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Building Regulations 'must not be cut'
Published:  11 September, 2012

The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) has called for Building Regulations not to be 'diminished' following a government report into Part P that was released earlier this summer.

In England and Wales, Part P of the Building Regulations is the sole legal framework covering the safety of electrical installations in the home. Since 2005, Part P has required riskier electrical work in the home to inspected, tested and approved by a building control body or self-certified by a registered competent person. The riskier work includes new circuits, new or replacement consumer units, and extensions to circuits in kitchens, bathrooms and outdoors. This is to protect both the existing residents and those who may live there in the future.

The government has proposed that some of the work undertaken in what was previously considered as high risk areas in the bathroom, kitchen and outdoors, should no longer be notifiable. This means it could be carried out by someone who is not registered with a competent person scheme, such as DIYer, without inspection of the standard of completed electrical work.

Speaking during a debate on the gas and electrical building regulations, ESC director General Phil Buckle was categorical on the need for Part P not to be diminished, saying: “Building regulations are vital to ensuring the safety of consumers and helping them to select contractors who they can be confident will do a good job."

ESC is a charity dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents. During the debate, many MPs spoke in favour of keeping the current Part P legislation in place. Labour MP Clive Betts said he felt that the regulations had improved standards and that the scope should not be cut. He said: “The whole industry, including the Electrical Safety Council which expressed concern about watering down the regulations, should be involved. We must raise awareness.”

While the main decisions of Part P are yet to be revealed, the responsibilities of retailers to promote the requirements of Part P came to the fore in discussions.

Labour MP Nick Raynsford quoted a note sent to him by the ESC raising concerns over the limited promotion of Part P by DIY retailers due to the adverse affect it can have on sales, and asked: “What more can be done to alert members of the public to their responsibilities and to the risks of undertaking electrical DIY work without ensuring that it is checked as compliant with the requirements of Part P?”

However, he did praise Part P for increasing the number of electricians being inspected and felt that it was a good plan to legislate so that retailers had to include labelling of risks on products.

Speaking for the opposition, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP spoke firmly against any possible watering down of the regulations. She said: “All Members will have received an important briefing from the Electrical Safety Council. More than any other information I received, it highlighted that the result of the regulations being in place is an excellent safety record. That is a very strong argument for keeping them as they are.”

Blackman-Woods added her voice to the calls to apply pressure to retailers, and asked for there to be a plan to ensure retailers committed to promoting Part P if the initial voluntary route did not succeed.

The newly-appointed Building Regulations Minister Don Foster spoke on behalf of the government, and was unconvinced that making it a legal requirement for retailers to label products was the right path to go down, but said it was one he would consider if other routes were to fail.

Buckle added: "We are committed to doing all we can to highlight to householders the scope of the requirements and their importance for securing the safety of their families. We congratulate Mr Foster on his appointment and welcome his comments that no decisions have yet been made to reduce the scope of Part P. We hope to work closely with DCLG over the coming months to ensure the electrical industry and others are co-ordinated in their efforts to bring about greater awareness of the requirements.”

Industry-backed alternatives to these proposals, including a regime of third party inspection and testing, have been flagged as a way to limit health and safety implications to Part P, whilst still fulfilling the government’s objective to strip away unnecessary beaurocracy and cost for businesses.

A revised Part P document is expected to be published this October, with any change in requirements due to come into force next spring.

ESC is a charity dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents.