Building certification into your process

The Scottish Government’s Certification of Construction scheme has its doubters but one Edinburgh business wouldn’t be without it.

For some, the mere fact that the Scottish Government’s Certification of Construction (Electrical Installations to BS 7671) scheme is not mandatory, becomes good enough reason not to use it. Others cite cost.

But the inescapable fact is that the scheme – for which SELECT is a provider – can be easily built into your processes for building warrant work, provides clarity for building control officers and end clients, and is a very small price to pay for quality assurance.

CableCom Electrical, an Edinburgh-based Member firm, is perhaps the best advert for when the scheme works well. The company won the Best Certification of Construction award at last year’s SELECT Awards after delivering around 600 certificates to its clients over the course of 12 months, a volume it has consistently achieved in recent years.

Jim Wilson, the company’s operations director, is a supporter of the scheme because it “avoids confusion”, especially in the new build sector, where the firm is particularly active.

“We do it as a matter of course,” says Wilson. “We found in the early days that there was a bit of confusion in building control departments and building standards, as to what certification they were looking for. And they would often come back saying there was conflicting information provided to them. With the Certification of Construction scheme, that can no longer be said, and for us as a business it avoids confusion all round.”

He adds: “We just made the decision that we’d set ourselves up so that every project we do will be covered by a building standards certificate. We would see it as giving our clients the Rolls Royce service.”

CableCom has in-housed the entire certification process; they initially had a CAD designer set up to coordinate the certificates, and since that person moved to another role in the business, the company has another member of staff who administrates the whole process. They have also invested in additional worker being put through the course to become an Approved Certifier.

“It’s a level of quality assurance for us,” adds Wilson. “The last thing we would want is for a client not to get a habitation on a new-build because the certification is not there.”

As for the cost, the approximate £3,000 per year overhead is small beer compared to the company’s overall £6m turnover, and for Wilson the investment is worth every penny. “It’s a very small price to pay in the grand scheme of things; and seeing as we produce electrical installation certificates, as we’re duty bound to do, this is just an add-on to that.”

Wilson would, however, like to see the Scottish Government scheme become mandatory, to offer clarity to the industry.

“I have to share SELECT’s view that it becomes compulsory,” he adds. “Otherwise there is this grey area where it maybe allows loopholes for perhaps less accredited businesses to get in.”

Wilson would also like to see consumer protection laws strengthened as part of the raft of new powers being devolved to the Scottish Parliament as part of the Smith Commission process. He would like to see the Grade Card system developed into a registration scheme, to ensure all electricians are given enhanced legal status, and that consumers are protected from rogue traders.

“I think I’d like to see more emphasis on accreditation for electricians through expanding the grade card system. I suppose in a similar way to how Gas Safe operates, with gas registered plumbers. It may well be that an electrician needs to be registered with an organisation such as SELECT. I think we’re not too far away from that, though, to be fair. There is that rogue element, and how are we ever going to stop that and I suppose if you look at the Gas Safe side of things, they’re in the same boat, with people who are not fully qualified touching gas.”

CableCom was founded in 1996 and is now in its 20th year of trading, employing 50 people and using no agency staff.

It initially traded as a data cabling business and worked with RBS on its office management requirements across the UK.

However, as the company evolved, it became more a more a pure electrical business where the overwhelming majority of its work is now concentrated. It does also have another arm, CableCom Technical Services (CTS), which is mechanical and plumbing.

On the electrical side, the company currently has two adult trainees and five apprentices on its books and organises most of its training via SELECT. On SELECT training, Wilson says, “SELECT offer a wide range of training opportunities and it’s no longer just a ‘SELECT-approved course’, things like the Napier University contracting manager course has become an industry-recognised standard.”

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