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BROWSE PRODUCTS
 

Approved Document P, Electrical Safety

Author : J GALE

Another Look at Approved Document P, Electrical Safety by Bill Allan The Building Regulations are regularly amended and recent changes have been consolidated within the Building Regulations 2010. Part P, along with the other Building Regulations, is expected to come under some scrutiny when a public consultation opens in the New Year, leading to the next significant change, which is expected in 2013. This article will review Part P as it operates now

The Building Regulations are regularly amended and recent changes have been consolidated within the Building Regulations 2010.  Part P, along with the other Building Regulations, is expected to come under some scrutiny when a public consultation opens in the New Year, leading to the next significant change, which is expected in 2013.  This article will review Part P as it operates now.

Part P
Part P of the Building Regulations of England and Wales concerning electrical safety, has been operational for six years.  It came into force on 1st. January 2005 and, for the first time; electrical work in dwellings and associated buildings was brought under Building Regulations control.  (A 'dwelling' includes houses, maisonettes, flats and electrical installations in business premises that share an electricity supply with dwellings, such as pubs and shops which have a flat above them.)  It was anticipated that Part P would lead to a reduction in the number of deaths, injuries and fires caused by faults in electrical installations and that it would improve the quality of electrical work. Since that time, it has been a legal requirement for electrical installation work to comply with Part P.  Some have discovered to their cost, that there are penalties for those who fail to comply. 

On 6th April 2006, an amended version of Part P published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) - formerly the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) - came into force.  It was intended to give greater clarity and to make the level of enforcement more proportional to the risk.
Apart from a few exceptions, any electrical installation work carried out in dwellings, such as, the addition of a new circuit, or work in a kitchen, bathroom or garden area, comes within the scope of Part P. There are two general categories of electrical installation work under Part P - work which is notifiable and work which is non-notifiable. 

Notifiable work includes new installations, house re-wires, the installation of new circuits, additions to existing circuits in kitchens, locations containing baths or showers, outdoors and in other special locations or installations. 

Non-notifiable work includes minor work such as the replacement or replacing of accessories, re-fixing or replacing enclosures of electrical components and adding lighting points or socket-outlets to existing circuits (provided the work is not in a kitchen or a special location and does not involve a special installation.  

Special locations and installations are so called because they generally have an increased risk of electric shock due to their special circumstances and consequently, the design and construction of the electrical installations requires special consideration. Such areas include bathrooms, swimming pools, garden lighting, etc. 

The full details of the types of electrical work to which the requirements of Part P apply can be obtained by reference to Approved Document P, which can be freely downloaded from the 'government planning portal' website, www.planningportal.gov.uk                       

Design and installation
Electrical installations must be designed and installed so that they provide appropriate protection for persons against the risks of electric shock, burn or fire injuries. This can be achieved by complying with BS 7671:2001 (the 'IEE Wiring Regulations'). In addition to Part P, electrical installation work must also comply with other relevant parts of the Building Regulations.  This includes:

Part A - Structure
Part B - Fire Safety
Part C - Site preparation and resistance to moisture
Part E - Resistance to the passage of sound
Part F - Ventilation
Part G - Sanitation, Hot Water and Water Efficiency
Part L - Conservation of Fuel and Power
Part M - Access to and use of buildings
As with Approved Document P, the above Approved Documents can be freely downloaded from the above website.

The implications for electricians
In terms of Part P, electricians who carry out electrical installation work in dwellings have a choice. 

* They can register with one of the competent person self-certification schemes. 
(There are presently five electrical schemes in operation.) This means they are registered as competent persons and are able to carry out electrical work in the home and issue an electrical certificate for this work (i.e. 'self-certification'). This certificate ensures that the work complies with the Building Regulations. The body responsible for registering the electrician will notify the local building control body and issue a Compliance Certificate on your behalf to the consumer (i.e. 'self-certification'). This certificate ensures that the work complies with the Building Regulations. 

OR 

* They will need to notify the local building control body before the work is carried out.  This will involve submitting a building notice or full plans.  The Building Control Body will send an electrician who is registered as a competent person to inspect and test the work at the 'first fix' stage and on completion of the work and the non-registered electrician will have to pay a fee for this. As the Building Control Departments of Local Authorities don't usually have the required level of expertise to carry out this inspection and testing work, they normally have an approved list of electrical contractors who are registered as competent persons. 

They will select a contractor from their list to carry out this work on their behalf.  (This fee is currently £350 at my local Building Control Office.)
An alternative to the traditional Local Authority Building Control route is the selection of an Approved Inspector. This is a company or an individual licensed by the Government to offer a Building Control Service.

Electricians who regularly carry out domestic electrical installation may well decide that the first route is preferable for their business.  Electricians who don't do much work in dwellings may opt for the second choice.  

The implication for other tradespersons
Contractors other than electrical contractors who carry out electrical work in connection with their main area of expertise, such as, central heating installers and kitchen and bathroom fitters, can be Part P-registered under 'defined competence'. This enables them to do only that electrical work, in relation to their core business,   which they are competent to do. 

The implications for DIYers                    
DIY electrical work is not encouraged but those who wish to undertake DIY electrical work are in the same situation as non-registered electricians.  They must notify their local building control body before the work is carried out and pay a fee to have their work inspected and tested by someone who is registered as a competent person.  If the work passes this inspection and testing, the electrician will issue a certificate.  If it doesn't pass, the work will have to be brought up to the required standard (either by the DIYer or by the competent person) and the householder will have to pay for the work to be re-tested.  
The implications for householders
Householders are legally responsible for ensuring that work carried out in their homes complies with the Building Regulations.  The onus is on them to be aware of the need to employ only tradesmen who comply with the requirements of Part P and other relevant Building Regulations.  Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law.  In addition, householders may encounter difficulties in selling their properties if they are unable to produce documentary evidence that electrical work complies with the Building Regulations.  The facility now exists for searches to be carried out on all building work in dwellings to ensure compliance with the Building Regulations.   

Enforcement of the Building Regulations
Failure to comply with Part P or any other of the Building Regulations is a criminal offence and it carries a maximum fine of £5,000.  The householder would be responsible for the fine but the contractor would also be fined under Trading Standards.  Local authorities have the legal authority to require the alteration or removal of any work that does not comply with the requirements.

Approved electrical self-certification schemes
There are four different bodies that operate approved electrical self-certification schemes NAPIT being one of them.
       
NAPIT
NAPIT is committed to consumer safety and operates a comprehensive and rigorous code of practice for its members.  NAPIT has been appointed by the CLG to run competent person schemes, not only for electrical work, but also for plumbing, heating, ventilation (which includes air conditioning) and Microgeneration.  It aims to ensure that, through the competence of its members, consumers can be confident that work complies with Part P and other relevant Building Regulations.

Part P has not been without its critics during its first six years, particularly with regard to a perceived lack of vigor in its enforcement, but NAPIT is continuing to work to improve the general operation of Part P and will take a leading role in future discussions. 


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