for their practical advice and depth of knowledge built up over years in the industry


t its headquarters in Dunstable, NICEIC employs around 100 electrotechnical support staff ensuring its contractors get the best service possible. It is a large team involved in all aspects of work from technical support and customer liaison to marketing and finance. However, there is another large band of NICEIC employees, not based at Dunstable, who play an equally important role ensuring standards are upheld and maintained. Area engineers are often the public face of NICEIC. They are responsible for assessing the competencies and resources of businesses, enterprises and conforming bodies that are registered, or wish to be registered, with the NICEIC Approved Contractor and/or Domestic Installer scheme, and ensure compliance with the NICEIC rules of enrolment. Working from home, an area engineer will typically spend most of his or her time “at the coalface”, assessing existing contractors and new applicants. They will make

‘Area engineers are responsible for assessing the competencies and resources of businesses, enterprises and conforming bodies that are registered, or wish to be registered, with NICEIC’



Pete Angel has operated as area engineer for the North Staffordshire and mid-Cheshire region for the past 10 years. Before joining NICEIC in 2001, he had worked his way up from an apprentice to qualified electrician at a Northwich-based, NICEIC-registered contractor and later worked as a test engineer and qualified supervisor at another local firm, also NICEIC registered. Angel believes contractors appreciate the fact that he has worked in the industry, saying it helps to put them at ease. “You’re not just preaching regulations from a textbook but trying to relate it to your practical experience,” he says. “If they’re struggling to understand how to apply something practically perhaps

p37 area engineer.2.indd 40

recommendations concerning approval, continued registration, charging, evidence requirements, deferment or rejection, and compile all documentation required by documented procedures and forward these to the operations team. But that’s not all they do. Area engineers will also help out at the various TechTalks, landlords’ meetings and specifier visits arranged by NICEIC. On a day when they have a cancelled visit they can’t fill, they may also give assistance to the technical helpline, either by directly answering enquiries or dealing with technical emails that have come in. They will also respond to any technical and related enquiries from Approved Contractors, local authorities and others about the implementation of BS 7671 and related codes of practice. NICEIC currently employs a team of 72 area engineers across the UK. All engineers have had a wide experience over many years in the electrical contracting industry. Most have served a formal apprenticeship and worked on the tools before progressing to management positions such as qualified supervisors or principal engineers. Others have run their own electrical company. They are highly qualified, generally to HNC level or equivalent, many have degrees and some have chartered engineer status. Many area engineers have a background in lecturing; running or teaching on various electrical installation courses.

I can give guidance, within the remit that we’re allowed to, on another way of complying.” Over the years area engineers can build up strong professional relationships with individuals and businesses, he adds. “People are naturally going to be apprehensive because it’s an assessment with a very important outcome for them, but it’s definitely respected if you come across as firm but fair,” he says. In cases where contractors are sole traders the job often involves visiting people in their house and meeting their family. “In some cases I’ve known them long enough to see them when their baby has just been born and then watch them progress through primary to secondary school,” he says.

NICEIC Connections Winter 2010-11 37

15/12/10 15:42:08



‘An electrician come good’ When Keith Darlington began working for himself in 1989 his ambitions stretched no further than to make a living. Over two decades later, those aspirations have been more than met By Nick Martindale


ust a few minutes off the M56 motorway, in the shadow of the main rail route between London and Liverpool, stands the operational hub of KDE Ltd. Based in Sutton Weaver – some two miles from Frodsham – the office overlooks the glorious Cheshire countryside and, more significantly, provides easy access to a range of locations, which has come in useful as the economic downturn bites. As well as domestic work, the business relies on contracts with local authorities, and currently boasts framework agreements with Flintshire County Council, Denbighshire County Council and Wrexham County Borough Council. When Connections arrived to meet the team, news of another successful tender – this time from Cheshire East Council – had landed on the desk earlier that day. The main focus is the north-west and North Wales, says company founder Keith Darlington. “We travel as far as Leeds, Manchester, Bolton, Stoke and Preston, and we regularly work in Blackpool, Ormskirk and Southport,” he says. “We get around, but I prefer to keep it local.” The office itself is something of a new concept. “I’d always been based at home, but around six years ago there was a complaint about the amount of activity relating to the running of the business,” says Keith. “We were driving past here one day and saw a sign go up so we had a look. It was run down and hadn’t been occupied for about four or five years. I rang up that day and made an offer and bought the place.”


Branching out Keith first set up on his own in 1989, having seen for himself the potential of the market while working for another contractor. “I had several contacts myself and thought I’d have a go,” he recalls. “It was a big risk at the time with a young family and a mortgage, but I took the plunge.” The initial focus was the domestic market, but gradually the business moved more into the commercial sector, with schools and local authorities proving a stable base. Within a year Keith

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had employed Martin Wainwright as an apprentice electrician, with Mark Abbiss following shortly afterwards. Both remain with the business today; Martin as qualifying supervisor and Mark as contracts manager. “Initially the vision wasn’t any bigger than to work for myself, but that quickly changed,” recalls Keith. “Within 18 months or two years we were up to six or seven staff. I was very hands-on back then. I still miss the practical side; I’m a practical guy – I’m an electrician come good really. I was very much hands-on until about six years ago.” As well as Keith, the business currently employs 31 staff, ranging from his 18-year-old son Matthew – who joined as an apprentice in 2009 – to septuagenarians Ron Sayle and Geoff Noden, who share a full working week between them. A particular speciality is the installation of fire alarms and emergency lighting. “We first got into the fire alarm side of things when the local authority decided to upgrade fire alarms in schools,” recalls Keith. “They had an allocated budget and have had for the past four or five years now. Even last year we were the main contractor for seven establishments.” He admits, however, that the business could be affected by the public sector spending cuts and that it has already been hit

15/12/10 12:31:52

> Keith Darlington and his apprentice son Matthew (main picture) and with other team members (below)

‘The past 12 to 18 months have been the first time for the last 21 years that we‘ve felt we’ve been affected by a recession’ by the split of Cheshire County Council into Cheshire East and Cheshire West, which has seen budgets reduced. “There’s still work there but it’s much more difficult now to keep in the loop,” says Keith. “Jobs are advertised on a portal and we get notification of that but everyone is after that work now. A few years ago you were one of three or four. Now there are numerous companies registering for each contract. The past 12 months have been the first time for the last 21 years that we have felt as if we’ve been affected by a recession.” The company’s plumbing and heating operation – which prompted the business to change its name from Keith Darlington Electrical in 2006 – has also helped, says Keith, both by bringing in extra income in its own right and also in helping to win more electrical business. This side of the business now has four members of staff, with two heating engineers, an apprentice and a trainee. “We’re sticking predominantly with the domestic and small works side,” says Keith. “There’s plenty of work there and I feel in control of that.” Turnover dropped by £100,000 to £1.9 million in the year ending June 2010, says Keith, although he expects it to pick up again this year. “We’ve been much more cautious with pricing, we’re not keeping as much stock and are monitoring what staff are buying and where they’re buying it from,” he says. The business has remained the same size throughout the recession, says Keith, and staff have also been

p38-39 contractor profile.3.indd Sec1:39

accommodating, agreeing to alter their working days to enable the business to take on work in schools at weekends rather than waiting for holiday periods, for example.

