New charges for follow-up inspections should see improved standards of safety amongst registered electrical contractors
Registered electrical contractors who require higher levels of monitoring will now be subject to direct charges for follow-up inspections. That’s according to Safe Electric, the statutory regulatory scheme for electrical contractors, who was granted approval for the new charges by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU).
Part of Safe Electric’s remit is to inspect registered electrical contractors (RECs) and their installations. Where non- conformance with the National Wiring Rules is identified, increased monitoring is required as these non-conformances can point to safety issues in relation to the performance of the installation. Up until now, the cost of these follow-up inspections was absorbed into the scheme, but from now on, charges will be imposed at the discretion of the Safe Electric Chief Inspector and will cost €180 based on the current actual costs incurred. The CRU says this figure will be subject to review from time to time. It’s hoped that this new charge will be an effective deterrent and will help to reduce the number of RECs requiring follow-up inspections, thereby raising safety standards across the industry.
RECs are subject to a yearly inspection by a Safe Electric Inspector. When non- conformances are identified, a Performance Marking Scheme is used to determine the appropriate corrective action and the timeframe for its completion. RECs receive 10 points for a major non-conformance with significant implications for the safety performance of the installation (a Code Red breach), five points for a serious non-conformance (a Code Amber breach), and two points for a less serious non-conformance (a Code Yellow). When the total number of points for breaches is greater than or equal to 10, the REC will receive a follow-up inspection. In 2016, 911 RECs received ≥10 points. Safe Electric has developed a communication plan to inform RECs of the new charge which consists of routine inspection appointment letters, information letters, newsletters, text messages and 2017 Safe Electric roadshows. The communication plan will be implemented over a 10-week period before the introduction of the additional inspection charge. Charges will only apply to follow-up inspections for points received after RECs have been informed of the introduction of the new charge. Given the requirement for a 10-week communication plan, the charges could be introduced in Quarter 1, 2018, at the earliest.
In the future, inspection charges may also apply for spot inspections where a Safe Electric Inspector discovers/reports an abuse of the certification system by a REC resulting in the requirement of a higher level of monitoring. RECs would be informed of this charge through a similar communication plan and implementation period.
The Safe Electric scheme is operated on a not-for-profit basis and is funded by its members, the RECs. According to the CRU, the majority of RECs are compliant with the National Wiring Rules during inspections. At the moment, the primary deterrent for RECs with a high number of points for breaches of the wiring rules is a disciplinary process which involves a report and hearing on each case. The need for this inefficient and expensive process will, it is hoped, be greatly reduced once the new follow-up inspection charges kick in.