Publication - Research and analysis

Regulation of electricians in Scotland: research report

Published: 7 Jun 2019
Directorate:
Energy and Climate Change Directorate
Part of:
Law and order, Work and skills
ISBN:
9781787818569

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

Regulation of electricians in Scotland: research report
Appendix 2: Case Studies

Appendix 2: Case Studies

The Security Industry Authority – regulator to the private security industry

For a considerable time, the police, the public and the industry itself were concerned about the probity of the individuals working in the industry and running private security companies. There was no satisfactory way of checking an individual's credentials before he or she is employed in the private security industry and in fact anyone could set up a security company.

The growth of the industry together with the fact that the nature of the work of the private security industry means that those working within it often have access to individuals, property, documents or information of commercial value. However, this wasn't the main driver behind the regulator being set up. In fact the Government considered that it was the industry's increasing contact with the public, its potentially wider role in communities and the threat to public safety, particularly the more vulnerable members of society, posed by unscrupulous employers and employees who are placed in positions of trust that were the overriding factors.[37]

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) was established in 2003 as the organisation responsible for regulating the private security industry. It is an independent body reporting to the Home Secretary. Its remit covers the United Kingdom.

The SIA has two main duties. One is the compulsory licensing of individuals undertaking designated activities within the private security industry; the other is to manage the voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme, which measures private security suppliers against independently assessed criteria.

Remit

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is funded through licence fees from individuals, and Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) subscriptions, (a small proportion (5%) of income, for capital projects comes from HM Treasury).

It is required by HM Treasury to operate on a full cost recovery basis and the SIA is not allowed to make a surplus.

SIA individual licensing covers: manned guarding (including security guarding, door supervision, close protection, cash and valuables in transit, and public space surveillance using CCTV), key holding and vehicle immobilising.

Licensing ensures that private security operatives are 'fit and proper' persons who are properly trained and qualified to do their job

All individual licences have a three-year lifespan, with the licence application fee paid in full in the first year. SIA licence income follows a three-year cycle.

ACS is a voluntary scheme by which companies seek accreditation to attain SIA approved contractor status. Organisations that meet ACS standards are awarded Approved Contractor status. This accreditation provides purchasers of private security services with independent proof of a contractor's commitment to quality.

In making a decision about fee levels, the SIA Board takes into account:

• The fluctuation of income against a largely fixed cost base over the three-year licence demand cycle.

• The requirement to provide the industry and individuals with cost stability by ensuring that the fees do not fluctuate on an annual basis.

• The requirement in Managing Public Money only to recover costs and avoid making a surplus.

Income and Costs

Licensing income is the application fee for an individual SIA licence. There are 374,000 licence holders, during 2017/18 136,000 individual licences were granted (approximately 1500 licences were revoked, and a similar number refused).

During 2017/18 (1/02/17 to 31/01/18) the individual fee was £220 for a three-year licence

ACS income is composed of the annual registration fees and application fees for companies joining the voluntary scheme. There are 835 ACS companies, 139 new companies were approved in 2017/2018.

ACS fees are based numbers of licensable staff (see table 1).

Table 1: ACS (voluntary scheme) Charge out rates

Size of Company Licensable staff Application fee Annual registration fee
Micro Up to 10 £400 £15 per licensable individual
Small 11 to 25 £800
Medium 26 to 250 £1,600
Large Over 250 £2,400

Total cost of individual and company licensing in 2017/18 was approximately £23m (see table 2).

Table 2: SIA income/expenditure 2017-2018

Operating segment Income £000 Full cost £000 Surplus/Deficit £000
Licensing 22745 20632 2113
ACS 2094 2289 (195)

The SIA directly employs 224 staff, total staff costs in 2017/18 amounted to £11.7m.

For interest we have also listed here the divisions or departments within the regulator to enforce its legal duty:

Enforcement team

The SIA works with the police, local authorities, other government agencies, training providers, trade associations and industry representatives to ensure that individuals and companies operating within the private security industry comply with the law.

