Electrician profession too vital to be unregulated

At present anyone can call themselves an 'electrician' without holding even the most basic qualifications. Picture: AP
At present anyone can call themselves an 'electrician' without holding even the most basic qualifications. Picture: AP
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The UK recognises 102 “regulated professions”, each of which enjoys a requirement to be properly trained and “qualified”.

These range from “doctor” and “solicitor” to the less obvious, “door supervisor” and “vehicle immobiliser”. The only construction trade requiring a qualification recognised in law is “registered gas installer”.

The full list of regulated professions characterises the ad hoc arrangements we have in the UK, including as it does those appointed by royal warrant over the centuries (like farriers) and those essentially created unintentionally through serendipitous mention in legislation. “Mine electrician” is a good example.

SELECT, the independent, not-for-profit association representing the interests of 1,200 SMEs in the electrical installation industry across Scotland, is calling for regulation of the industry.

For this to happen, however, Scotland would require to have powers over consumer protection. The Scottish Government is already seeking consumer protection powers to be fully devolved but this is being resisted in Whitehall and, particularly, along the road at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, where regulation is not on the agenda.

SELECT’s 115-year pedigree includes 45 years of regulating the industry in Scotland through the Scottish Joint Industry Board and training more apprentices than any other single trade.

SELECT’s member companies account for over 90 per cent by value of all electrical installation work carried out in Scotland, have a total turnover of £1 billion and employ 15,000 electricians.

Unfortunately, at present anyone can call themselves an “electrician” without holding even the most basic qualifications. In such a safety-critical occupation, SELECT believes this presents unacceptable risks to the people of Scotland and that the profession of electrician should be regulated by law and accorded protected title to clearly differentiate between trained professionals and what would then become illegal, rogue traders.

The UK Government, meanwhile, continues to leave the industry open to abuse, and electrical safety to chance.

David Wright is head of external affairs at SELECT, the Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland