18th Edition BS7671

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The 18th edition bs7671 is the comprehensive guide to safe and effective electrical installation for all professionals in the electrical trade. This article provides a detailed overview of the origins of the book, the contents within it, and how you can best utilise it for learning purposes. It does not look to include a thorough page by page account of each chapter, but will ensure you grasp the reason for its being, and understand its critical importance within the electrical industry.

You must acquire an official copy!

First and foremost, ensure your copy of the 18th edition is validated by the BSI (British Standards Institution) and IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology). A hologram will be present on the inside cover. It’s crucial that you do not download copied pdf versions of the text, as this risks content accuracy and will most likely be frowned upon by course conveners.

Individuals are encouraged to approach the guide as a vehicle for gaining a robust understanding of electrical instalment, not just as a simple tool to pass an exam. This will allow you to gain a broad working knowledge, rather than just obtaining isolated pieces of information for the sole purpose of ‘getting through’ a test.

Ensure you’re across the regular updates

The guide is released periodically, with the latest prior edition released six years ago in 2015. The very first edition, entitled ‘Rules and Regulations for the Prevention of Fire Risks Arising from Electrical Lighting’ was launched way back in 1882. This in turn illustrates its historical significance in the electrical industry, providing guidance to electricians and students of the field for well over a century. It is absolutely essential to familiarise yourself with the updated guides, as these often include regulatory or advisory changes.

It has been noted that some electricians tend to refrain from re-visiting the text, and therefore fail to strengthen and maintain knowledge of the bs7671 documents. Ensure that you stay up to date with any newly released editions, and regularly reflect on learnings. Recent launches have been more well-documented than previous editions, as the industry becomes increasingly tapped into raising the standards bar. Make sure you are not left behind.

When the documentation is released, electricians usually have a six-month window to digest the information and make sure they know how to conform to the new regulations. For example, the 18th edition was released on 2nd July 2018, and operators had until 31st December of that year to comply.

Recent additional focus has been placed on the practical use of the bs7671. Since June 2019, individuals have not been able to sustain registered electrician status without having a working copy of the 18th edition. So, make sure you stay close to guide releases, and actively engage with its contents.

What does the 18th edition book structure look like?

The book itself can be loosely split into two parts. Part One (Chapters 1-7), leverages the main guidance information, and touches upon preparation, selection, installation, and testing. After Chapter 7, there is a detailed definition section which acts as a glossary of terms and symbols. Therefore, the back end of the book complements the content in the front, and ultimately does not contain any brand-new items to learn. Hopefully this makes you feel a little better about the relative book length than when you first picked it up!

The bs7671 guide is approved by the BSI and IET. The latter’s advisory committee, the JPL/64, play a role in adjusting the regulations issued in each edition. They regularly debate what should be included, removed or changed, and form consensuses on a range of issues. In their discussions, the group account for developmental progression in technologies, new health & safety focus areas, and useful findings from previous editions.

To what extent do regulation changes occur?

When you consider the extent to which we use electricity differently now to twenty or thirty years ago, you can start to understand the pressing need for consistent updates to electrical installation practice. For example, a typical living room may have originally only had one single wall socket; nowadays, these rooms will have multiple utilisation points. There could be a necessity for data, a speaker system in the ceiling, or multiple lighting arrangements that rely on a series of circuits, not just a singular strand as per previous set-ups. Smart houses enable us to monitor all electricity outputs centrally, something that certainly wasn’t feasible in years gone by. Therefore, it’s really important that we have suitable regulation that is tailored to new complexities.

The updated editions also sometimes serve to retract information which has become obsolete. For example, the 16th edition removed guidance on cage bonding in bathrooms as it was no longer relevant. Any adjusted regulations, whether improved, changed or removed, are incorporated to accommodate changes in workplace and societal environments.

What is industry Harmonisation?

Furthermore, all editions are subjected to the process of industry harmonisation. This means that the standards contained in the British text will be compliant with relevant European and international regulatory detail. However, there are some elements of global guidance that are not included in the bs7671. This is where measures are not appropriate to a UK context, or in cases where other regulatory instructions included already cover the subject matter.

How is the 18th edition guide organised?

The following section provides a basic breakdown of each part of the 18th Edition guide, highlighting its contents and uses. For sake of ease, the over-arching term ‘Main Information’ in this case refers to the introduction and parts 3-7, which, as explained, contains the ‘meat’ of the information. The ‘Supporting Information’ element refers to Part 2, which is deployed to provide definitions and reference.

Part 1: Scope and Fundamental Principles

This sets out book intentions, and explains its practical use in context of electrical installation and wiring regulations.

Part 2: Definitions and Reference

As documented, this section serves to support the content presented in Part 1, providing in-depth references to industry terminology. The use of definitions, figures, symbols and abbreviations drives reader understanding of the associated information.