Staying focused These days, the company tends to focus on smaller jobs of about £30,000, says Keith. “I used to get a buzz out of the larger jobs,” he says. “Now I don’t. The bigger jobs have been ruined by the main contractors and the quantity surveyors. The smaller ones and those direct with the schools or councils are more rewarding, more profitable and we’re in control of them.” As well as Matthew, who already spends time on the management side as part of his apprenticeship, Keith has another son – Lloyd – who is currently training to be a chartered accountant and who Keith says “shows a strong interest in our accounts”. But, while he concedes it would be nice to take more of a back seat in a few years’ time, Keith is not about to relinquish control to the next generation just yet. “I’m in reasonably good health and I still get a buzz out of work,” he says. “The ownership of the company will remain where it is for the very foreseeable future.” > If you would like your company to be considered for a profile in Connections, please email

NICEIC Connections Winter 2010-11 39

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NIC. 52

14/12/10 11:26:54


Correct certification NICEIC’s customer relations team helps contractors resolve any installation issues. Here, Philip Sanders looks at why electrical installation certification is about much more than just paperwork



he fundamental reason for inspecting and testing an electrical installation is to determine that it is safe to be put into service. Even the most experienced electrical engineers and electricians can make the occasional mistake when carrying out electrical installation work. This is why every new electrical installation, including alterations and additions, must be thoroughly inspected and tested, and any defects or omissions found made good, before the installation is put into service. Correctly compiled electrical installation and minor electrical installation works certificates provide the person responsible for the safety of the electrical installation with an important record of the condition of the installation at the time it was inspected. The requirement of BS 7671 to inspect and test every installation during erection, as well as on completion, and to prepare a certificate after verifying that the requirements have been met is often overlooked. One suggested method to satisfy this requirement would be to record the results of the inspection and testing performed during the erection phase on “draft” schedules. On completion of the work, the results from these schedules can then be used to compile the relevant certification, to be verified by the qualified supervisor, before being issued to the person who ordered the work. An additional benefit of this practice is that if at any point the installation work is stopped for reasons beyond the control of the contractor, for example due to a contractual dispute, these schedules can be used to compile a certificate to be issued for the work completed up to that point, confirming that it has been verified as safe and compliant. This certificate should be based on the models given in appendix six of BS 7671, clearly describing and recording the extent of the installation and the limitations due to the work being incomplete. Certification is not intended to be issued to confirm the completion of a contract and it should never be withheld for contractual reasons. In the event of injury or fire alleged to have been caused by an electrical installation, certification will be the only documentary evidence that will help demonstrate that it had been installed to the required standard of safety.

p41 customer relations.3.indd 17

A NICEIC certificate may only be issued by the approved enterprise responsible for the installation. An approved enterprise must never issue a certificate to cover another contractor’s work. It always remains the responsibility of the qualified supervisor to ensure any information provided is factual and that the installation is safe for use. NICEIC produces branded certificates which are summarised below: • The NICEIC electrical installation certificate may only be issued by an Approved Contractor responsible for new installation work, including alterations and additions to existing installations; • The NICEIC minor electrical installation works certificate may only be issued by an Approved Contractor responsible for an addition or an alteration to a single circuit that does not extend to the provision of a new circuit;

‘The fundamental reason for inspecting and testing an electrical installation is to determine that it is safe to be put into service’ • The NICEIC domestic electrical installation certificate* may only be issued by an Approved Contractor or Domestic Installer for new installation work, including alterations and additions to existing installations, in a single dwelling (house or individual flat); • The NICEIC domestic minor electrical installation works certificate* may only be issued by an Approved Contractor or Domestic Installer responsible for an addition or an alteration to a single circuit that does not extend to the provision of a new circuit, in a single dwelling (house or individual flat). * It is important to remember that there is an additional certification requirement for all domestic electrical installation work in England and Wales, including rewires, new circuits and most minor work. These must be notified (Part P) and a Building Regulation compliance certificate issued to the occupant within 30 days. For more guidance, see NICEIC Pocket Guide 8, ‘Part P – Notifiable or Not?’ available to download at

Philip Sanders is NICEIC’s customer relations engineer

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case study

Software saviour With more than 750,000 customers, British Gas Business (formerly Connaught Compliance Electrical Services) is the UK’s leading provider of energy supply and services. It relies on NICEIC certification software to provide customers with an efficient service By Lee Willis


e have been NICEIC Approved Contractors for many years, carrying out electrical installations, inspection and testing, remedial works, process control and copper and fibre data installations. We carry out work for customers such as Nestlé UK, Howden’s Joinery, McCain Foods and Yorkshire Water, and have more than 230 staff, consisting of office-based and site staff. Due to the huge amount of certificates we issue, we needed a solution that would allow us to reduce turnaround times from receiving handwritten results from our onsite engineers to issuing our clients with their certificates, either by email or posting them on a website. We’d been having a few issues with the software we were already using for our NICEIC certificates and one afternoon a flyer for NICEIC certification software landed on my desk so I decided to look into it. I had a play around with the free trial and decided to order a copy. A quick call to NICEIC sales and two days later I received my software. We’ve now got six licences for the software and we use it on desktops in the office and laptops out on sites. Our existing knowledge of filling out NICEIC certificates made using the software really easy and I found it much easier to use than the previous package we had. Some of the features – such as electronic signatures – allow us to have paperless certificates, making our job much simpler. The main benefit to us is that there are no more wasted certificates or time when printing errors occur; we simply reprint. We no longer have to file away and record damaged certificates because the certificates still have a serial number on them; our company chooses to shred any damaged or misprinted certificates. By doing this, we are still fulfilling the requirements of the NICEIC by protecting the misuse of certificates and serial numbers. The second major benefit is that an electronic PDF version of the certificate can be created from within the software, allowing the user to issue paperless certificates if required. Since first using the software we’ve only had one problem, which was that the new verification feature was issuing warnings on our certificates. I contacted technical support who realised that the rules in the verification system were wrong. This was sorted within a week and an update released.

42 Winter 2010-11 NICEIC Connections

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‘The main benefit to us is that there are no more wasted certificates or time when printing errors occur. If this happens, we simply have to reprint’ I’ve also seen the software improve month on month due to the invaluable updates we regularly receive. From my experience the team at Clik is really helpful. I’m pleased with the response I get from the support team and I’m told that they are thankful for any ideas we’ve put forward for implementation into the software. I have thought of another couple of ideas that may improve the software and speed up certificate processing, and I look forward to speaking with Clik to see if these could be incorporated into the software. • For more information call NICEIC on 0870 013 0458 or for technical queries contact Clik on 0117 902 2012 > Lee Willis is an engineer at British Gas Business

15/12/10 12:32:35

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NIC. 52

14/12/10 11:22:38


From the helpline We continue with our series of answers to some of the more frequently asked questions put to the NICEIC Technical Helpline.



How can I find the maximum permitted earth fault loop impedance value for an overcurrent protective device where this is not given in the Tables 41.2 to 41.4 of BS 7671?

The following formula, given in Appendix 3 of BS 7671, can be used where the maximum permitted values of earth fault loop impedance for an overcurrent protective device are not given in Tables 41.2 to 41.4 of BS 7671, such as for BS 88 fuses rated at more than 200 A. U0 Zs = –– Ia Where: Zs is the maximum permitted value of earth fault loop impedance U0 is the nominal a.c. rms line voltage to Earth Ia is the current causing operation of the protective device within the disconnection time required by BS 7671 for the circuit concerned. The value of Ia should be obtained from the time/current characteristics published by the manufacturer of the device, or by consulting the manufacturer for this value. Example Find the maximum permitted value of earth fault loop impedance value (Zs) for a 400 A HBC fuse to BS 88-2.1 for a disconnection times of 5 s at a nominal voltage to Earth (U0) of 230 V, if the corresponding value of Ia given by the manufacturer’s time/current characteristic is 2840 A. U0 Zs = –– Ia Therefore

230 Zs = ––––– = 0.08 Ω 2840



An existing plateswitch in an installation wired before 2004 requires replacement. A flat twin-and-earth cable is used as the switch-drop cable, and the conductors connecting to the switch are red, black over-sleeved with red, and a circuit protective conductor over-sleeved with green-and-yellow. Is it a requirement to change the identification of the live conductors to brown when I change this accessory and, if so, is it necessary to install a warning notice at the consumer unit?

