Regulation of electricians in Scotland: research report

Research conducted by Pye Tait to independently assess the evidence and build a business case to determine if regulation is required.

2. Methodology

The research has been based on a four-phase approach.

1. Desk research and scoping of the current evidence base to ascertain the level of evidence that already exists.

2. A Call for Evidence seeking to develop an understanding of the scope and scale of defective electrical work being conducted, as well as collecting data on the views on risk and regulation.

3. A series of follow-up interviews delving further into the defective electrical installations and the impacts experienced by the respondents to the call for evidence.

4. The initial three phases formed the basis of a fourth phase, aimed at developing a series of outputs through analysis and interpretation of the data.

Desk research and scoping of the current evidence base

We first confirmed the perceived problem and, with the client, established definitions for internal use before identifying what existing evidence is available.

It quickly became apparent that minimal research has been conducted, hitherto, on this topic and that no reliable, searchable records of these types of activities exist.

The agreed basis of the work was to look specifically at defective or unsafe electrical installations[10] within domestic settings in Scotland. In the wider context the HSE and particularly the Electricity at Work Regulations 1990, govern the safety of electrical employees in all circumstances. However, those regulations have no bearing on the potential for faulty electrical work to be installed in a domestic setting. Consequently, these regulations and legislation have not been addressed in this research.

Call for Evidence

The scope of the Call for Evidence and the draft questionnaire were initially discussed with the EWG during a webinar on December 20, 2018. Those unable to attend the scheduled meeting were given the opportunity to provide input via email or telephone. During the webinar, it was confirmed that the Call for Evidence would only register evidence of defective electrical work in domestic settings. The EWG also provided support by contributing to the pilot of the Call for Evidence questionnaire in order to assess functionality and content. Thereafter, the Call for Evidence was live for a four-week period between January 21, and February 18, 2019. It was accessible through a dedicated online portal.

The Call for Evidence focused on all incidents occurring over a three-year period (between January 1. 2016 and December 31. 2018) of defective or unsafe electrical installations within a domestic setting in Scotland. The call was open for responses by any affected parties including the general public, the electrical workforce, those affected by any such defective or unsafe electrical installations, those completing retrospective work, emergency services, insurance companies, local authorities, trade associations, Citizens Advice, and certification bodies and other stakeholders.

The aim of the Call for Evidence was to establish a sense of the scale of defective and unsafe electrical installations, within a specified timeframe, establish how electricians are engaged for new or repair work, and gather perceptions on the options for the potential regulation of electricians and the possibility of protecting the title.

The Call for Evidence generated 537 responses from stakeholders (88), the public (38) and electricians (411 or 76.5% of the total responses). See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Respondent Profile

Figure 1. Respondent Profile

Base: 537 Pye Tait Call for Evidence 2019

Of the members of the public/users of domestic electrical services, four fifths of the respondents were homeowners, and one fifth described themselves as private tenants.

During the primary research, data were also collected on the local authority (LA) in which an incident(s) had taken place. The 404 respondents (351 of whom were electricians) who provided evidence of defective installations have been grouped into three Scottish regions: North, Central and South Scotland.

The response profile for each region was evenly divided and the response to the Call for Evidence could be said to be regionally representative of Scotland (see Table 1). The figures in brackets represent the numbers of electricians in each set of responses.

Table 1. Local Authority Grouping

Northern Local Authorities Central Local Authorities Southern Local Authorities
Shetland Inverclyde Scottish Borders
Orkney Renfrewshire Dumfries and Galloway
Comhairle Na h-Eilean Siar West Dunbartonshire South Lanarkshire
Highlands East Dunbartonshire North Ayrshire
Moray Glasgow East Ayrshire
Aberdeen Clackmannanshire South Ayrshire
Aberdeenshire Fife North Lanarkshire
Angus Argyll and Bute East Renfrewshire
Perth and Kinross Stirling Falkirk
Dundee   West Lothian
East Lothian
City of Edinburgh
Evidence by group and providers –Total (Electricians)
116 (103) 129 (112) 159 (136)

Promotion of the Call for Evidence

From the launch of the Call for Evidence, a substantial effort was made to promote it to the general public, and to electricians in Scotland. Aside from CAS, SELECT, NICEIC, NAPIT and SJIB kindly promoting the Call for Evidence through their membership and social media channels, Pye Tait launched a comprehensive social media and internet campaign. Further details of the specifics of the survey promotion can be found in Appendix 1.

In-depth interview and case study development

Following the conclusion of the Call for Evidence the next stage collected the feedback from detailed, qualitative, in-depth interviews to provide a deeper qualitative evidence base and to develop a series of case studies[11] (Appendix 2) to provide anecdotal evidence on experiences with defective installation.

In order to collect these data, four key topics were discussed with all participants:

  • Further in-depth discussion of the evidence provided through the Call for Evidence portal.
  • Opinion on whether the interviewees perceive there to be a significant problem in Scotland with domestic electrical installations being incorrectly installed, and, if so, the scope and scale of the problem and the type and level of risk.
  • Whether more needs to be done to improve the regulation of electricians and how this might be achieved in practice.
  • Top tips and advice to someone seeking an electrician for work on their house, flat, or tenement.

Analysis and reporting

Iterative data analysis enabled key findings and themes to be identified throughout the project. A full review of the inputted data for the Call for Evidence was conducted on completion to confirm there were no small inconsistencies, out-riders, missing data, etc. Open questions were analysed on the basis of agreed coding, using content analysis to group together and draw out the main messages.

Findings from the call for evidence have been used in support of the desk-research and in-depth interviews to develop a triangulated view which answers some or all of the research questions. It delivers the findings by theme, using charts supported by quotes to showcase key messages (where appropriate and suitably anonymised).

Risk assessment, business case, and recommendations.

Risk is a difficult concept to assess but we attempt to estimate it in this context in terms of risk to property and life. There are other, even less quantifiable, risks associated with the subject of this research – including for example reputational risk to the electrotechnical trade and even to the Scottish Government should it be deemed by the media not to be "doing enough".

Recommendations discuss the possible pros and cons of different options.

The business case generated from the recommendations considers the most desirable actions which offer the potential to address any problems found by the research.



Back to top