Part 3: Assessment of General Characteristics

This gives guidance on how electricians should initially approach any given task. This is simple as inspecting the chosen environment to ensure all required information has been obtained. For example, if working in a commercial property, you may need to ask:

What are the client’s needs? How is their current supply supported? What is their earthing arrangement? What will be the maximum demand? What are the compatibility considerations?

Part 3 invites you to ascertain a solid grasp of the conditions you’re working in, and ensures you ask the right questions to support understanding of context.

Part 4: Protection & Safety

This chapter details the fundamental principles of industry safety in protecting persons, livestock and buildings. It is your all-inclusive guide to ensuring you keep yourself, colleagues and customers safe.

Key elements of the guidance include references to the most common areas of risk. These are electric shocks, over-currents, voltage disturbance, and thermal effect.

This is clearly a particularly important component of the book. Candidates should study this keenly to ensure they’re fully acquainted with updates on PPE, protection guidance, and safety legislation. There are some substantial updates in this edition under this section.

Part 5: Selection & Erection of Equipment

Selection & erection of equipment comes after determining what is required through your assessment of general characteristics. This part encourages you to consider which equipment best suits the environment:

What is the most favourable wiring system? What cable sizes will you need? Are there any external influences that one should account for?

Part 6: Inspection & Testing

Once the equipment is successfully deployed, it’s important to inspect & test it. This will allow you to commission the kit ready for use. Guidance for all stages of this process is included in this section.

Part 7: Special Installations or Locations

This part provides an understanding on how to navigate tasks that are impacted by unique conditions. It will run through implementation of water-based installs, such as electrics required in swimming pools. Commentary will also be provided for wiring in a range of other challenging circumstances, such as agricultural, medical, and transportable unit contexts.

The stages of task implementation

Perhaps you’ve already detected a continuous theme. In practice, these parts walk you through each stage of the installation process in chronological order. In theory, you could open the book whilst out on a job, and follow the steps methodically through.

This facilitates you to:

  1. Judge working conditions, ask appropriate questions, and offer client solutions
  2. Consider the provision of protective equipment, promoting the safety of yourself and those around you.
  3. Select the right equipment contingent to the specifications of the task. Gives guidance on how to properly install your kit.
  4. Demonstrates how to successfully commission through inspection and testing.
  5. In situations where jobs demand an unusual and innovative approach, the guide will direct you through points to consider and potential pitfalls.

This emphasises the usefulness of the advice mentioned earlier in this article; exploit the guide to supplement your working knowledge and practical endeavours, not as a mechanism to simply pass an examination.

How do you understand the numbering system?

When identifying regulation numbers, it’s important to understand how you can locate the relevant information efficiently. The bs7167, like other journals, has a universally acknowledged system for organizing content.

This characterises each regulation by allocating it a number alluding to its part, chapter, section, and group.

For example, if you need some detail on the selection and erection of ground-recessed luminaries, then the regulation you require will be 559.10. This refers to Part 5, Chapter 5, Section 9, Group 10. If you know this process, then you can quickly source the material you’re after without the need for prolonged searching. Not only will this allow you to swiftly locate information, but it will also serve to break the book down into generally more manageable chunks. In context of the example above, you may just want to visit the ‘Other Equipment’ section of the guide in a more general sense. To do this, just remove the excess numbers 9 and 10, and go to ‘55’ where you’ll see the full chapter view, inclusive of the regulation above.

How can you tell where the regulations originate from?

International and European regulations can also be identified through this numbering process. As referenced earlier, the process of ‘harmonisation’ means that global standardised regulatory controls can be integrated.

Internationally recognised regulations (IEC) are documented to one decimal place (0.1, 0.2 and so on). European-specific guidance is articulated as three decimal places within the number ‘1’ (0.101, 0.102 etc.). If the regulations only pertain to the UK, then the numbers used will continue up from 0.201. As mentioned, there will always be anomalies that don’t quite fit into a certain country’s respective context, and that is why these reference points have been created.

The critical importance of the 18th edition guide

As you can see from the notes above, the 18th edition bs7671 guide is an essential part of the electrician’s toolkit. As you progress through your career, you may feel a little as if new releases are an extra burden.

New electrical installation editions inevitably trigger extra training, potential new equipment purchases, and increased labour times. Costs that will inevitably be partially transferred onto your customers.

However, if the industry is to continue to promote the safety of all involved parties, then it remains vital to keep across these updates. These have been carefully constructed by inside experts, and will give you all the information you need to know on how to tackle any task in the field. Although the guide is comprehensive, as with any informative journal, subjective interpretations of certain parts may arise. Be cautious around non-credited sources, and, if in doubt, seek assistance from an industry professional or a course convener.

Get a copy of the 18th edition bs7671 to keep updated, strengthen knowledge, and stay safe. This book will be absolutely central to your onwards learning journey, so it’s critical you’re onboard with its structure, content, and practical use.