What is the difference between self-certification and electrical Licence to Practise?

Industry News: 19 April 2019

Self-certification and third party accreditation

Electricians are obliged to inspect, test and certify the electrical safety of wiring systems that they install, repair or alter.  This process is sometimes referred to as self-certification. The obligation to carry out (initial, periodic and minor works) certification of electrical systems is based upon the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 and the BS7671 Wiring Requirements for Electrical Installations.

Many client organisations and individual customers strengthen this trust based, self-certification process by specifying an independent, quality control measure. A number of approved, third party accredited scheme operators provide this service. Examples of such organisations include the NICEICNAPIT and ELECSA.

An examination of the quality and standards around the electrical certification process are central to the objectives of most third party accreditation organisations. The focus of third party accredited scheme operators tends to be on the practices, procedures and the skilled person/s who certify electrical test data in accordance with the BS7671 Wiring Requirements. Typically, scheme operators carry out inspections aimed at assessing the renewal of the electrical contractors approved status.

Scope: The procedure includes but is not limited to the scrutiny of forms, certificates, insurance details, training records for the qualifying supervisor/s, calibration of instruments, and other desk top checks. One or more on-site visits may be included in the inspection. The on-site visit is usually linked to the schedule of test results belonging to current and/or past jobs.

Limitation: Central to third party accreditation of the self-certification process, is the competency of the person (Qualifying Supervisor) who supervises the gathering and certification of the electrical inspection and testing data.  The procedure does not formally assess the qualifications or competencies of the electrical contractor’s wider direct and/or indirect manual workforce. Typically, only one or a few key workers designated as Qualifying Supervisors are subject to a suitable assessment of competency.

Benefit: Outside of an approved third party accredited membership scheme, electrical self-certification is based upon a trust system. Many client organisations and individual customers insist on the added protection and quality improvement measure that is offered by the services of accredited scheme operators.

Licence to Practise

Where third party accreditation concentrates on a few specialist workers i.e. Qualifying Supervisors, electrical Licence to Practise examines the individual competencies of the many workers who carry out the practical installation tasks. These are the workers who install and connect the electrical containment, wiring, equipment, accessories, power and lighting systems. The electrical Licence to Practise system examines, verifies and assesses the competency of the electrical contractor’s complete manual workforce. This extends to those who are also indirectly employed by the electrical contractor.

Scope: The LtP system provides online visibility of the electrical contractor’s workforce by individual licence type.  This means that the qualitative weighting of the planned and actual workforce can be viewed and subsequently monitored in line with the programme, type and scope of individual client projects.

Limitation: The system does not seek or intend to duplicate or replace the existing third party accreditation provisions.

Benefit: Connecting competency with contracts is at the core of the Licence to Practise system. Better workers produce better outcomes. In the electrical industry, ignorance is not bliss. Licence to Practise empowers responsible and discerning clients with the means of raising the quality and improving the standards of electrical installation work that they have commissioned. Project managers are provided with a very useful resource that enables them to swiftly and conveniently determine the numerical and qualitative composition of the electrical contractor’s workforce by licence type.

Summary

Third party accreditation of the self-certification system includes an annual assessment of the few operatives who are employed to certify electrical inspection and testing outcomes on client projects. The absence of such a service would mean a dependence upon the inherent weaknesses of a trust based system.

The electrical Licence to Practise system, by contrast, addresses the competency and identity of the many workers who install, fit, connect, repair, alter and maintain the electrical requirements of the client.  A top down, bottom up, quality improvement measure is available to those client organisations that choose to specify and apply these different but complimentary systems.