No. Replacing an existing accessory is maintenance work. There is no need to change the cable colour identification when replacing the switch, and no need to provide a warning notice (unless other alterations or additions are made to the installation, involving the use of cables identified with the harmonised cable colours).

p45-46 ask the experts.2.indd Sec3:45

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In a commercial kitchen, is there a requirement to provide supplementary bonding connections to or between sink units, steelwork surfaces, movable steel tables and steel racking? Also, could main bonding be required to these items?

There is no specific requirement in BS 7671 to provide supplementary bonding within the commercial kitchen environment, as a kitchen is not considered by Part 7 of BS 7671 as being a location of increased shock risk. Main bonding in accordance with Regulation 411.3.1.2 is not usually required to sink units, steelwork surfaces, movable steel tables and steel racking, as they are not generally considered to be extraneous-conductive-parts in their own right. However, main bonding would be required to any metallic pipework or ductwork system that goes outdoors and consequently introduces Earth potential into the kitchen. Like an incoming metallic service, such a system should be main bonded as near as practicable to its point of entry into the premises (Regulation 544.1.2 refers).



I’m carrying out an installation in a house right next door to the electricity supply substation, and the prospective fault current at the origin of the installation is 8 kA. Does this mean that the fuses or circuit-breakers in the consumer unit have to have a rated short-circuit breaking capacity of at least 8 kA?

Not necessarily. A fault current protective device must usually be chosen so that its breaking capacity rating is not less than the prospective fault current at the point where the device is installed, unless back-up protection is provided by another device, meeting specified requirements (Regulation 434.5.1 refers). However, fuses or circuit-breakers incorporated into a consumer unit are considered adequate for 16 kA prospective fault current, if the consumer unit: i) complies with Part 3 of BS EN 60439: 1991 (Annex ZA of Corrigendum June 2006), and ii) is fed by a single-phase supply, the service cut-out having an HBC fuse to BS 1361: 1971 Type II (now replaced by BS 88-3: 2007), rated at not more than 100 A. If conditions i) and ii) above are met, the fuses or circuit-breakers in the consumer unit need not have a rated short-circuit breaking capacity at least as great as the prospective fault current at the point where they are installed (8 kA in the case of this question).



Does BS 7671 require existing rewireable (semi-enclosed) fuses complying with BS 3036 to be replaced with circuit-breakers or cartridge fuses?

No. BS 7671 does not preclude the use of rewireable fuses complying with BS 3036. These may still be used, both for existing and new installations (although, Regulation 533.1.1.3 expresses a preference for a cartridge fuse, where a fuse is to be used).



How close to a kitchen sink can I install a socket-outlet?

BS 7671 does not specify a minimum distance between a sink and a socket-outlet. However, Regulation 512.2.1 requires due account should be taken of external influences. For domestic premises, as a ‘rule of thumb’ to avoid the effects of splashing, BS 1363 socket-outlets should be installed an absolute minimum of 300 mm away from the sink, but ideally not less than 1000 mm away. For commercial premises, the same principle applies. However, due to any increased risk of splashing, the designer may consider it appropriate to require BS EN 60309 socket-outlets having a degree of protection of IPX4 or IPX5, as appropriate.


46 Winter 2010-11 NICEIC Connections

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Earthing for the installation of equipment having high protective conductor currents 48-50 How RCDs work




Loop impedance test instruments – how they work 54-55 snags and solutions: A practical guide to everyday electrical problems 56-57 Additions to installations using existing trunking 59-60 Main protective bonding


Earthing for the installation of equipment having high protective conductor currents This article gives information further to the article on pages 59 and 60 of the previous issue of Connections. That article explained how some types of equipment can cause protective conductor currents in final circuits and distribution circuits, and how these currents can be a hazard to users of the installation in certain circumstances.


egulation Group 543.7 of BS 7671 gives requirements for protective earthing for the installation of equipment having high protective conductor currents. The requirements apply where the protective conductor current in the installation exceeds 3.5 mA. For equipment having a protective conductor current of more than 3.5 mA but not more than 10 mA, the requirements concern only the connection between the equipment and the fixed wiring of the installation. Where the protective conductor current exceeds 10 mA, the requirements are extensive.

• permanently connected to the fixed wiring of the installation without the use of a plug and socket-outlet, or •connected to the fixed wiring by means of a BS EN 60309-2 plug and socket-outlet (see Fig 1 for plug).

Fig 1 – BS EN 60309-2 plug

1 Connection of an item of equipment having a protective conductor current exceeding 3.5 mA but not exceeding 10 mA in normal use Regulation 543.7.1.1 requires such equipment to be either:

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2 Circuits with a protective conductor current exceeding 10 mA in normal use 2.1 Connection of an item of equipment with protective conductor current exceeding 10 mA Regulation 543.7.1.2 requires one of the methods, (i), (ii) and (iii), described below, to be used when connecting an item of equipment having a protective conductor current of more than 10 mA to the supply. Methods (i) and (ii) are intended to make the circuit protective conductor (cpc) highly reliable. Method (iii) provides for disconnection of the supply if there is a continuity fault in the cpc. (i) Permanent connection to the wiring of the installation, with a cpc selected in accordance with Regulation 543.7.1.3. This means that the cpc must be provided by one or more of methods (i), (ii) and (iii) in item 2.2 of this article. (ii) A flexible cable with a BS EN 60309-2 plug and socket, provided that either: (a) the cpc in the associated flexible cable has a cross-sectional area (csa) not less than 2.5 mm2 for plugs rated at 16 A, and not less than 4 mm2 for plugs rated above 16 A, or (b) the cpc of the associated flexible cable is of a csa not less than that of the line conductor. (iii) A cpc with an earth monitoring system to BS 4444 installed so that the supply is automatically disconnected in the event of a continuity fault in the cpc. No particular requirements (such as for the csa) apply to the cpc itself, beyond the requirements of Section 543 of BS 7671, which apply to all cpcs. 2.2 Circuits supplying one or more items of equipment with total protective conductor current exceeding 10 mA Regulation 543.7.1.3 requires a high integrity protective conductor connection for every final circuit and distribution circuit intended to supply one or more items of equipment such that the total protective conductor current is likely to exceed 10 mA. The connection must be provided by one of the methods, (i), (ii) or (iii), described below, or by one of two

p48-50 installation.3.indd Sec2:49

Fig 2 – Example of use of cpc not less than 4 mm2 mechanically protected by flexible conduit

other methods, (iv) and (v), also mentioned below. (i) A single cpc having a csa of not less than 10 mm2 (either of copper or some other metal, such as the steel armouring of a cable), complying with Regulations 543.2 and 543.3. Although this method may be appropriate for a distribution circuit, it can be impracticable for a final circuit due to problems with terminating the cpc. (ii) A single copper cpc with a csa not less than 4 mm2, complying with Section 543, enclosed to provide additional mechanical protection, such as by flexible conduit (see Fig 2).

