If you are carrying out electrical work in your home or garden in England and Wales, you will have to follow new rules in the Building Regulations.
You should use an installer who is registered with a competent person scheme or seek approval from a Building Control body. This is true for most work. However, you do not need to tell them about repairs, replacements and maintenance work or extra power points or lighting points or other alterations to existing circuits (except in a kitchen or bathroom, or outdoors).
The Building Regulations set out overall criteria and requirements to ensure electrical safety. Approved document P provides further practical guidance for undertaking this type of work. You should bear in mind that any electrical work you carry out within your home, garden, garage shed and other storage buildings may need to comply with the requirements of the Building Regulations. If you are unsure about whether you are required to comply you may wish to contact your local authorities building regulations department.
All electrical work should follow the safety standards in BS 7671 (the 'wiring regulations') which can be found on the British Standards Institute (BSI) website.
These rules have been introduced to help reduce the number of deaths, injuries and fires caused by faulty installations.
The Building Regulations only set standards for electrical installation work in relation to dwellings (houses, flats etc). If the work is carried out in industrial or commercial buildings it is covered by the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is responsible for making sure that electrical installation work in these kinds of buildings is safe and if you have any queries about work in these buildings you should contact HSE.
The Building Regulations do not restrict who may carry out electrical installation work. If you want to do the work yourself you should make sure that you know what you need to do before starting any works. There are a number of reputable guides that you can use to help you.
The Building Regulations do not set standards for the safety of electrical appliances but they do require that fixed connections of appliances are safe.
Checking for safety
Where the works require a Building Regulations application it should be checked to make sure that it is safe. This checking can be done in either of 2 ways:
- by using an electrician registered with a competent person scheme
- or by notifying the building control section of your local authority
Local Authority Building Control
You should make a Building Regulations application to Building Control if the electrician you employ to carry out the works is not registered as a competent person under one of the relevant Competent Person Schemes for electrical installations or if you do the work yourself. You should contact your local authority building control department before you start the work. They will explain the requisite procedures to you.
It is also best to discuss with Building Control how they wish to inspect and check the works you are carrying out.
Approved inspector building control
An approved inspector is a body which carries out the same functions as local authority building control. If you use an approved inspector they will explain to you how the approved inspector system works. If at the end of the work the approved inspector is satisfied that the work is safe, you will be given a copy of the final notice
In relation to electrical safety this means that an electrician who is registered by an organisation authorised by the Secretary of State and is able to certify the work carried out is safe, without you having to notify Building Control. Once works are complete the electrician will arrange for you to receive a building regulations compliance certificate within 30 days of the completion of the work. Your local authority will then also be notified about the work by the electrician.
The competent person should also provide you with a completed Electrical Installation Certificate which shows that the work was tested for safety.
It is advisable to ask the electrician to provide information about which scheme they belong to and their membership number. You will then be able check with the Competent Persons Register to make sure they are registered. You can find a list of the organisations which run the competent person schemes for electrical installation work on the GOV.UK website
The Building Regulations allow certain works (known as non-notifiable or minor work) to be carried out without having to notify building control or using a registered electrician. Such work includes:
- replacing any electrical fitting (for example, socket outlets, light fittings, control switches)
- adding a fused spur (which is a socket that has a fuse and a switch that is connected to an appliance eg, heater) to an existing circuit (but not in a kitchen, bathroom or outdoors)
- any repair or maintenance work
- installing or upgrading main or supplementary equipotential bonding
- installing cabling at extra low voltage for signalling, cabling or communication purposes (for example, telephone cabling, cabling for fire alarm or burglar alarm systems, or heating control systems)
If you are not sure whether the work you want to undertake is notifiable, you should contact your local authority building control department for advice.
Minor electrical work can also present a risk to safety. If qualified electricians carry out the work they should give you a Minor Works Certificate which means that they have tested to work to make sure it is safe. If you do the work yourself you may wish to engage a qualified electrician to check it for you.