Partnerships & Interventions (P&I)

This is outward facing, working with law enforcement partners, the private security industry and other key stakeholders in the regulatory regime. The function is responsible for providing robust and effective compliance and enforcement across the UK. It conducts operations and business audits to identify and tackle non-compliance using a range of interventions and sanctions at its disposal including criminal investigation and prosecution for the most serious offences. The function provides evidence to support the withdrawal or withholding of business approval in appropriate cases. The function is also active in working with partners to identify and disrupt serious and organised crime associated with the industry.

The SIA Criminal Investigation team (CIT)

The CIT investigates and prosecutes criminal allegations associated with Private Security Industry Act 2001, for example, document offences under the Fraud Act 2006 Act offences. The CIT prosecutes people for fraud and other offences associated with improving industry standards and reducing risk to people, places and property.

Operations and Standards

The SIA operations and standards directorate is made up of five functions

  • Customer Support -
  • Decisions & Compliance -
  • Intelligence & Risk Management -
  • Operations Support -
  • Quality & Standards -

Corporate Services

The Corporate Services directorate is made up of six business functions:

  • Finance & Business Planning
  • Human Resources -
  • ICT Solutions -
  • Legal Services -
  • Risk & Information Assurance -
  • Supplier Management & Procurement -

There is also a communications function and a series of teams that cover internal and external communication & stakeholder engagement.

The remaining case studies relate to actual incidents as reported through the call for evidence.

Case Study 1: Member of the Public, Aberdeenshire

A consumer based in Aberdeenshire requested a full rewiring of a new extension and a new shower room plus partial rewiring throughout the house. This work turned out to be defective.

The electrician they chose had already undertaken work in another part of another property, but this work was found to be faulty at a much later date. Since the discovery of the faulty work, they have investigated and learned that at least 10 further cases throughout their community exist based on the work of this one individual.

The extension required a building warrant and thus local authority verification on completion. Completion was not signed off on the work due to wrongly located CO2 detectors installed by the electrical contractor. The consumer hired two NICEIC certified electricians to check the work that had been completed and to subsequently rectify the defective work.

"It was only because of the NICEIC certified electricians that we unearthed the defective work."

The electrician that completed the defective work provided no proof of qualifications or certification and was hired based on a recommendation from a family member. In court the electrician stated that he was a certified electrician, although no further details were available about his qualifications or any membership he might possess.

The defective work consisted of defective wall sockets and a cable running underground and external to the building not being connected properly, with the poor record keeping the cable cannot be easily relocated.

The consumer recalls that the NICEIC electricians were notably angry with the work that had been installed because of its poor quality of work and the damage it does to reputable electricians. The consumers biggest concern is the ease of producing what appeared to be DCM6 Domestic Electrical Installation Certificate completion paperwork at a minimal cost by someone who it turned out is not an NICEIC member. However, this is not the case, this form is based on the model form in Appendix 6 of BS7671 available for free to electrical contractors from multiple organisations.

Following the rectification of the faulty work the consumer sought advice through a number of avenues including Trading Standards and CAS as part of their small claims case.

The cost to the consumer is calculated below and shows a total of £8,226.40, with only £80 being returned through the small claims court. The £2,500 is clearly a cost for the correct work. With this in mind the net loss to the consumer is £5,646.40.

Financial Loss

Item Cost Cumulative cost
The cost of the installation £5,000 £5,000
Cost of the small claims court £100 £5,100
Cost of remedial work £2,500 £7,600
Loss of earnings[38] £626.40 £8,226.40

The consumer's assessment of the risks posed by the defective installations are almost all high. Her reduced rating for loss of life was down to the rationale that the defective work was hidden in walls and floors.

Risk assessment

Risk Description Risk Rating (High, Medium, Low)
Risk of damage to appliances High
Risk of the electrical circuit overheating High
Risk of a short circuit High
Risk of no power to the circuit Medium
Risk of Fire High
Risk of Electrical burns or shock to a person High
Risk of loss of human life Medium

"I want to ensure this does not happen to someone else. People need to be aware that anyone can call themselves an electrician."