(iii) Two individual cpcs, each complying with Section 543. The conductors may be in the same cable or in separate cables, or be of different types (such as a cpc enclosed in metal conduit that is also used as a cpc; or a core of multicore cable that incorporates a metallic sheath, armour or wire braid screen which is also used as a cpc (see Fig 3)). Where the two individual cpcs are both incorporated in a multicore cable, the total csa of all the conductors in the cable, including the live conductors, must be not

Fig 3 – Example of the use of two cpcs in a multicore cable (a core and the armour) Main Earthing Terminal

Armoured cable

Earthing conductor

Means of earthing

Fixed equipment, permanently connected, with a protective conductor current exceeding 10 mA

NICEIC Connections Winter 2010-11 49

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less than 10 mm2. This is to protect against the continuity of both cpcs being lost due to mechanical damage to the cable. Methods (iv) and (iv), which are not covered in this article, are an earth monitoring system to BS 4444, and an electrically separated supply source, such as a double-wound transformer or a motor generator set, together with protective conductors meeting requirements specified in Regulation 543.7.1.3. Whichever method is used for complying with Regulation 543.7.1.3, all relevant requirements given in Section 543 for protective conductors must be complied with. 2.3 Termination of protective conductors Regulation 543.7.1.4 contains an additional requirement for terminating the cpcs in a circuit that uses two individual cpcs in accordance with method (iii) of Regulation 543.7.1.3, referred to in item 2.2. The requirement is that, throughout the circuit, at all connection points where two protective conductors are terminated, the ends of the protective conductors are terminated independently of each other. That is to say, each protective conductor is terminated in a separate terminal. For example, to comply with this requirement, accessories must have two separate earth terminals, as shown by Fig 4. The requirement to terminate the protective conductors independently also applies at the earthing bar in the distribution board (see Fig 5 and Fig 6).

Fig 4 – Socket-outlet with two separate earth terminals

2.4 Circuit arrangements for supplying socket-outlets For a final circuit supplying two or more socket-outlets or connection units where it is known or can reasonably be expected that the total protective conductor current is likely to exceed 10 mA, Regulation 543.7.2.1 requires the cpc to meet the requirements of Regulation 543.7.1 (see methods (i), (ii) and (iii) in item 2.2 of this article). Regulation 543.7.2.1 suggests the use of one of the following arrangements for the socket-outlet circuit. (i) A ring final circuit with a ring cpc (see Fig 5). Spurs, if provided, require high integrity protective conductors complying with the requirements of Regulation 543.7.1. (ii) A radial circuit with a cpc provided by one of three methods a, b and c, described below. a. cpc in the form of a ring (see Fig 6).

Fig 5 – Ring final circuit with a ring cpc

b. A separate cpc provided at the final socket-outlet by connection to metal conduit or trunking. c. Where two or more similar radial circuits supply socket-outlets in adjacent areas and are fed from the same distribution board, have identical means of short-circuit and overcurrent protection, and cpcs of the same csa, then a second cpc may be provided at the final socket-outlet on one circuit by connection to the cpc of the adjacent circuit. Regulation 543.7.2.1 also allows the use of other circuits complying with 543.7.1. 3 Additional information to be provided at the distribution board At the distribution board, Regulation 543.7.1.5 requires information to be provided that indicates those circuits that have a high protective conductor current (see Fig 7). The information must be in a position visible to a person modifying or extending the circuits. Fig 7 – Warning notice to be displayed at the distribution board supplying circuits with high protective conductor currents

Fig 6 – Radial final circuit with cpc in the form of a ring

Earthing bar Earthing bar

Ring final circuit supplying equipment with high protective conductor currents with ends of each section of protective conductor separately terminated

Cpc of distribution circuit

Cpc of distribution circuit

50 Winter 2010-11 NICEIC Connections

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How RCDs work The article on pages 54-55 of this issue of Connections looks at how loop impedance test instruments work and how some types can limit the incidence of unwanted operation of RCDs during earth fault loop impedance testing.


o aid the understanding of this subject, we firstly look at how RCDs work. Basic operating principle As shown in Fig 1, a single-phase RCD consists of a laminated toroidal core around which the line and neutral current coils (A and B) and a search coil feeding into a trip relay (1) are wound. As long as the currents in the line and neutral coils are balanced, as is the case under normal operating conditions in the circuit, the RCD contacts will remain closed. However, if an imbalance (residual current) exceeding half the rated residual operating current, IΔn, of the RCD occurs, the RCD is liable to operate. If the residual current is equal to or greater than IΔn, the RCD is required by its product standard to operate. The basic operating principle of a three-phase RCD is similar to that of a single-phase RCD but

there are three line coils instead of one. Operating constructions for RCDs Two operating constructions – voltage independent and voltage dependent – are employed to ‘process’ the signal detected by the sensing coil and hence cause operation of the RCD. Both are summarised below. Voltage independent RCDs In a voltage independent RCD, energy from the residual current detected in the search coil is used directly to cause operation of the tripping mechanism. Fig 2 shows a typical voltage independent RCD of the polarised type. In this design, the permanent magnet (5) normally holds the trip arm (1) closed against the spring (2). When the search coil (7) carries current, as is the case when the line and neutral currents are imbalanced, the resulting magnetic flux produced

Fig 1 – Basic RCD arrangement


by the shunt trip coil (4) is used to nullify a weak magnetic field from the permanent magnet (5). When the search coil current is proportional to a residual current of IΔn (or possibly as low as half IΔn) or more, the armature (3) will be released, thereby operating the tripping mechanism (not shown) and opening of the RCD contacts. Voltage dependent RCDs With reference to Fig 3: • residual current in the search coil passes into an electronic amplifier (3) • the output from the amplifier passes into the trip relay (1), which is used to cause operation of the RCD, opening its contacts when the value of residual current is IΔn (or possibly as low as half IΔn) or more. The term ‘voltage dependent RCD’ should not be confused with ‘voltage-operated earth-leakage circuit-breaker’ (VOELCB). A VOELCB is an old type of earth leakage protection device which is not an RCD at all, the use of which has not been recognised by the IEE Wiring Regulations since January 1985. Summary • An RCD is a current balance device. If the out of balance (or residual) current between the line and neutral conductors of the circuit exceeds a certain value, the RCD should trip. • There are two types of RCD, according to the operating construction employed used to ‘process’ the signal detected by the sensing coil: voltage independent and voltage dependent. Fig 3 – Voltage dependent RCD

Fig 2 – Voltage independent RCD 1







Coil Coil








Electrical equipment such as Class I heater



4 3




N =


E =


2 =



Circuit protective conductor (cpc)


N L =


Trip Relay

N =


Earth fault

Earth Resistor in test circuit

L =


1 =

Trip arm

6 =

Line coil

E =

N =


2 =

Throw off spring

7 =

Search coil

R =

E =


3 =


8 =

Magnetic core

4 =

Shunt trip coil

9 =

Neutral coil

5 =

Permanent magnet

Flux from coil

p53 RCD loop.1.indd Sec2:53



Flux from magnet



Circuit protective conductor (cpc)

1 =



Ip = Line current In = Neutral current If = Earth fault current

Ip 4






l =




Ip = Line current In = Neutral current If = Earth fault current

1 =

Trip relay

2 =

Earth Fault

3 =


4 =

Test push button

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relatively high degree of accuracy is required. However, their use on an RCD-protected circuit is highly likely to cause an RCD to operate.

