- 1 Legal and regulatory status
- 2 HSE guidance
- 3 Further context
- 4 What does all of this ultimately mean?
- 5 bs7671 standards in the Workplace
- 6 Certification
- 7 In Summary
Legal and regulatory status
Although bs7671 is widely acknowledged as a key sector standard, it ultimately deploys non-statutory documentation to support its cause. Ultimately, there is no formal, legal requirement attached to it.
However, the bs7671’s validity and usage in common law is promoted by two contributing factors. Firstly, it’s accreditation by industry experts. The IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology), BSI (British Standards Institution) and BEC (British Electrotechnical Committee), are all involved in the construction, roll-out and subsequent monitoring of bs7671 related developments. They therefore add considerable weight to its legitimacy in any given context. Furthermore, governmental legislation surrounding electrical safety leans on bs7671 as it’s key standard. This is visible in the Electrical, Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations of 2002, as well as in Part P of the Building Regulations (2010). In this way, from a contractual perspective, bs7671 is often quoted in works agreements as the expected level required.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) have previously clarified bs7671’s status within the legal sector, by asserting the following,
‘bs7671 is a code of practice which is widely recognised and accepted in the UK and compliance with it is likely to achieve compliance with relevant aspects of the Electricity at Work Regulations (1989)’
True, the Electricity at Work Regulations (1989) act is the legal, legislative mechanism that all electrical installations must be aligned to. On the other hand, the bs7671 principles are what electricians must use to support these regulations.
The HSE offer guidance on how the aforementioned processes comes together, and suggest time must be taken to understand the defined role of bs7671 guidelines within this equation. They suggest that:
- bs7671 exclusively applies to low and extra-low voltage installations, and therefore its regulations can not be associated with machinery (BSEN60204), lift installations and systems pertaining high voltage. Conversely, the Electricity at Work Regulations act details all of the above tasks in its documentation.
- Elements of installs that comply with previous bs7671 versions (i.e. 17th edition or earlier), but may not necessarily deliver on expectations laid out in the current, 18th edition, may still be fit for purpose in relation to the Electricity at Work Regulations act. In this way, the 18th edition wiring regulations cannot be identified as the sole article for ensuring safe electrical installation.
- Documentation produced with bs7671 guidance in mind, relates to the design, construction, inspection & testing of installations. Importantly however, it does not serve to highlight the competency of persons conducting the works in question, or give attention to any supporting systems or methodologies required to ensure that the processes it promotes are carried out compliantly.
- Lastly, there are some examples within electrical installations where bs7671 principles do not apply, with more specific standards in-play.
What does all of this ultimately mean?
We can therefore see that, although bs7671 plays a dominant role in the sector, it does not represent the final, legal regulations for the work it supports to carry out. However, given its critical role in the industry, and its technical inputs into the creation of acts such as the legislative items mentioned earlier, documentation relating to bs7671 standard are admissible in a court of law. In summary, one could state that the bs7671 serves an extremely important role within the electrotechnical industry. However, you would also need to concede that it is not a legally binding piece of legislation.
bs7671 standards in the Workplace
The standards contained in bs7671 documentation should be seen as the minimum, not maximum requirements. Electricians should ensure that all work undertaken meets the expectations set-out, at the very least. If anything, those in the trade should look for additional ways to ensure the safety of themselves and their clients. Individuals should therefore consider which systems and procedures can operate alongside bs7671 guidelines. This will serve to secure additional assurance, and also position competent persons to track their effective implementation. Indeed, bs7671 should be seen as only part of the solution.
That’s not to say that a basic following of the bs7671 guidelines won’t provide adequate levels of protection. The regulations, documentation and toolkits deployed to support the application of bs7671 are extremely detailed and well-rounded. This means that many companies, both internal and external to the sector, feel confident in the industry’s approach to safe electrical installation, due to the expansive nature of these supporting regulations.
It’s important to note that authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own versions of bs7671 principles. However, in most cases, they follow very similar patterns of content.
The bs7671 function also serves to provide relevant certification on the completion of specific electrical tasks. These are critical in the tracking of safe, compliant instalments. They also provide supporting evidence for those physically conducting works, and give a level of protection and confidence to clients in cases where unfortunate incidents occur. If the latter development does arise, an effective certificate will allow one to present a formal complaint to the appropriate regulatory bodies (i.e., NAPIT, ELECSA etc.).
For these reasons, any electrical installation whatsoever must have a complete, valid, corresponding certificate.
There are four industry-renowned pieces of certification that sought to confirm safe electrical instalment. These are a generic Electrical Installation Certificate, a Minor Electrical Works Installation Certificate, an Electrical Installation Condition Report, and a Local Authority Building Control (LABC) Certificate. These are deployed in a range of different contexts. However, the below offers a summary of the usual circumstances in which these specific hallmarks are used:
Electrical Installation Certificate
This documentation relates to any installation, and tests whether it is fit for use at the time and date of when the certificate was issued. This is inclusive of major installs, and fittings which have occurred in Special Locations. This could, for example, be installations conducted in bathrooms, wet rooms, swimming pools etc.
Minor Electrical Works Installation Certificate
Unsurprisingly, this is issued in circumstances where works conducted are relatively limited in scope. However, it is essential to note that these certificates cannot be used when installing a new electrical system.
Electrical Installation Condition Report
This is distributed following the inspection of a previous electrical instalment. Therefore, this is a review of a pre-existing system. For reference, this certificate replaces the previous, ‘Periodical Electrical Report’.
Local Authority Building Control Certificate
This certificate alludes to specific work carried out in dwellings and residences. Instances where this is required are documented in the government’s Building Regulations legislation (only relevant to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own established procedures). In these scenarios, an LABC certificate will be acquired by one of two possible pathways.
This could be via directly liaising with the Local Authority Building Control department. If following this method, the LABC must be alerted prior to the commencement of any works. They will also need to be contacted on the task’s completion. A substantial fee is usually attached to this process.
Alternatively, a certificate can be secured through the vehicle of an official Part P scheme. Electricians who are members of such a scheme, can initially self-certify work themselves. They would only need to notify the LABC at the works conclusion. Although the task in this instance will only cost a nominal fee, individuals in the trade who are registered with a Part P program do need to pay an annual membership fee. Qualifying electricians also need to meet strict criteria to join. It should be noted at this stage that not all work in dwellings & residences needs to be validated by the LABC. This means, therefore, that not all work conducted within private and council properties will result in the receipt of a Local Authority Building Control Certificate.
The notes above serve to give a thorough overview of the fundamental role of the bs7671 standard. And also give an insight into its legal and regulatory status within the sector. Although this article hasn’t ventured too far into detail on the bs7671 18th edition guide, students who are looking for further background reading, or indeed a fuller understanding of this industry standard, should visit this documentation for further support.