Currently anyone can call themselves an electrician, without the need for any qualifications or competency. This can lead to customers, especially domestic consumers, hiring unqualified or less competent individuals, resulting in faults that can lead to fire or personal injury, such as electric shocks.
There are currently voluntary self-regulatory systems in place. Qualified electricians can register with the Scottish Joint Industry Board and there are a number of organisations for electrical businesses or contractors rather than individuals:
- SELECT (Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland) is a trade association for the electrical contracting industry in Scotland.
- NICEIC (the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting) is a registration body that provides assessment and certification services for contractors.
- NAPIT (National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers) operates an accredited membership scheme in the building services and fabric sector.
In addition, the Construction Skills Certification Scheme provides proof that individuals have the appropriate training and qualifications for the job they are doing on construction sites.
Following representations from bodies in the electrical sector and a lack of independent evidence around the issue, the Scottish Government formed the Electricians Working Group to bring the industry together and attempt to build consensus for a way forward. The membership reflected industry, safety and consumer interests.
Although there were a variety of views on how to take specific issues forward, there was unanimous recognition that the system is complex and there is no easy way for a consumer to quickly determine if individual electricians or electrical businesses are competent to carry out required work. It was agreed that the protection of consumers and raising of awareness among consumers was needed.
As part of the work to develop an evidence base, a YouGov survey was commissioned in December 2017 by Scottish Government to better understand the views of the general public. Key findings were:
- 92% of people asked agreed with the statement that ‘People who carry out electrical work should be independently assessed to ensure they have the skills to do the work safely.’ (3% disagreed)
- 58% of people asked said they would ask friends and family for a recommendation when finding an electrician to carry out work in their home.
- There was low recognition of the two industry bodies operating the Scottish Government Approved Schemes in Scotland with 88% of people asked having not heard of SELECT (the Electrical contractors trade association in Scotland) and 87% of people asked have not heard of Certsure (Trading as NICEIC, and a UKAS accredited Certification Body).
While this is only a snapshot, it highlights that although consumers believe that electricians should be assessed as competent to carry out work, there are some key challenges around consumer attitudes to using registered electricians and awareness of registration bodies. These challenges are also mirrored in research conducted across the UK. Statistics from Electrical Safety First suggest that a quarter of UK adults do not use registered electricians, and a third of adults have hired an electrician recommended to them without checking their credentials. It is likely that price is often a key determinant, with consumers assuming that work will be done in a competent and safe manner.
Pye Tait Consulting were appointed to independently assess evidence of the current extent of unregulated electricians in Scotland and build a business case to determine if regulation is required. The findings were published in June 2019.
The evidence covered injuries, defects and costs. Five potential options for action were identified:
- Do nothing
- Awareness campaign
- Protection of Title
- Licensing of electrical firms
- Licensing and individual registration
The report said that Protection of Title alone was not enough. It recommended statutory protection of title and a comprehensive registration and licensing scheme along with a related awareness campaign.
The report identified that the fundamental question was proportionality – what would be a proportionate response to the problems of defective electrical installations? The report went on to say:
“Protecting title might help but would do nothing to prevent unqualified people using different titles to do electrical work. Protecting the title and requiring updating and re-registration could improve or maintain the competence of practising electricians but would, again, not resolve the issues of untrained, unqualified people undertaking electrical work.
“While limited in scope and coverage, this research has also demonstrated a significant belief among members of the public and electricians that there would be considerable benefits from further regulation and possibly licensing of electricians and their companies.”