Loop impedance test instruments – how they work In this article we look at how loop impedance test instruments work and the various approaches adopted by the test instrument manufacturers over the years to limit the incidence of unwanted operation of RCDs when earth fault loop impedance testing is being carried out. To help understand this article, readers might find it useful to read the article on page 53 about how RCDs work. Conventional high current loop testing Conventional loop impedance testing is carried out by means of the test instrument drawing a current of up to 25A. The current is drawn between either line and earth (when measuring the line-earth fault loop impedance) or line and neutral (when measuring the line-neutral fault loop impedance). The test instrument measures the voltage both prior and during the test, and then calculates the loop impedance for the circuit under test by dividing: • the difference between the pre-test and during-test voltages, by • the value of the test current.

High current loop testing allows a relatively accurate measurement of loop impedance to be made. In order to carry out a high current loop test, instruments require only two test leads to be applied to the circuit under test, as shown in Fig 1. Furthermore, such a test requires only a short period of time – typically around two half-cycles – for the necessary data gathering to take place. These features make high current loop impedance test instruments ‘user-friendly’. High current loop testing remains an acceptable (and preferred) method of testing of circuits where RCDs are not present and a

Fig 1 – Two-lead instrument being used to measure external earth fault loop impedance (Ze)

Loop testing d.c. coil saturation A number of instrument manufacturers have developed loop test instruments that inject a d.c. current that (typically) ramps up prior to the test, holds at a steady value during the test, and ramps down after the test. In the case of voltage independent type RCDs, this d.c. current effectively floods the magnetic core of the trip relay, increasing its magnetic field strength in one direction. Consequently, the alternating magnetic field resulting from any a.c. residual current does not weaken this increased magnetic field strength sufficiently to cause the RCD to operate. This method, although effective when used with voltage independent type RCDs, does not prevent the operation of voltage dependent type RCDs. It should also be noted that some electrical equipment manufacturers consider that RCDs subjected to a loop test involving d.c. coil saturation will not recover fully after such testing, thus remaining partially saturated in one direction such that their performance is corrupted. Low current testing In order not to trip an RCD during earth fault loop impedance testing, low current loop test instruments are designed so that the current drawn when testing between line and

Fig 2 – Three-lead instrument being used to measure external earth fault loop impedance (Ze)



kA A

kA A

Means of earthing

Means of earthing

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earth does not exceed half the rated residual operating current of the RCD. As the use of RCDs of rated residual operating current lower than 30 mA is rare in electrical installations, most (if not all) manufacturers of low current loop test instruments have adopted a nominal low test current of 15 mA for their test instruments. The use of such a low test current introduces a number of significant technical difficulties for instrument manufacturers. The loop values displayed on the instrument are the result of multiple measurements, subjected to significant processing using complex, time consuming mathematical algorithms. Consequently, a typical test can take around ten seconds to perform – significantly longer than required to perform a high current test. Furthermore, the measurement accuracy can be adversely affected by factors such as harmonics and mains-borne noise. Where this is the case, many low current loop test instruments will extend the test period still further to try to obtain an acceptably accurate result. This extended test period is unpopular with persons carrying out the testing. Hybrid loop testing In order to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of low current loop tests, a number of instrument manufacturers have introduced ‘hybrid’ test instruments. These perform a conventional high current test between line and neutral, and a low current test between line and earth. This combination results in reduced error and greater reliability of measurement. However, such test instruments have the drawback of requiring the application of three test leads, as shown in Fig 2. Accuracy In a future issue of Connections, we will consider the degrees of accuracy typically achievable when carrying out measurements of earth fault loop impedance with test instruments employing the technologies discussed in this article. The significance of the results obtained in relation to the requirements of BS 7671 will also be considered.

p54-55 loop testing.2.indd Sec2:55

Meet the helpline If you have ever telephoned our technical helpline you may wonder who the voices are on the other end of the line. Well, meet the technical helpline team: all industry professionals with vast experience in the electrical industry and some interests outside of the day job too! Justin Maltby-Smith, NICEIC operations engineer Industry experience: Ran his own electrical company, lecturer, consultant/project manager Interests: Kung-Fu and kickboxing, black-belt instructor

Alan Turvey, NICEIC operations engineer Industry experience: Electrician, carrying out industrial, commercial, quarry and domestic installations, lecturer and deputy head of construction with further education college Interests: Walking, bonsai cultivation and restoration of classic bicycles Stuart McHugh, senior technical helpline engineer Industry experience: More than 41 years in the electrical industry, including a six-year apprenticeship, industrial commercial domestic and street-lighting work Interests: Vintage aircraft, motoring (owns an MGBGT sports car) Clinton Thompson, NICEIC operations engineer Industry experience: Electrician (domestic and industrial), electrical engineer (food industry, high-volume production and heavy press industry), college tutor, training centre tutor Interests: Classic cars and bikes (owns a Royal Enfield Bullet), music (plays guitar in a small group) Derek Cooney, NICEIC operations engineer Industry experience: Time served electrician, commercial and industrial background and college lecturer Interests: Sports and cinema

John O’Neill, NICEIC operations engineer Industry experience: Owned and operated a large electrical systems integrator, electrical consultant, lecturer in electrical installations and NVQ assessor, experienced in a wide range of installation types and market sectors having spent more than 38 years in the electrical industry Interests: Sports, books and travel

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snags and solutions

A practical guide to everyday electrical problems ‘Snags and Solutions’, NICEIC’s problem solving book, is now available in three parts, which cover many commonly-encountered electrical installation problems. All parts take account of the requirements of BS 7671: 2008 (17th Edition of the IEE Wiring Regulations), where appropriate. Part 1 addresses 53 problems relating to earthing and bonding, Part 2 covers 55 snags and solutions problems relating to wiring systems, and Part 3 covers 52 problems relating to wiring systems inspection and testing. Each book is available from NICEIC Direct at £15. To give an indication of the snags and solutions value of these books, a snag and solution is being covered in each Part 3 issue of Connections. inspection This issue addresses and testing a snag from Part 2, relating to cables at a junction box. A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO EVERYDAY ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS

Part 2

2nd Edition

Cables at a junction box Circuit protective conductors should not be terminated outside a junction box.

Snag 17 Circuit protective conductors (cpcs) are not always terminated properly at accessories. Instances have been observed of protective conductors being terminated outside a junction box, as illustrated. The snag with this method of termination is that the protective conductors are more likely to suffer damage due to being unenclosed and unprotected. A damaged cpc or connection could result in failure of the circuit to disconnect under earth fault conditions leading to a risk of electric shock or fire. Solution In the example shown where eight cables are to be terminated, one



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(iii) An enclosure partially formed or completed with building material which is non-combustible when tested to BS 476-4. Regulation 526.9 Cores of sheathed cables from which the sheath has been removed and non-sheathed cables at the termination of conduit, ducting or trunking shall be enclosed as required by Regulation 526.5.

solution would be to employ two junction boxes. The cores of sheathed cables must be enclosed. Regulations 526.5 and 526.9 refer. Regulation 526.9 deals with the enclosure of the cores of cables from which the sheath has been removed and Regulation 526.5 gives details of the permitted types of enclosure. All the conductors of the cable must be taken into the junction box and terminated. In every installation which provides protection against electric shock by Automatic Disconnection of Supply the protective conductor must be terminated at each accessory as required by Regulation 411.3.1.1. A copper protective conductor of cross-sectional area less than: • 2.5 mm2 if protected against mechanical damage and • 4 mm2 if not protected against mechanical damage must be contained within an enclosure formed by a wiring system (Regulation 543.1.1 refers).

