Experienced contractors mitigate the greatest risk of all
There’s one thing that is more valuable than any other commodity for an electrician, and that is experience. Sadly, there are a lot of disreputable, under-qualified and inexperienced practitioners out there, who charge what looks like a bargain price. But you know what they say, “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys”? Nothing could be truer in the electrical trade, and that is dangerous. Potentially deadly.
Whether it’s in your own home, an industrial unit or a block of flats you are responsible for there is no substitute for someone who actually knows what they are doing.
Think of it this way, you wouldn’t get a doctor on his first day out of medical school to perform heart surgery on your Nan. You need a surgeon with training and years of experience who has done it hundreds of times previously, who knows what to look out for, who can see the danger signs and knows how to rectify any problems. The junior doctor may have a scalpel but he’s not going to save Nan’s life. So why would you ask him?
It reminds me of a job I worked on recently in a church. You may not be aware of this, but in order for buildings insurance to be valid all public buildings need to pass regular EICR inspections. Churches are no different, yet it was apparent with this building that the previous inspector had overlooked a host of problems.
What tends to happen is that youngsters with a piece of paper earned from a one-week course are sent out on a job and in the real world either just don’t know what to look for or just treat it as a box ticking exercise. That is where proper experience is important, because it’s not just about insurance it’s actually about people’s safety.
In the case of the church the previous inspector had handed over a certificate at the end of his “survey” but had not specifically highlighted any of the danger areas that needed urgent repair just noting them as a code on the report. To be more precise the inspection had been passed – though never should have – but there was no attempt to help the client understand what the different warning codes actually meant. This is a common problem and one where a competent, experienced inspector should help you.
The codes used on an inspection report are important information, that someone like me will explain to a client as crucial warning signs indicating a potentially dangerous situation. I would never hand over a report and walk away without explanation, as so often happens.
What do the codes mean?
Each code on a final report is in red, amber or green, indicating the severity of the risk.
C1 Red – Danger present. Risk of injury. Immediate remedial action required.
C2 Amber – Potentially dangerous. Urgent remedial action required.
C3 Green – Improvement recommended
F1 – Further investigation required without delay
All the codes show that something needs to be done, but there’s a good reason that C1 is in red and it’s worth repeating those key words: Danger Present. Risk of Injury.
If you saw those words relating to your own home, if you thought there was a risk to your own family, you’d do something about it. But you may not understand exactly what the problem is unless an experienced electrician explains exactly why your home and family is at risk and how to do something about it.
I should also mention that if you see one of those codes on a report you are legally required to rectify the problem.
Interpreting the jargon
At the church my inspection revealed a host of issues in every category. For example, an incorrectly sized main earthing conductor; excessive earth loop impedance; incorrectly sized main protective bonding conductor, and most dangerously, Open enclosures to IR heating.
To the layman, these official explanations on the report don’t tell the whole story. The jargon needs interpreting and explaining. It’s similar to going to the doctor, if he or she tells you for example that you have atrial fibrillation, as a layman there’s a good chance you have no idea what that means. If they go on to explain that it is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots forming and an increased risk of stroke, then you understand and you rely on the doctor’s expertise to help you reduce the risk.
With the church it was as though it had atrial fibrillation, diabetes and kidney disease. As an electrical expert with decades of experience I knew instinctively that it was only a matter of time before one of the ailments resulted in a major issue, and I am completely confident in telling my clients at the church exactly what remedial work they needed.
The alternative would be to risk a catastrophic electrical fire breaking out at any time, for which they would not be covered by their insurance.
What price safety?
Of course, getting it right costs money. But what price do you put on safety whether it’s of parishioners, tenants or family? But if you’re callous enough not to care about them, think about the cost to you of a burned-out building uninsured due to your neglect.
Everyone knows that if they maintain a healthy lifestyle, eat a balanced diet and take regular exercise that they’ll reduce their risk of heart attack and many other diseases. There is a cost in doing so, it needs an emotional investment and maybe a change in lifestyle, not always easy to achieve but when weighed up against the risk of serious illness or death, it’s an investment worth making.
The investment in electrical safety is also worth making. Without making changes as a result of the red, amber and green warning signs on an EICR report there is also a risk of damage to the building and death.
Who do you trust to help you make those changes, to write and interpret your report correctly? Do you use the kid with his online certificate or the highly accredited contractor with decades of experience?
I think you’ll agree, for the sake of your building, your reputation and the people you have a responsibility for, the answer is easy!