home by bringing electrical safety within the scope of Building
Regulations for the first time were published for consultation today
by health and safety minister Alan Whitehead.
In recent years householders and their families have faced an
increased risk of injury from electric shock or fires caused by
faults in fixed installations or portable appliances. Many accidents
are due to incompetent extension and alteration work, use of systems
that do not comply with British Standards or misuse of portable
Properly designed, fitted and tested fixed installations offer
protection against these dangers. This is why the government is now
consulting with the general public and the construction industry on
whether national safety standards should be reinforced by redefining
work on fixed electrical installations in the home as building work
to bring them within the controls of Building Regulations.
Dr Whitehead said:
'Each year an average of 10 people die and 756 are seriously injured
in accidents involving unsafe fixed electrical installations in the
home. This is far too high a price to pay and, as part of the
government's ongoing drive to improve health and safety, we are
seeking to bring electrical safety under the Building Regulations
'Our aim is to protect consumers from incompetent workmanship and
make our homes safer. Voluntary controls which have served us well
for many decades no longer cover the substantial proportion of
installation work that is undertaken privately for gain or by DIY
enthusiasts. The proposed new rules would also reinforce the message
from DIY manuals and consumer associations cautioning extra care when
considering electrical work in the home.
'These proposals are also good news for business. They will raise
standards of competence in the industry in line with our aim of
creating a better-qualified workforce. New rules allowing
self-certification of compliance by competent organisations will be
applied. This means work by 'competent persons' will not need to be
notified, making administration simpler for building controllers and
installers and encouraging contractors to prove their competence.
Similar provisions apply to minor works which means DIY enthusiasts
will not have to seek approvals.'
The plans also bring England and Wales more into line with Scotland
where Building Regulations already address electrical safety issues.
Another future benefit could be swifter conveyancing with electrical
installation certificates more likely to be available for inclusion
in sellers' packs to give prospective buyers and their legal advisors
reassurance of the safety of the dwellings being offered for sale.
1. These regulatory proposals have been developed in response to the
Construction Industry Deregulation Task Force's 1995 report which
recommended amongst other things that the Building Regulations should
address electrical safety and that the administrative burden on
builders should be rationalised. The government responded to these
recommendations by agreeing to review the case for new requirements
and how they might best be practically introduced.
2. The current Building Regulations for England & Wales (2000) do not
address the safety of fixed electrical systems in buildings. For the
purposes of Building Regulations a fixed electrical system means
those parts of the wiring and appliances that are fixed to the
building fabric eg sockets, switches, fuse-boxes, immersion heaters
and ceiling fittings.
3. The hazards posed by unsafe electrical installations and portable
appliances are electric shock and injuries arising from fires in
buildings ignited by electrical components overheating or arcing.
Installations properly designed, fitted, tested and commissioned in
accordance with BS7671 will help to minimise these risks.
4. Quoted accident statistics have been taken from data supplied by
the DTI and the Home Office since 1990.
5. It is believed that risks from unsafe electrical installations
have increased over recent years due to:
- Rising numbers and variety of electrical systems and appliances in
buildings plus increased demands being made on them
- Privatisation of the supply industry in 1988 leading to fewer
electrical supplier interventions in consumer installations.
- Voluntary self-regulation schemes provide excellent support for
existing subscribers but do not always reach the independents or
small businesses that have grown rapidly in number since the
recession of the early 1990s.
6. Electrical accident rates in houses have risen and compare with
those for carbon monoxide poising, gas explosions and collisions with
glass - all of which are covered by the Regulations.
7. British Standard 7671 Requirements for Electrical Installations:
the IEE Wiring Regulations is the principal British Standard that
covers the safe design, installation and testing of electrical
installations in building systems and it is the technical standard
almost universally specified in UK contracts for electrical
installation work. It would be the basis for approved technical
guidance if electrical requirements were to be introduced into the
8. Regulations are considered necessary to bolster the existing
voluntary schemes because:
- Existing voluntary schemes have attracted just half of those on
the VAT register
- Large numbers of jobbing electricians and the DIY market are
beyond the reach of voluntary controls
- Such schemes involve advertising costs for the Government and
organisers, and fees from members.
9. The Building Regulations 2000: Proposals for amending Schedule 1
to introduce electrical safety requirements is available on the DTLR
10. Paper copies of the electrical safety consultation package can be
obtained from: DTLR Free Literature, PO Box 236, Wetherby, West
Yorkshire, LS23 7NB; Tel: 0870 1226236; Fax: 0870 1226237; Textphone:
0870 1207405; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The product code is
11. Responses are requested by 13th September 2002 and should be
addressed to Andrew Brown, Zone 3/D2 at the above address (fax: 020
7944 5739 or 5719, e-mail: email@example.com