31 OCT 2019 BY ZAK GARNER-PURKIS

Paul Reeve director of business services ECA

Low levels of competency among electrical workers risks another major fire tragedy occurring, the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) has warned.

The body was responding to the publication of phase 1 of the public inquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower, which found that there was “compelling evidence” that the external walls of the building failed to comply with building regulations.

“This week’s publication of the inquiry findings into the Grenfell tragedy underline the urgency and vital importance of ensuring that everyone who works in and on buildings, where there are vulnerable residents, must be sufficiently competent,” said ECA director of corporate social responsibility Paul Reeve (pictured).

The ECA said there were many individuals operating in the electrotechnical industry who claimed to be competent electricians despite having trained, in some cases, for only a matter of weeks.

“It’s time to stop messing around with low levels of electrical and fire-safety competency,” added Mr Reeve.

“In particular, it’s high time to say a final goodbye to so-called ‘five-week wonders’ – wrongly regarded by some as competent to design and install electrical work in residential and similar premises.

“We need to avoid settling for lower competencies, which risks another major fire tragedy in the UK.”

ECA recommendations for change

The ECA has backed five recommendations from the ‘Raising the Bar’ consultation, prepared by the Industry Safety Steering Group, which was established to encourage a culture change about building regulations and to monitor industry implementation following Dame Judith’s independent review of building regulations:

  • There should be accredited third-party certification of all enterprises
  • All individuals must have Level 2 or 3 Ofqual-regulated and competence-based qualifications. The ECA strongly advocates technical apprenticeships for new entrants
  • The electrotechnical sector should use the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme
  • CPD should ensure workers are up-to-date with the latest regulations and other developments
  • All installers should have core, relevant knowledge of fire safety in buildings, with standardised and mandatory training

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) also called on the industry to collectively support all actions being taken to reform it ahead of the completion of the second phase of the enquiry.

“The construction work undertaken on Grenfell Tower actively contributed to the spread of fire, as both unsafe products were used and these were not properly installed or checked,” a statement from the CLC said.

The organisation urged the industry to collectively play its part in eliminating risk on both new and existing buildings.

The CLC added that it fully supported, and was ready to play its part in, taking forward the agenda set by Dame Judith Hackitt to improve standards of competence and building regulations, as well as to ensure the safety of construction products.

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