Regulation 526.5 Every termination and joint in a live conductor or a PEN conductor shall be made within one of the following or a combination thereof: (i) A suitable accessory complying with the appropriate product standard (ii) An equipment enclosure complying with the appropriate product standard

Regulation 543.1.1 (part of ) The cross-sectional area of every protective conductor, other than a protective bonding conductor, shall be: (i) calculated in accordance with Regulation 543.1.3, or (ii) selected in accordance with Regulation 543.1.4. If the protective conductor: (iii) is not an integral part of a cable, or (iv) is not formed by conduit, ducting or trunking, or (v) is not contained in an enclosure formed by a wiring system; the cross-sectional area shall not be less than 2.5 mm2 copper equivalent if protection against mechanical damage is provided, and 4 mm2 copper equivalent if mechanical protection is not provided. (See also Regulation 543.3.1).

Regulation 411.3.1.1 (part of ) A circuit protective conductor shall be run to and terminated at each point in wiring and at each accessory except a lampholder having no exposed-conductive-parts and suspended from such a point.

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20/12/10 09:31:21 12:29:14 16/12/10

Before using an existing trunking system for running additional circuits, it is essential for the designer of the new work to assess the suitability of that design option.


irst and foremost is the need to get the relevant design information about the existing installation, including the sizes and loadings of the existing cables, and their conditions of grouping. Grouping Grouping of loaded circuits concentrates the heat produced (I2R) by the current in the conductors, resulting in an increased temperature rise in them. This effect must be allowed for where intending to run extra circuits in existing trunking, as

grouping can dramatically increase the minimum size of conductor required for a particular load current. Account must be taken of all loaded circuits (existing and proposed new), except for any circuit expected to carry 30 % or less of its grouped current-carrying capacity (Regulation 523.5 refers). Group rating factors can be obtained from Appendix 4 of BS 7671 (see Table 4C1 or the formula in section However, these can be unduly conservative where the sustained current in the conductors is less than their

Fig 1 – A mixed group of cables in trunking (diagrammatically)


Additions to installations using existing trunking

grouped current-carrying capacity. A more precise rating factor for a group containing different sizes can be obtained using a calculation method specifically intended for this, such as that in ERA Report 89-0135. Ultimately, the requirement that has to be met (see Regulation 523.1) is that no conductor in the trunking shall reach a temperature exceeding the limit specified in Table 52.1 (such as 70oC for general-purpose PVC insulated cables) during normal operation. Where continuing compliance with this requirement cannot be assured if additional circuits were to be installed in existing trunking, an alternative design solution would need to be employed (such as installing an additional trunking system). Cables of different temperature ratings Where cables of different temperature ratings are enclosed in the same trunking, the lower or lowest rating must not be exceeded for any cable, existing or new (Regulation 523.5 refers). Physical capacity of trunking Before adding new circuits to an existing trunking system, the designer needs to establish that there is adequate space in the trunking to accommodate the additional cables, so as to avoid undue mechanical strain on either the existing and the additional cables. Appendix A of IEE Guidance Note 1, and Topic T113-3 of the ESC’s Essential Guide to the Wiring Regulations (accessible free of charge by NICEIC Approved Contractors and Domestic Installers), both suggest using a ‘Factor system’ to determine the minimum trunking size required for mixed cable sizes. Installation considerations Dangers of live parts in the trunking Fatal accidents have been caused by contact with exposed live parts when working on existing trunking. Where such work is to be performed, including the installation of additional cables, all conductors

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Fig 2 – Bolted copper link to assure continuity between sections of metallic trunking

durable electrical continuity and adequate mechanical strength and protection. Apart from the types listed in Regulation 526.5, all connections in live (line and neutral) conductors must be accessible for inspection, testing and maintenance. Replacement of lids After non-sheathed cables have been installed in trunking, all the trunking lids must be put back in place and securely fixed, to comply with Regulation 521.10.1.

in the trunking should be made dead. This will normally be achieved by a safe system of work which includes secure isolation of all conductors, which will subsequently be proved dead. Regulations 12, 13, 14 and 16 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 are likely to be relevant. Regulation 12 gives requirements for cutting off the supply and for isolation. Regulation 13 gives precautions to be taken for work on equipment that has been made dead. Regulation 14 deals with work on or near live conductors. Regulation 16 requires persons working on electrical systems to be competent to prevent danger. Also likely to be relevant is Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, which requires every employer and self-employed person to carry out an assessment of risks to health and safety, meeting the requirements set out in that regulation.

Earthing of metallic trunking If the trunking is of metal construction, it must be treated as an exposed-conductive-part and be properly earthed in accordance with Regulation 411.3.1.1. Care must be taken to provide reliable continuity and an adequate earth fault current path for all parts of the trunking system. This may necessitate the use of bolted copper links (see Fig 2). Mechanical stresses In complying with Regulation 522.8.1, relating to mechanical stresses, care must be taken when installing cables to minimise damage to the cable sheath (if any) and to the conductor insulation. Conductor connections There should preferably be no conductor connections within the trunking, but where this is unavoidable, connections should comply with Section 526 of BS 7671 (as required for any other connection) so that they provide

Fig 3 – Internal and external sealing (fire stopping) of trunking

Fire-stopping around exterior of wiring system Fire-stopping within trunking Cables inside trunking Steel trunking forming wiring system

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Precautions against spread of fire Where trunking passes through building elements such as floors, walls, roofs, ceilings, partitions or cavity barriers, it must be suitably internally sealed against the spread of fire, to the degree of fire resistance that the respective element provided before penetration by the trunking, as well as being suitably externally sealed (Regulations 527.2.4 and 527.2.1 refer), as shown in Fig 3. An exemption from being internally sealed is given for trunking classified as non-flame propagating in accordance with its product standard and having internal cross-sectional area less than 710 mm2, if conditions (i) and (ii) of Regulation 527.2.6 are met, which require a degree of protection of not less than IP33. Further guidance on minimising the spread of fire is given in Topic W45-1 of the ESC’s Essential Guide to the Wiring Regulations. Recording calculations Having taken the above considerations into account (which are by no means exhaustive), it is important to keep a record of the design calculations. Such a record would normally accompany (as ‘additional records’) the Electrical Installation Certificate submitted on completion to the person ordering the work. In the absence of such a record, it is unlikely that compliance could be claimed with Regulation 610.4, which requires it to be verified that the alteration or addition complies with the Regulations and does not impair the safety of the existing installation.

15/12/10 12:47:17

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Use with Wago pushwire and cage clamp terminals for solid core and flex cables with csa’s from 0.08mm2 to 6mm2

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NIC. 52

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Main protective bonding The majority of electrical installations in the United Kingdom use Automatic Disconnection of Supply (ADS) as the measure of protection against electric shock. In this article, we consider the requirements of BS 7671 for main protective bonding where ADS is used.


DS is a protective measure in which: • basic protection is provided by basic insulation of live parts or by barriers or enclosures, in accordance with Section 416 of BS 7671, and • fault protection is provided by protective earthing, protective equipotential bonding and automatic disconnection of supply in the event of a fault, in accordance with Regulation Groups 411.3 to 411.6. (Regulation 411.1. refers).

Purpose of main protective bonding In the event of an earth fault (a fault between a line conductor and an exposed-conductive-part or a protective conductor), dangerous voltages can occur between simultaneously accessible exposedconductive-parts and extraneousconductive-parts in the installation. The primary purpose of main protective bonding (‘main bonding’ for short) is to act together with the

Fig 1 – Typical main bonding connections (single building)

Note: A single main bonding conductor may connect to more than one item required to be bonded, provided the conductor is left unbroken where it loops in and out at items along the run.

