A steadily mounting campaign to ensure that every genuine electrician in Scotland is recognised as a regulated professional is being led by SELECT, the trade association for the electrical contracting industry in Scotland.
SELECT wants everyone who calls themselves an electrician to hold appropriate qualifications to help safeguard the public.
Amongst qualified electricians the consensus is that regulation is a must. Susan Curatolo, who works with her father and two other electricians for NAC Electrics in Biggar, is firmly behind SELECT and its campaign for regulation.
“Absolutely,” she said. “There are individuals out there who are taking money from properly qualified electricians. It should be like a driving licence – you wouldn’t drive a car without a licence and you shouldn’t touch electrical systems without being qualified.
“Regulation is the only way forward and SELECT should have the support of the whole country behind it.”
Another, Scott McLean, in Stirling, who qualified as an electrician, launched his own business shortly afterwards and now, 25 years later has 10 electricians working for him, firmly supports the campaign. “Through and through,” he said.
“Right now, you can call yourself an electrician without any qualifications whatsoever and that can’t be right. Now is the time for the Scottish government to take action.”
SELECT Managing Director Newell McGuiness, said: “Electricity is vital to every aspect of modern life and it’s frightening to think of the number of unqualified people out there who are carrying out dangerous work on a daily basis”.
Newell himself is aware of one person who advertises in a local newspaper as an electrician: “I know exactly what this man does and he certainly isn’t an electrician.”
SELECT’s push for regulation is no soft option – it wants to see statutory - Protection of Title to make it a criminal offence for anyone to call themselves an electrician if they are not qualified.
“It’s a matter of public safety” said Newell, “You simply cannot be comfortable with the current position where an unqualified individual can turn up at your door and then start tinkering with your electrical system.
“Sad to say, but poor work often leads to fires and they have terrible consequences – life changing or ending – and that is why, to ensure the safety of the general public in Scotland, we have to regulate the electrical industry and introduce Protection of Title for electricians at the earliest opportunity”.
SUSAN - ELECTRICIAN EXTRAORDIAIRE AND SELECT SUPPORTER
Susan Curatolo works with her father Nicholas for a four-person company, NAC Electrics, in Biggar. They are SELECT registered. Her path to her trade was unusual, to say the least.
As a youngster she had itchy feet and friends that told her that she should try travelling to Israel and work on a Kibbutz. So, off she went and worked in one for a year, loving every minute of it, then returned to the bright lights of Biggar.
She asked dad for a job, thinking office or clerical.
“I’ll give you a job,” he said, “but you’ll have to learn the trade first. And so, 20 years ago she started to learn to be an electrician.
“There weren’t many of us women about then” said. Now there are painters and joiners but not a lot of female electricians.
The firm joined SELECT in 1990 and has never looked back. “We value our SELECT membership. The law has tightened up a lot of industries – look at the gas industry”, she said.
“But we want to make it absolutely legal – no work without registration – and if you work without registration you will be breaking the law and committing an offence.”
Susan says she has seen lots of mistakes – usually on a daily basis. A few weeks ago, she opened up a light switch where whoever had worked on it had used the earth wire as a live wire and it was a metal switch on a concrete floor so if there had been a fault on the system the switch plate would have become live and could potentially kill someone as no earth path to take the fault away!
She said: “Errors can cause a shock, which can kill, or it can lead to a smouldering fault which can result in a house fire, sometimes a fatal one. These things have happened in the past.
“Then there is the amateur – a guy goes out and buys a new electric cooker and tries to install it himself. No pun intended – but that is a recipe for disaster.
“We do all kinds of work – industrial, commercial and domestic. My father is 69 years old now and there is not much he hasn’t seen in his 53 years in the trade!
“He is my first port of call if I get a tricky job and need some advice. Electricity is part of our daily lives. We should treat it with respect – and only use qualified and registered electricians.”
SELECT SUPPORTER - STIRLING ELECTRICAL SERVICES
Scott McLean runs Stirling Electrical Services. Not that unusual, you would think, except that the day the 20-year-old youngster finished his apprenticeship, he started up his own business and now has 10 electricians working for him.
His company is SELECT registered. He wouldn’t have it any other way. And he is a keen supporter of the SELECT regulation campaign.
“I whole-heartedly support the campaign. Anybody these days can call themselves an electrician without a single qualification. For someone to carry out electrical work in homes & business properties without any formal electrical training or up to date qualifications should be classed as criminal.”
Recently Scott’s company carried out an Electrical Installation Condition Report within a private rented property. The report highlighted dangerous observations such as exposed live connections within the attic and wrong voltage polarity at the cooker.
Upon enquiry it was found this faulty work had recently been carried out as a favour for the landlord by a ‘retired’ electrician who admitted to not having up to date electrical training and no recent BS7671 qualification and, worryingly, he made it clear he thought the EICR report was going overboard with the observations noted.
This ‘retired’ electrician had also recently installed battery smoke detectors with no interlink between alarms so the new 2014 private rented landlord rules were also not adhered to.
Scott said “this poor and frankly dangerous work, jeopardised the safety of the occupants and premises. There would be a much greater chance that we would not encounter this type of example if those carrying out electrical work had to undergo regular training and be qualified. It is clear that our industry should be regulated so that only those who are qualified and competent carry out electrical work.”