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Safe isolation tops agenda at SELECT’s Electrotechnical Committee

Committee members discussed the removal of service cut-out fuses in domestic properties at the March meeting.

SELECT’s Electrotechnical Committee met at The Walled Garden in March for its first meeting of 2016. SELECT Past President David Smith was in the Chair for this meeting, which was attended by a range of major industry stakeholders as well as representatives from SELECT Member companies. A wide range of topics were discussed in a lively manner and we saw the welcome return of a subject that has remained unresolved in the industry for some time, namely the removal of service cut-out fuses in domestic properties for safe isolation purposes.

We’ll start with that item first, as, in response to the UK Government’s insistence that our industry seek a solution to the ongoing matter of access to the DNO’s cut-out fuse, Martyn Allen of Electrical Safety First, with the support of SELECT and other industry stakeholders in both the energy supply and electrical contracting sectors, has developed a business case titled, “The Case for Providing a Means to Ensure Safe Temporary Isolation in Domestic and Similar Premises”.

The case presents a number of options based around existing procedures, examining each in turn along with the likely benefits to energy suppliers, contractors and their customers. It was felt that the greatest chance of securing Government support for any such scheme would come from highlighting the obvious benefits to consumers. At least one local authority, as part of its smart meter programme, had received authority from a community energy supplier to pull cut-out fuses. Further exploration behind the rationale for this decision might help strengthen this business case.

The programme of work towards the 18th Edition of BS 7671 continues apace, though the timescale for publication has been moved back by six months to June 2018. The reason behind this decision, taken by the IET’s Joint Technical Committee for Electrical Installations in Buildings, JPEL/64, is to allow work on several European Harmonised Documents (HD) to finish, before their impact on BS 7671 can be considered.

The transitional provision delaying the introduction of Regulation 421.1.201:

“ Within domestic (household) premises, consumer units and similar switchgear assemblies shall comply with BS EN 61439-3 and shall:

  1. have their enclosure manufactured from non-combustible material, or

  2. be enclosed in a cabinet or enclosure constructed of non-combustible material and complying with Regulation 132.12.”

until the 1st January 2016 has now passed. Members have reported that metal consumer unit enclosures were readily available from wholesalers and this situation appears to be reflected around other parts of the UK. Some manufacturers were promoting the use of intumescent pads for additional safety on existing non-metallic consumer units; however, the application of good workmanship should always take precedence over any perceived additional product safety measures.

Arc-Fault Detection Devices are designed to detect potentially dangerous electric arcs using special algorithms that differentiate between potentially dangerous and working arcs i.e. the arc you might encounter when operating a switch. These devices are widely used in parts of North America and Europe. Their inclusion in HD 60364-4-42: Protection Against Thermal Effects means they would be considered for inclusion in BS 7671 at a later date.

There remains concern that there is a lack of evidence to support the claimed effectiveness of these devices, although some manufacturers are making them available to the UK market. Having previously voted against their inclusion in the harmonised document, the likelihood is that JPEL/64 may not consider it necessary to include them in BS 7671. The committee felt it prudent that SELECT keep its Members informed on the subject and agreed a suitable manufacturer’s presentation might be appropriate for the next meeting.

The meeting concluded with reports from the JPEL/64 Committee and its associated panels as well as reports from the ECA and the HSE. The HSE reported that it had launched a new “Helping Great Britain Work Well” strategy. The key themes of the strategy are:

  • Promoting broader ownership of health & safety

  • Highlighting and tackling the costs of work-related ill health

  • Simplifying risk management and helping business to grow

  • Giving SMEs simple advice so they know what they have to do

  • Anticipating and tackling new health & safety challenges

  • Promoting the benefits of Great Britain’s world class health & safety system

Many of the activities that SELECT is involved in fall into one of these categories.

The next meeting of the Electrotechnical Committee is scheduled to take place in May and any Member wishing to participate should contact Head of Technical Services Dave Forrester at The Walled Garden.

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