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protective devices for automatic disconnection in the event of a fault (fuses, circuit-breakers or RCDs), in order to limit the magnitude and duration of the above voltages so that they will not cause danger. In particular, main bonding limits the magnitude of the voltages. General requirement to bond In each installation, main bonding conductors complying with Chapter 54 of BS 7671 are required to connect the extraneous-conductive-parts to the main earthing terminal (MET) in accordance with Regulation 411.3.1.2. Extraneous-conductive-parts are conductive parts liable to introduce a potential, generally Earth potential, and not forming part of the electrical installation. Regulation 411.3.1.2 lists the following examples of items that can be extraneous-conductive-parts. • Water installation pipes • Gas installation pipes • Other installation pipework and ducting • Central heating and air conditioning systems • Exposed metallic structural parts of the building Regulation 411.3.1.2 also requires that the connection of a lightning protection system to the main bonding shall be in accordance with BS EN 62305 – Protection against lightning. The regulation also requires main bonding conductors to be connected to any metallic sheath of a communications cable at the premises, provided that the consent of the owner or operator of the cable has been obtained. Fig 1 diagrammatically shows a typical arrangement of the main bonding connections for an installation covering a single building. A main bonding connection to a gas, water or other service must be made as near as practicable to the point of entry of that service into the premises, as required by Regulation 544.1.2. If there is an insulating section or insert at that point, or there is a meter, the connection must be made on the consumer’s hard metal pipework and before any branch pipework. Where

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Table 1: Minimum csa required for main bonding conductors, except where PME conditions apply Size required for the earthing Size required for copper main conductor bonding conductor mm2 mm2 10 6 16 10 25 16 ≤35 25


practicable the connection is to be made with 600 mm of the meter outlet or union or at the point of entry to the building if the meter is external. Sizing of main bonding conductors Except where PME conditions apply (as is usually the case in a TN-C-S system), Regulation 544.1.1 requires the main bonding conductors to have a cross-sectional area (csa) of not less than half that required for the earthing conductor of the installation and not less than 6 mm2. The csa need not exceed 25 mm2 for copper conductors or a csa affording equivalent conductance in other metals. These requirements are summarised in Table 1 of this article. For installations forming part of a TN-C-S system and having a PME supply, Regulation 544.1.1 requires that csa of the main bonding conductors to be selected in accordance with the neutral conductor of the supply (the combined protective and neutral (PEN) conductor) and Table 54.8 of BS 7671. Table 2 of this article is based on the requirements of Table 54.8. It will be seen by comparing Table 2 with Table 1 that where PME conditions apply, main bonding

conductors are generally required to have a larger csa than where PME conditions do not apply. This is because, where PME conditions apply, the bonding conductors may have to carry diverted neutral currents for long periods in the event of a break occurring in the supply neutral (PEN) conductor. For highway power supplies or street furniture forming part of a TN-C-S system where the supply is PME, Regulation 544.1.1 does not require the csa of any main bonding conductors to be selected in accordance with Table 54.8 as described above (see Table 2). In these cases, the main bonding conductors should be sized in accordance with the requirements of the distributor. Installations serving more than one building Where an installation serves more than one building, the main bonding requirements of Regulation 411.3.1.2, described earlier, are required to be applied to each building (Regulation 411.3.1.2 refers). Main bonding requirements for an installation that serves more than one building will be covered in more detail in a future issue of Connections.

INFORMATION Website Top Tip How to access the secure area 1. Log on to 2. On the home page under Register Here, enter your Domestic Installer registration number or your Approved Contractor scheme enrolment number and then click Register. 3. Follow the onscreen instructions to arrange for your business to be sent an activation code, which you will receive by post. 4. Upon receipt of the activation code, please log back on to and follow the instructions within the communication.

Need to know more on the 17th? NICEIC has devised a 17th Edition Toolkit containing all a contractor needs to be ready for the new Wiring Regulations. The Toolkit contains a copy of the new IEE 17th Edition of the Wiring Regulations (BS7671:2008), a simplified, accessible and practical guide to the regulations, a DVD explaining all the changes to the 17th Edition and, as an added bonus, a voucher booklet containing money-off vouchers and competition prize draws. For more details call 0870 013 0458.

Table 2 – Minimum cross-sectional area required for the main bonding conductor in relation to the neutral (PEN) of the supply where PME conditions apply (based on Table 54.8 of BS 7671) Copper equivalent csa of the supply Applicable sizes of neutral (PEN) Minimum copper equivalent* csa of neutral (PEN) conductor conductor the main bonding conductor mm2 mm2 mm2 ≤35 6, 10, 16, 25, 35 10 >35 up to 50 50 16 >50 up to 95 70, 95 25 >95 up to 150 120, 150 35 >150 185, 240, 300 etc 50 Note: Local distributor’s network conditions may require a larger main bonding conductor * The minimum copper equivalent csa is given by a copper conductor of the tabulated csa or a conductor of another metal affording equivalent conductance.

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EES Data EES Data produces a full suite of contract management software. All are Windows 7 touch screen-enabled and built on a number of core modules: full professional contract estimating, small works costing and billing, supplier and quotation request, purchase ordering, job cost financial monitoring, application for payment and stock control.

Thorn Eyekon for Eye Appeal! This wall-mounted version of the Thorn Eyekon range of exterior bulkheads is designed for use with compact fluorescent (9W- 55W) or metal halide (20W-70W) lamps. In two sizes and three colour options, there are four bezel styles: plain; cross frame; eyelid visor and halo visor. The bulkheads are also vandal resistant, the tough diffuser being attached firmly to the die-cast aluminium body by tamper resistant bolts, forming an IP65 seal. It is suitable for bollard mounting and available with integral daylight control photocell and emergency lighting.

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With the launch of the feed-in tariff in April this year, electricians can now cash in on heavy demand from householders for solar energy products. Suntricity(tm) is a new solar photovoltaic (PV) package for electrical installers serving the domestic market and small businesses in the UK. Created by Photon Energy, one of the UK’s leading independent installers of micro-generation technologies, it comprises a comprehensive design and supply offering available directly from the company or via electrical wholesalers, plus optional help with commissioning.

The new Twin165 has been specifically designed to provide a medium size (160 x 65mm) trunking range for installations requiring larger than standard data cable containment. Cat 6 and Cat 6A compliant Twin165 is the latest addition to Marshall-Tufflex’s range of cable management systems. The two compartments within this new hard-wearing and easy-to-install PVC-U system are split to provide approximately 60% space for power delivery and a generous 40% capacity for data cabling. Twin165’s new design also includes bend radius control of 50mm.

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Nittan has launched a new analogue addressable photoelectric smoke sensor with built-in sounder. The Evolution EV-PS optical smoke sensor comes with the sounder fully integrated within the sensor itself. The EV-PS allows for quick and simple installation and incorporates the latest sophisticated alarm technology, including ASIC design, EEPROM addressable capability, low monitoring current and a chemically etched stainless steel insect screen to reduce ingress of insects and airborne contaminants. It features Nittan’s OMNIVIEW 360 degree LED fire alarm indicator, permitting clear and visible indication of the sensor’s operation from any angle, and a remote indicator output. It is compatible with Nittan UB-4-EV and EV-PSBCN bases.

Fluke has introduced two new models, the Fluke 1654B and the Fluke 1652C, to its range of rugged, easy-to-use Fluke 1650B installation testers. The Fluke 1654B enhancements include RCD type B testing and increased data storage, while the Fluke 1652C includes a phase sequence indicator and is the ideal tester for all domestic applications, covering all the basic needs for testing to the 17th Edition wiring regulations/Part P building regulations. The Fluke 1653B is the ideal tester for professional trouble-shooters in both domestic and commercial applications. The new Fluke 1654B is the complete tester for virtually all electrical wiring installations in domestic, commercial and industrial applications.