The consumer's view is that unqualified electricians are the source of the problem and that whilst she is unsure how a new regulation system may be successfully implemented she is clear that more needs to be done to protect consumers.

Case Study 2: Member of the Public, Dumfries and Galloway

In April 2017, a consumer decided to invest in a new heating system to improve energy efficiency and reduce their energy bills. On a recommendation, through word of mouth, they were introduced to an electrical installation company who quoted £4,000 for six Spanish manufactured, Rointe Kyros heaters and their electrical installation.

The online profile of the electrical installation company suggests a 25-year experience in a wide range of electrical work in commercial and industrial settings. Nothing indicates that this organisation has experience with domestic work through their online website.

The organisation indicated that they are a SELECT member. This is reflected on their website as is their membership of NICEIC. The current detail of the situation is set out below.

Timeline of events as of 20th February 2019

Timeline of events as of 20th February 2019

"In hindsight, I should have visited the contractor's offices, ensured a contract was in place and that all paperwork gave me a way to ensure I was getting a quality installation."

The financial aspect of this case study goes beyond the cost of the defective installation. The current cost to date according to the consumer is £12,807.52.

Financial Loss

Item Cost Cumulative costs
The Cost of the installation and 6 heaters £4,000 £4,000
Energy bill increases[39] £7,157.52 £11,157.52
Additional charges by electrical installers for checks £450 £11,607.52
Phone bill to call Rointe Kyros in Spain £120 £11,727.52
Loss of earnings[40] £1080 £12,807.52

It is anticipated that further costs will be incurred as part of any legal proceedings, remedial work, interest charges and further loss of earnings.

The member of the public's assessment of the risks suggest that the biggest risks come from overheating and fire. She also believes this could prevent the circuit providing power if overheating occurs.

Risk Assessment

Risk Description Risk Rating (High, Medium, Low)
Risk of damage to appliances Low
Risk of the electrical circuit overheating High
Risk of a short circuit Medium
Risk of no power to the circuit High
Risk of Fire High
Risk of Electrical burns or shock to a person Medium
Risk of loss of human life Low

This on-going issue is causing the consumer to be concerned about paying their heating bills in the future.

Electricians

The vast majority of respondents providing evidence have been electricians and the majority of those are members of trade, registration or certification bodies and qualifications. This is not entirely surprising as they have a vested interest in this research and its outcomes. They are also more likely to have greater exposure to the details of faulty installations, have a repertoire of technical skills and knowledge that other stakeholders may not. Herein there is further detailed case studies on the evidence provided by electricians.

Case Study 3: Electrician, Ayrshire

An electrician working at Ayrshire College – which is sited within the jurisdiction of three local authorities: East, North and South Ayrshire – responded to the Call for Evidence. Having trained as an electrician, he was called by a member of his family to correct the defective installation of a boiler, which could not be isolated or made safe as it had been connected to the live side of a spur switch to allow lighting to be connected to and switched from the same spur. During the fitting of a new kitchen, the electrical work was carried out by a kitchen fitter rather than a qualified or registered electrician.

The issue here is that it seems fitters, like those working on the kitchen in this case study, feel reasonably qualified to install lighting (despite having no formal, electrical qualifications). The electrician here believes that such workers are either unaware of the serious consequences their work could have, or they may well be aware but disregard the risk. He rated the risks of the incorrectly installed boiler as generally high and felt the potential consequences could have been alarming.

Risk Assessment

Risk Description Risk Rating (High, Medium, Low)
Risk of damage to appliances High
Risk of the electrical circuit overheating High
Risk of a short circuit High
Risk of no power to the circuit Medium
Risk of Fire High
Risk of Electrical burns or shock to a person High
Risk of loss of human life Low to Medium

On this occasion, after he had corrected the work, no third-party inspection was required due to the small-scale nature of the work. This electrician sees defective installations in around 4-5% of installations he visits, and the cost implication for the customer varies from £30 to ten times that, depending on the severity of the defect(s).

