New building regulations aimed at curbing the unacceptable number of deaths, injuries and house fires caused by faulty electrical installations, come into force on 1st January.

The new rules affect anyone considering electrical work in the home, including DIY enthusiasts. Failure to comply could lead to householders being required to bring the work up to standard and may make it more difficult to sell their homes.

Minor jobs like replacing sockets and light switches in low risk areas will not be affected. However anyone thinking of, for example, carrying out electrical work in kitchens, bathrooms or outdoors or adding new circuits to any part of their house will have to get building control involved. The alternative is to get the work carried out by a suitably qualified electrician.

The key question for householders is who will be carrying out the work. If it is themselves, a friend or relative then they will have to notify the local authority building control department unless only minor work is involved. An alternative is to employ someone who is registered with a ‘competent person’ scheme.

The ODPM leaflet ‘New rules for electrical safety in the home’, explains the options and how to go about finding a ‘competent person’ in your area in a clear, easy to read style. You can view it online now at the ODPM website and hard copies will be available from local authorities and competent person scheme operators from the New Year.

The changes bring England and Wales further into line with Scotland where Building Regulations already address electrical safety issues.

Notes to Editors  Electrical safety in dwellings (Part P)
From 1 January 2005 all electrical work in dwellings will need to comply with Part P requirements and be carried out by persons who are competent to do the work.
Small jobs such as replacing a socket-outlet or a light switch on an existing circuit will not need to be notified to a building control body (although there are some exceptions for high risk areas such as kitchens and bathrooms).

All work that involves adding a new circuit to a dwelling will need to be either notified to building control, who will then inspect the work, or carried out, by a competent person who is registered with a Part P Self-Certification Scheme.
Persons registered with Part P Self-Certification Schemes will be fully qualified electrical contractors with the ability to thoroughly check a circuit for safety.

They will be able to issue Building Regulations certificates of compliance.
Many jobs carried out on a DIY basis will be small jobs that do not need to be notified to building control, but householders are recommended to have them checked by a competent electrician to make sure they are safe. Much unsafe electrical work is carried out by over-ambitious amateurs.

The background
Each year on average 10 people die and about 750 are seriously injured in accidents involving unsafe electrical installations in the home. In addition, in 2003 2,336 house fires were caused by faulty installations. (Quoted accident statistics have been taken from data supplied by the DTI, ODPM and the Home Office since 1990).

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.
Electrical accident rates in houses compare with those for carbon monoxide poising, gas explosions and collisions with glass – all of which are covered by the Building Regulations.

Risks in future could increase as rising consumer ownership of portable and fixed electrical appliances is causing extra demand for extensions and alterations to existing electrical installations.

The risks posed by unsafe electrical installations and portable appliances are electric shock and burns 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.

The change to the building regulations was 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
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 e.g. cables, sockets, switches, fuse-boxes, immersion heaters and ceiling fittings.

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 buildings systems and it is the technical standard almost universally specified in UK contracts for electrical installation work. It is the basis for the approved technical guidance to meet the electrical requirements of the Building Regulations.

What Are Building Regulations?
Building regulations secure the health, safety, welfare and convenience of people in and around buildings by providing functional requirements for building design and construction.

If you want to put up a new building, extend or alter an existing one, or provide fittings in a building such as drains or heat-producing appliances, the building regulations will probably apply. They may also apply to certain changes of use of an existing building.

An ODPM explanatory booklet (available on the at
ODPM website provides more information on the situation in England and Wales.

The Local Authority Building Control Officer or an Approved Inspector will be able to advise whether Building Regulations apply in a particular case.

Failure to comply with the building regulations is a criminal offence. Local authorities also have the power to require the removal or alteration of work that does not comply with the requirements.

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