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Select Committee finding needs industry sense check

Release Date: 06/03/2014

Plans to overhaul the competent person’s scheme for domestic installers could prove burdensome for electrical contracting firms.

That is the view of NICEIC and ELECSA in response to parliamentary recommendations for all domestic electricians to have a qualification equivalent to NVQ level 3 within the next five years.

Whilst NICEIC and ELECSA welcome many of the recommendations made by the committee we believe the requirement on all individuals, irrespective of the size of the firm or the work the individual undertakes, within a business to be fully qualified places a huge onus on firms.

To have all employees up to a Quality Supervisor (QS) level will push up costs and reduce the need for apprentices. The industry will suffer in the long term. It is also no guarantee to raise standards.

The QS system, which Part P is based on, is proven to work and as the committee states in its report has actually pushed domestic electrical installation standards up in recent years.

Under the current QS system, which all competent person scheme operators use, a firm must employ at least one qualified supervisor with a qualification equivalent to NVQ level 3. The QS is responsible for the final checking of work and the sign off that it has been tested and inspected in accordance with the appropriate standards and regulations.

We need to be clear that the majority of electricians out there, working in people’s homes, are fully qualified and competent to carry out the work required of them.

Around 80 per cent of the work carried out under Part P is done so by sole traders who have the appropriate qualifications and are able to test and inspect their own work.

The view that some firms are sending out unqualified electricians, with just a few weeks training, to carry out jobs such as full rewires, unchecked, is simply not accurate. The majority of firms realise their responsibility to carry out work which is safe and to the required standard.

The QS system has worked in the industry for more than 50 years. The QS is legally responsible to ensure the work is carried out to standard - it is not a simple box ticking exercise.

There are many different roles within a firm, each with varying responsibilities. The QS system allows firms to manage accordingly. Should you have to be trained to QS level to chase out walls for instance? Where is the evidence of such qualifications needed across the rest of the building sector?

NICEIC and ELECSA have welcomed other recommendations in the report. In particular;
  • Calls for an annual limit on the number of jobs that a single QS can review
  • Action from the government to raise public awareness of Part P - similar to that of Gas Safe
  • Proactive enforcement against those who breach Part P and those who work outside of competent person schemes
  • A single register for all Part P electricians covering all schemes
Indeed many of the recommendations such as a single register we are already working on and will have in operation by June.

We have run several public consumer campaigns reminding consumers about their responsibilities in relation to Part P and are the only scheme operator with a wall of shame which publically names rogue firms that work outside the rules. We work closely with trading standards to ensure theses firms are fined accordingly

The competent person scheme was based on our model and we will continue to adapt and evolve our business accordingly to work within the guidelines provided by central government.