"With the current situation, you've got to make sure electricians are registered with a relevant body like SELECT or NICEIC and ask to see evidence of registration. That's all you can do at the moment."

To protect consumers, he believes that regulation of electricians in Scotland is the way forward, and proposes a similar model to Gas Safe, where individuals, rather than companies, are registered once they have reached a certain level of qualification. This would mean consumers could check electricians' qualifications and would, he thinks, reduce the number of defective installations and associated risks.

"It's a worthwhile exercise to regulate the industry more closely to cut out some of the cowboys that carry out some of the work I've seen in my time."

Being based in the further education sector at Ayrshire College (which has a gas training centre), this electrician sees gas engineers attend annually for training and re-certification to ensure they keep abreast of new initiatives and practices within the industry; he feels a similar model could work well for electricians.

Case Study 4: Electrician, Dumfries & Galloway

An electrician, working as an electrical installation contractor based in Dumfries, responded to the Call for Evidence with his personal experience. In 2017, he encountered the 'poorest installation seen to date' when he was called to a property that had just undergone rewiring but was not safe. Photographic evidence from the time shows wires hanging in mid-air, and the property owner could immediately see the severity of the issue themselves (see below). The electrician was called in to fix the issue and provide a certificate to the homeowner upon completion – at a cost of £2,000 to the consumer.

The electrician believes there is a widespread problem in Scotland with incorrectly wired domestic installations. The problem, as he sees it, is twofold. Firstly, the grey area surrounding the lack of clarity around what is meant by a 'qualified' or an 'unqualified' electrician. For instance, he notes that a heating engineer can change electrical components within a boiler under 1989 regulations but may not necessarily have been formally trained as an electrician.

Second, the electrician believes that cost and convenience to the consumer are significant drivers, with homeowners asking a so-called 'electrician' to work on their property while having little awareness of their qualifications or competence.

Over the course of his career, he has seen various issues, ranging in severity, in domestic electrical installations across Scotland. While not wanting to frighten customers, he does raise concerns and flag issues to homeowners, and advises further testing.

To make the industry safer, this electrician is supportive of both occupational licensing, and of protecting the title 'electrician'. Knowing several electricians without up-to-date training he believes that, should such a practise be made a criminal offence, the quality of installation work would increase. At the same time, incentives should be provided for the homeowner to use registered electricians. For example, he believes that the discount for homeowners to use a SELECT member for their electrical work if they undertook improvements under a building warrant was a good case in point. He believes that the regular radio bulletins and flyers from SELECT are useful and effective in educating the public too.

The electrician has two major personal focusses: to protect his customers, and to keep his training and knowledge up-to-date. He has spent thousands of pounds on training and feels that it is unfair that, while many like himself are taking all the necessary precautions, others get away with cutting corners and, by doing so, put peoples' lives at risk.

"I welcome training and keeping up to date. There's no second chance with electrics, and there's no way to keep on top of it unless you make it a criminal offence. Something needs to be done, definitely, as properties are at risk as well as lives."

Other stakeholders

In addition to this group there are also several other stakeholders that have specific skills and insights into the evidence provided in this research. Therefore, this next set of case studies will reflect interesting cases and perspectives from fire consultants, local authority verifiers and others stakeholders.

Case Study 5: Fire Safety Consultant, Glasgow

The respondent is a fire safety consultant based in Glasgow. He is a qualified electrician and has NEBOSH Health and Safety qualifications together with experience of designing intruder systems, and fire suppression and detection systems. A large part of his work is concerned with new build, safety inspections and audits.

