Electrical Safety In and Around the Home


Electrical safety in the home – is of prime importance, yet it is probably something that we give little thought to.

When you consider that every year around 6700 fires are reported as having an electrical source, you can see just how important electrical safety really is. This statistic includes fires started by faulty or inadequate wiring. Accidents involving electric shocks are also a cause of fatality and serious injury. Some 43 fatalities and 2900 serious injuries occur from electrical faults every year.

We tend to forget that cables, switches, socket-outlets and other equipment can get worn over time and that it is important to get them regularly checked and, if necessary, replaced by a qualified electrician.

Many people are not aware that new Building Regulations came into effect on January 2005 which, if you are carrying out electrical work in your home or garden in England and Wales, you now have to follow. This is a new area for the Building Regulations and is called Part P (electrical safety). These give clear guidelines as to the kind of work you can carry out for yourself and those which must be carried out by a competent, qualified electrician. Be aware that you may need to use a competent person to comply with Building Regulations.

The main things that you need to consider are:

It is important that any electrical work is only carried out by those with the necessary knowledge, skill and experience of the type of electrical work to be undertaken.

You should not attempt even the simplest of electrical work if you have any doubts whatsoever about the task. You will have noticed that these days most appliances come with moulded plugs already attached along with the appropriately rated fuse. This is to stop the keen novice from wrongly wiring or rating the appliance and to help prevent cowboy installations. You would be amazed at the number of people who do not know how to wire a plug properly!

For the average DIYer things become even more confusing as from 2006, new a colour scheme is being introduced for cabling.

The colours of the live and neutral wires in electrical cables are changing from red to brown and black to blue. This is now the same as the wires in flexible leads to portable appliances.

As from 31 March 2006, all new wiring must be in the new colours.

Why have the rules been introduced? The main of the rules is to reduce the number of deaths, injuries and fires caused by faulty electrical installations. It is also intended to make it harder for ‘cowboy builders’ to leave electrical installations in an unsafe condition.

If you do not follow the regulations, you run the risk that:

The electrical installation might not be safe.

You will have no record of the work done.

You may have difficulty selling your home if you do not have the right electrical safety certificates.

There is the added risk that your local council’s Building Control Department may insist that you put right faulty work. Involving you with even more expense.

It is important to know when you need to notify the council about any intended electrical work.

You will not need to tell your local council’s Building Control Department about any repairs, replacements and maintenance work. Any extra power points, lighting points or other alterations to existing circuits (except in a kitchen or bathroom, or outdoors).

You will, however, need to tell them about almost all other work!

If you are not sure about this, ask your local contractor or Local Council’s Building Control Officer.

Remember – do not try and save money by skimping on electrical installation works. It could end up costing you a lot more money in the long run – or even your life! Use a registered installer.

The benefits of using a registered installer are that members of schemes can deal with all the new rules for you. They will be qualified to carry out any electrical work. They will give you a certificate to confirm their work follows the new rules.

You will not have to pay building control charges.

In most cases, you will have the option of taking out an insurance-backed guarantee for the work.

In the unlikely event of any problems, you will have access to a formal complaints procedure if you are not happy with the work.

If you need to find a competent person to undertake electrical work, the following organisations run registration or ‘competent person’ schemes:

BRE Certification

British Standards Institution (BSI)


The National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT)

NICEIC Certification Services

These schemes are designed to ensure that traders who sign up are fully qualified to do electrical work and provide a proper complaints procedure.

Remember – always use an installer who is registered with a competent person scheme as mentioned above.

Article by Philip Ray


Whilst this article endeavours to contain up to date and accurate information, the article can only be considered as a guide. The author would always recommend that you take local independent professional advice.