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In January 2006 the Government introduced a new law which requires that most electrical work in UK households is only carried out by a 'competent' person. One of the reasons for this was the increasing use and range of electrical equipment and appliances in our homes. This had led to an increased risk of electric shock and fires caused by faulty electrical installations.

According to Government statistics, every year 5 deaths and over 500 injuries are caused by faulty electrical installations in the home. Added to this, 12,500 fires caused by electrical faults, resulting in 25 deaths and 590 injuries every year, so it is not difficult to see why an electrical safety law needs to be enforced.

The NICEIC carries out ongoing assessments of its registered electrical contractors to ensure that they are and continue to be 'competent' to carry out electrical installations. These are some of the common questions and answers in relation to these new changes.

What is the electrical safety law?

Many improvements carried out in the home include some form of fixed electrical installation. For example, a new kitchen may require your electrician to install additional sockets, extra lighting and appliances. A fixed installation is the wiring and appliances that are fixed to the building, such as sockets, switches, consumer units (fuse boxes) and ceiling fittings.

Who is responsible for ensuring that the electrical work carried out in my home meets safety requirements?

You are. It will be a legal requirement for homeowners and landlords to be able to prove that all fixed electrical installations and alteration work have been carried out and certified by a competent person. That is, by an electrician registered with a Government approved body such as the NICEIC.

What is Part P?

Part P is a new part of the Building Regulations which has been introduced by government and affects all electrical work carried out in dwellings. People carrying out electrical work in homes and gardens in England and Wales should follow the rules set out in Part P of the Building Regulations to ensure that they are complying with the law. These rules are designed to ensure that electrical work is safe.

What is a Competent Person?

A 'Competent Person' is a firm that has been approved by one of the government-approved Part P schemes as sufficiently competent to self-certify that its work complies with the Building Regulations.

If a firm wishes to become a Competent Person it must first be vetted to ensure it meets the conditions of registration, including the required levels of competence. The minimum standard of technical competence required is as follows:

  • Electrical work in dwellings is designed, installed, inspected and tested to the standard required by BS 7671
  • Applicants for a Part P Competent Person Scheme are assessed to be able to work to these standards

If you decide against using a registered firm to carry out any work for you, bear in mind the following points:

  • There is no guarantee that the electrical installation is safe
  • You will have no official record of the work you've had carried out
  • You may have difficulty selling your home if you do not have the right electrical safety certificates
  • Your local authority's Building Control Department may insist that you put right any faulty work

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