Risk Assessment

Risk Description Risk Rating (High, Medium, Low)
Risk of damage to appliances Low
Risk of the electrical circuit overheating Low
Risk of a short circuit High
Risk of no power to the circuit Low
Risk of Fire Low
Risk of Electrical burns or shock to a person Medium
Risk of loss of human life Low

The respondent has encountered several instances much of them being caused by:

  • home owners over-confident in their DIY skills;
  • handymen who purport to be able to 'fix anything';
  • tradesmen e.g. plumbers who may have some electrical training but are not fully aware of wider issues e.g. overloading circuits and;
  • to a lesser degree, electrical contractors unwittingly employing unqualified staff.

A recent incident involved a large property where a maintenance man had suffered a severe electric shock when attempting to change a light fitting. The maintenance man had no electrical qualifications and had not isolated the supply before trying to change the fitting. A previous maintenance man had installed the existing socket and transposed the neutral and live wires, hence though the socket was turned off at the wall it was still live. This could have resulted in a fatality.

In this instance both maintenance men felt capable of carrying out what should have been a simple electrical task. The activities of the first maintenance man gave rise to the risk, which was elevated by the incompetence of the second maintenance man. The respondent believes that often homeowners will assume a job has been completed safely because a light or socket will turn on or off when switched.

The respondent believes that regulation of electricians in Scotland would be a positive step towards minimising occurrences of faulty electrical installations.

"Regulation should include some compulsory CPD for electricians and should not be a licence for life, it should also cover the wider industry including fire and intruder alarm installers."

He feels that such a system would need to be publicised widely. but could never provide one hundred percent assurance. He believes that people will always cut corners and highlights infringements of Gas Safe regulations as an example.

Case Study 6: Building Services Fife Council, Fife

The respondent is employed in the building services department of a local authority. When supervising periodic maintenance on local authority housing the respondent often comes across incidents of dangerous electrical installation work. Some instances are seemingly minor (e.g. incorrect fuses in circuits) but could have serious consequences. Other instances are highly unsafe, posing severe risk of disastrous consequences.

One incident involved a local authority property where the tenant had installed new kitchen units and had the kitchen re-wired. The re-wire was entirely unsatisfactory: the materials (e.g. 1.5mm flexible cable for wiring kitchen sockets) were unsuitable, cable jointing was haphazard and earth protection was suspect.

Risk Assessment

Risk Description Risk Rating (High, Medium, Low)
Risk of damage to appliances High
Risk of the electrical circuit overheating High
Risk of a short circuit High
Risk of no power to the circuit High
Risk of Fire High
Risk of Electrical burns or shock to a person High
Risk of loss of human life High

After inspecting the kitchen, it was thought that similar faults with the remainder of the wiring in the property could not be ruled out, so a complete re-wire was ordered at a cost of £3000. In similar cases, the local authority legal department has sued tenants for recompense, with mixed results.

Incidents similar to the case above are encountered regularly by the respondent, often the cost of remedial work is in the low hundreds of pounds, but it is not rare for a complete re-wire to be the only safe option.

Major problems typically result when a tenant will have some minor work carried out e.g. a conservatory or kitchen extension, and the builder will complete the plumbing and electrical work. Householders believe that because 'everything works', the installation must have been carried out in a satisfactory manner. It is only on closer inspection that potential hazards become apparent.

Other more minor problems occur when a householder will attempt their own minor electrical work, typically moving a socket or installing a light fitting. While doing this wrongly is potentially hazardous – it is less costly to remedy.

The respondent has concerns about hazards presented by faulty installations, and the risk to DIYers while attempting work without isolating the supply correctly.

The respondent feels there is some correlation with incidence of poor quality domestic electrical work and deprivation; with homeowners in more affluent areas having the funds to employ qualified electricians.

Compulsory licensing of electricians, based on their experience and qualifications would, in his opinion be a step in the right direction, especially if it was made clear to the public that electrical work is a specialist trade. A

In the absence of compulsory licensing of electricians, the respondent would advise homeowners to use websites e.g. 'checkatrade' which give ratings to electricians and show feedback from previous clients.

