Electrical Safety & the Building Regulations
What are Building Regulations?:
Building regulations ensure the health and safety of people in and around buildings by providing functional requirements for building design and construction.
A new Part of the Building Regulations, Part P Electrical Safety came into effect on 1st January 2005 which applied to England and Wales and further changes were made in 2013 which apply to England only. This factsheet sets out the requirements for England.
Electrical safety in dwellings, Part P:
From 1 January 2005, electrical work in dwellings will need to comply with Part P requirements and be carried out by persons who are competent to do the work. The essential requirements are:
- P1. Reasonable provision shall be made in the design, installation, inspection and testing of electrical installations in order to protect persons from fire or injury.
- P2. Sufficient information shall be provided so that persons wishing to operate, maintain or alter an electrical installation can do so with reasonable safety.
The ‘Part P’ requirement applies only to fixed electrical installations in dwellings. It does not affect the operation or use of portable appliances within the building, or the existing regulations for regular testing – see Letting Factsheet No. 4.
Most building work and material changes of use must be notified to building control unless the work will be self-certified by a registered competent person or certified by a registered third party or the work is exempt under the Regulations.
Notifiable works are set out in Regulation 12(6A): work which consists of the installation of a new circuit, the replacement of a consumer unit or any addition or alteration to existing circuits in a special location (e.g. certain zones within a room containing a shower, swimming pool or sauna heater).
Work that need not be notified to building control:
Electrical installation work that does not fall under Regulation 12(6A) is not notifiable e.g. additions and alterations to existing installations outside special locations, and replacements, repairs and maintenance anywhere (Approved Document P: electrical safety – dwellings).
Examples of non-notifiable work from the Approved Document P:
- Installing a built-in cooker is not notifiable work unless a new cooker circuit is needed.
- Connecting a garage door to an existing isolator switch is not notifiable work but installing a new circuit from the consumer unit to the isolater will be notifiable.
- Installing prefabricated, modular wiring (e.g. kitchen lighting systems) linked by plug and socket connectors is within the scope of Part P but is only notifiable if it involves work set out in regulation 12(6A).
Small jobs such as replacing a socket-outlet or a light switch on an existing circuit will not need to be notified to a building control body, although there may be exceptions for works in a special location such as bathrooms.
Most jobs carried out by DIYers will be small jobs that do not need to be notified to building control, but Government guidance recommends that they should still be checked by a qualified or competent electrician.
British Standard BS7671:
Any person carrying out work on fixed electrical installations in the home shall be required to follow the fundamental principles of BS 7671, the British Standard for electrical installations. This safety standard applies even for small jobs that do not need to be notified to building control.
Sufficient information should be provided in accordance with BS7671 such as installation certificates or reports, permanent labels, operating instructions and logbooks etc.
Official guidance on complying with the Part P requirements is given in an ‘Approved Document P: electrical safety – dwellings’. This guidance is available from the Government website – see ‘Sources for Further Information’ below.
The Guidance emphasises the need for electrical installation work to be inspected and tested during, and on completion of the work to verify that it complies with BS 7671.
Part P Certification schemes – (electrical safety in dwellings):
Notifiable electrical installation work must be certified to comply with the Building Regulations by a registered self-certified competent person, a registered third-party certifier or a building control body.
Contractors who are registered with a self-certification scheme will be fully qualified electricians who can certify that the works comply with the regulations. If the electrical contractor is not registered with a scheme they will either need to inform building control prior to carrying out the works or get a third-party who is registered with a third-party certification scheme to certify that the works comply.
At the time of writing the following scheme operators, which have been authorised by the Government, are available for self-certification:
- Certsure LLP trading as ELECSA
- Certsure LLP trading as NICEIC
- NAPIT Registration Ltd
- Stroma Certification Ltd
There are also two schemes available for third-party certification which are:
- Stroma Certification Ltd
- NAPIT Certification Ltd
Where a contractor is already registered with Stroma or NAPIT for self-certification they will need to register separately if they wish to become third-party registered certifier as well.
Landlords and agents can check or search for a competent electrician by putting in a postcode or company name at www.electricalcompetentperson.co.uk on the homepage to check if they are registered with a scheme.
Sources for Further Information:
- For information on the existing safety regulations relating to safety testing of appliances in rented accommodation, see Letting Factsheet No. 4 - The Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 1994.
Helpful guidance to Part P – ‘Part P of the Building Regulations – Explained (2013 Edition).’ Available to download from the ECA website www.eca.co.uk.
For the full text of the Building Regulations and guidance on their operation see the Building Regulations section of the Government website at www.gov.uk. You can also access ‘Approved Document P: electrical safety – dwellings’ from the Government website.
The Building Control section of your local authority will also be able to provide guidance and assistance. Access to your local authority and their website is available through www.gov.uk.
This summary is intended to assist landlords and letting agents to understand the effect of the Regulations. It is not an authoritative interpretation - this is a matter for the courts. For more detail, you should refer to the text of the Regulations themselves.