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GOVERNMENT PLANS CRACKDOWN ON FAULTY HOME ELECTRICS

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Proposals to curb the rising number of electrical accidents in the ...
Proposals to curb the rising number of electrical accidents in the

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

appliances.

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

safety net.

'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.

Notes

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

Building Regulations.

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

website .

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: dtlr@twoten.press.net. The product code is

02BR00015.

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: electricalsafety@dtlr.gov.uk

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