Case Study 7: Housing Association

The respondent in this case study is an electrical supervisor for a Scottish housing association with responsibility for over 2000 homes. He is NICEIC qualified. He comes across faulty work during routine maintenance and inspection of new builds. He estimates that 70% of maintenance checks will reveal some compliance issues, and faults will be found in 2% of new-builds.

Risk Assessment

Risk Description Risk Rating (High, Medium, Low)
Risk of damage to appliances Medium
Risk of the electrical circuit overheating Medium
Risk of a short circuit Medium
Risk of no power to the circuit Medium
Risk of Fire Medium
Risk of Electrical burns or shock to a person Medium
Risk of loss of human life Low

A recent incident involved in a housing association property involved loose connections to metering services and a defective luminaire (fluorescent ceiling light) installation in a bathroom. The energy supplier had no knowledge of the work to the metering services, and the tenant was unable to provide details of the contractor responsible for the defective luminaire installation.

The cost of remedying the above faults was in the low hundreds of pounds. The costs were borne by the housing association, this is usually the case. Costs are typically in the region of £50 to £500.

Risks involved in the above installation were medium but could have been elevated to high risk by two or three factors e.g. if the tenant had attempted to change the already incorrectly installed light fitting.

Typically, by the time the association is aware of faults, it is difficult to locate the contractors responsible and practically impossible to get them to return to remedy matters. The respondent places the blame for faulty electrical work with DIYers and incompetent electricians, noting the latter appear to fix faults by just getting the electrics up and running without realising wider issues e.g. overloading circuits. Other issues that occur include: faulty earthing and incorrect allocation of circuit breakers and ring mains

'Too many people undertake electrical work without the understanding of the hazards of incorrect installations. This, in my experience applies to some SJIB qualified electricians who may have the qualifications but do not have the technical ability to understand the implications of incorrect installation.'

The respondent has drawn up a contract for electrical contractors who tender for work with his organisation – this lists the minimum qualifications and experience required of electricians employed.

The respondent would be in favour of a licensing system for electricians, and protection of the title electrician. Qualification would be by an independently audited skills assessment, and demonstrable experience, enforced in a similar way to Gas Safe. Other activity which could reduce the incidence of faulty electrical work would be a public awareness campaign highlighting the risks, and more activity by local authorities enforcing building standards.

Case Study 8: British Engineering Services

The respondent works for an engineering consultancy that does safety testing and is a member of SELECT. In this particular case, an insurance company has commissioned the verification of a re-wiring job at a hotel in Scotland. The work was found to be defective (around 19 defects were found) that a full inspection of the whole building had to be carried out.

Examples of defects included bad connections leading to fire hazards, poor light fittings and the potentially life-threatening danger of electric shock due to faulty earthing systems and failures to install residual current devices (RCD).

It was found that the contractor that had carried out the work had not been a company specialising in electrical work but had offered electrical work as part of other jobs at a price below normal electrician rates. In addition, local electricians had refused to verify the work due to its poor quality.

It was decided that bringing in another verifier was the best solution and the owner commissioned a qualified electrician who was registered with the SJIB to complete the work. The SJIB electrician spent over two weeks rectifying the defects. This was followed by further inspections over two weeks and further repairs. In summary, the risks to health and safety as well as additional costs could have been avoided if a qualified electrician would have been hired from the beginning.

The respondent noted that to prevent of this kind of case, people need to be made aware of the dangers of defective electrical installations. He noted that the onus is at the moment on the consumer to check and be provided with evidence of qualifications. Therefore, raising awareness of qualifications is in the interest of the public who generally associates the term 'electrician' with a set of qualifications and related competence.

He felt that the best starting point for regulation is the recognition of the electrician trade, based on a set of recognised qualifications. Furthermore, a national licensing system should be introduced including regular assessment and continued refreshment of knowledge. There is a cost implication, but registration with the SJIB for instance is already priced in. There is a fair price for quality and safety but, the market is presently distorted by the undercutting of prices by unqualified electricians.


Contact

Email: ConsumerandCompetition@gov.scot