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New Free CableCalc Level P – Twin & Earth calculations. To celebrate 20 years of CableCalc, Castline Systems has released a new free version of their popular CableCalc programme that will calculate single phase radial and ring circuits wired in twin and earth cable. It even includes free technical support by email. CableCalc level P is a fully working, unlimited use version and provides far more than just simple volt drop calculations. It can be downloaded free from the website www.

Castline Systems’ HeatCalc produces heat loss calculations for the design of heating systems, using the methods described in CIBSE Guide A3 Thermal Properties of Building Structures. HeatCalc performs calculations based on continuous heating with U values supplied for outside walls, windows, floors and ceilings. With support for up to eight-sided rooms, it will design and evaluate energy loss for an entire property or building with information output into useful graphs and reports.

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The new Supernova Elite dual voltage PAT advanced tester is now capable of testing RCD trip times alongside its existing flash/ hi pot test and dual voltage testing capabilities. All electrical safety tests can be carried out quickly and effectively on the complete range of workplace electrical equipment and appliances. The inclusion of the RCD test is in keeping with the latest IEE Code that when extension leads or multiway adaptors are fitted with an RCD, the operation of the RCD should be checked using a test instrument to determine that the trip time is within specified limits. The new Supernova Elite meets this requirement and allows the RCD test function to operate without tripping RCDs in the mains supply.

Megaman has launched a revolutionary new concept in LED reflector lamps, the LED MR16. Featuring an excellent performance with less power consumption and low heat output, these lamps are an ideal replacement for heat-omitting halogen lamps. Designed for standard MR16 applications, the LED MR16 is compact, combining a GU5.3 compatible lamp cap with a beam angle of 36o to deliver a high-quality, narrow spotlight effect. It offers a long life of 30,000 hours, which lowers maintenance costs while providing the highest possible luminance compared with halogen counterparts. Available in 8W and 10W to replace 35W and 50W halogen lamps respectively, these LED reflectors can also achieve energy savings of 80% over their halogen equivalents.

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Contactum has launched a new range of metal enclosures, certified to IP65 and designed for multi-application use. Each enclosure has been specifically designed to provide maximum durability and protection against the elements, including contact with internal electronic or electrical components and protection against harmful deposits of dust and water jets. Featuring a large door bend on the front of the enclosure and a double bent panel on the back to enhance rigidity, the aesthetic and convenient heavy duty die cast hinges allow for a 180 degree opening. Powder coated in 14GA steel with continuously welded and ground smooth seams, the new metal enclosure range is available in a variety of sizes to suit all applications.

The new category III VT12 Voltage and Continuity Tester with probes is designed for industrial and domestic use. Constructed in accordance with the latest safety standard (EN61243-3, EN61010), the ergonomically designed VT12 guarantees safe and reliable measurements and testing. Featuring an automatic AC/DC detection range from 12V up to 690V and continuity testing with optical and audio indication up to 200k Ohms, the user simply probes the circuit to obtain readings of AC or DC volts, or an audible indication of an open circuit. Compact and robust, the VT12 has been designed to withstand rough handling and, in Martindale’s distinctive yellow colour, will be easy to locate in even the most disorganised of tool bags.

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current affairs MERA


… CA

Express & Star


Ge etting back into the e swing of things afte er a Christmas Getting after br break is never easy so hopefully our latest collection of dodg d on will remind contractors of just how important the quality dodgy goings goings-on w work undertaken by registered contractors is. Pictured from left to right are: a consumer unit concealed behind a ne newly fitted kitchen unit; an improvised outside termination enclosure for an extractor fan at a roadside café; a shower cable extended using 15A co o connectors; a switch installed into the coil of an RCD to prevent constant cu u cutting-out; an MCB with no outer case that was in use and positioned at a lo low level; and a novel fuseboard cover at a famous retailer. Thanks as always to those who sent in shots: Chris Smith of L Leicester-based C.D.Smith Electrical Contractors; Phil Blair from A Advanced Electrical Installations in Leicester; Wayne Bennett of RD Wild in Stoke-on-Trent; Geraint Jones of GW Jones in Gwynedd; Paul Germain o of Highwood Electrical in Beckenham; and Kieran Sinnott of KJ Sinnott E Electrical in Chelmsford. Please keep them coming!

Damp squib

Running a successful electrical business would be quite enough for most people, but for St Austell-based NICEIC Approved Contractor Paul Pearce it’s just the beginning. Paul also works as station manager for Mevagissey Fire Station, working on a retained basis where he can be called in at a moment’s notice. He gets around one or two call-outs a week and was called into action in the local community when flooding hit Cornwall last November. “We were involved in pumping out water from properties after the water had receded,” he says. “The next day we went round helping with the aftermath. I’d chucked my tools on the fire engine and I was able to disconnect various circuits and get people’s power back on for them.” Paul (pictured right) was invited to a reception at Lostwithiel Fire Station with Prince Charles and other members of the emergency services. But he says there’s no chance of him switching careers permanently. “I get a lot of job satisfaction out of the electrical work,” he says. “I really enjoy the fact that when you’ve rewired a house you’ve created something.” • Do you have an unusual hobby or part-time job? If so, don’t forget to let us know.

Home from home Self-employed electrical contractors who run their businesses from the spare bedroom will know all about the perils of working from home, especially when small children are on the scene. So it’s interesting to hear of a growing trend for sole traders and micro-enterprises to work from sheds and

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Cornish Guardian

In the line of fire

Most town councils like to put on a bit of a show when turning on their Christmas lights, especially when it involves a “celebrity” figure. But officials at Cradley Heath in the West Midlands took a rather more practical approach, inviting local Speedway star Tom Perry to grovel around on the pavement in the rain before reaching for the switch inside a lamppost. Perry was joined by a couple of local councillors, three children from the local school and, er, no one else. Local councillor Ann Shackleton said it had gone “much better than expected” so quite what they were anticipating is anyone’s guess. Our thanks go to Michael Hughes of Dudley-based Hughes Electrical for sharing this with us.

Don’t forget to send Current Affa irs any pictures that have made you smile in the line of w ork and let us kn ow of any hidden talen ts or charity other outbuildings, initiatives. E mail editor@ largely due to new niceicconnect insulation methods, better

construction and alternative heating methods such as wood-burning stoves. estimates at least 80,000 people work in this way, with 61 per cent sole traders and 32 per cent employing between two and five people.

The average annual turnover for a shedworker last year was £76,449, although it’s unclear how much of that can be put down to escaping the perils of family life.

15/12/10 15:53:19

Have you seen it yet?

New Megger MFT1700 series, the shape of testing’s future. Now offering Q

2-wire non-tripping loop testing


Loop and PFC displayed at the same time


Phase sequence indication


3-pole earth testing


CAT IV 300 V safety rating

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14/12/10 10:58:45

The Electrocorder range of electrical data recorders has been designed and manufactured in the UK to help you do your job better. Every model has been expertly calibrated to give the most accurate electrical diagnoses, helping you to carry out comprehensive and reliable energy audits. Plus, with its simple design, free software and simple data transfer via USB to your laptop, the Electrocorder is such a low cost investment that it can’t fail to amp up your business.


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14/12/10 10:59:26

Connections - January 2011  
Connections - January 2011  

NICEIC Connections January 2011 issue