How much change is there between the 17th Edition and the 18th Edition and how much will it affect you and your business?

The 18th Edition is here and the expected furore that was predicted has been met in the main by confusion and indifference, with many asking what the real purpose of the change to wiring regulations is all about. To some it is seen as a money-making exercise, after all, replacing all those copies of BS 7671 and the accompanying Guidance Notes doesn’t come cheap, whilst to others it is seen as the UK preparing for Brexit – so which is it?

In truth it is neither of the above, BS 7671 is constantly being updated and the current Edition BS 7671:2008 had its third and final amendment published in 2015. Technical standards and product innovation has developed at such a rate that the most practical solution is to issue an entire new guide to wiring regulations – thus the 18th edition has been brought in and will supersede the 17th Edition from January 2019.

Does it have anything to do with the UK leaving the European Union?

No, the 18th Edition (BS 7671:2018) will be closely aligned to the standards applied across Europe (CENELEC) and aligned to International principals. Brexit is unlikely to result in any significant changes to the UK Wiring Regulations, at least in the short-term.

Will there be a requirement to undertake further training due to the introduction of the 18th Edition?

This has been an area identified by many as an additional burden brought about by the introduction of BS 7671:2018. In June the JIB advised that anyone wishing to apply for a Gold Card or renew an existing Gold Card will need to hold an 18th Edition Card from July 2019. From July until December 2018 City and Guilds will be offering the 2382 Level 3 Award in the Requirements for Electrical Installations for both 17th Edition (2382-15) and 18th Edition (2382-18). It is important to verify which award your training provider will be entering you for. For those who are conversant with BS 7671:2008+A3:2015 or have recently passed the 2382-15 Award, City and Guilds recommend attending a short-duration update course before attempting the examination. Only those who require an understanding of the format and the requirement of the Wiring Regulations need attend the full course.

So, who does the introduction of the 18th Edition Really Affect?

Looking at Regulation 16 of the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, there is a requirement for those working on or so near an electrical installation that danger might exist have the necessary knowledge, and/or appropriate experience to avoid such danger whilst at work. The changes introduced by BS 7671:2018 are likely to have the biggest impact on those responsible for designing electrical installations and those involved in the commissioning and verification process.

Those who undertake installation work are unlikely to see any significant changes initially with the introduction of the 18th Edition with Arc Fault Detection Devices (AFDDs) and 20A RCD’s making a gradual entry to the UK market. There is more clarification on the requirements for Main Protective Bonding (formerly Equipotential Bonding), particularly with regards to pipework fitted with insulating sections. The supporting of wiring systems against premature collapse might, however, cause a little concern until the market catches up with affordable and innovative solutions.

Those who need to demonstrate that they have an understanding on the Requirements of Electrical Installations, and those who are responsible for design and commissioning are likely to wish to train to the latest Edition of BS 7671. For those who over the next 6 months are taking assessments in courses aligned to BS 7671 such as the 2396 Design and Verification Level 4 Award or the 2391 Level 3 Award series inspection and testing suite will be pleased to note that City and Guilds will be making examination questions ‘Edition neutral’, that is, they will not be asking any questions where there is a discrepancy between BS 7671:2008+A3:2015 and BS 7671:2018.

How Significant is this change?

Change within BS 7671 is nothing new and the timing of the current re-write is consistent with what has happened in the past. Whilst the convention of the colour used on the sleeve of BS 7671:2018 might depart with tradition (usually the new edition is coloured Red, the 18th Edition will start with blue), the remainder of the publication remains true to its origins.

Article Footnote: Andy Linley has worked within the electrical sector for over 30 years and has a wealth of installation, maintenance and compliance experience related to both the commercial and industrial sector, both in Low Voltage and High Voltage systems. Andy is currently the Head of Training at Electrical Safety UK Ltd as well as both the Compliance Director and the Director Responsible for Health and Safety. Andy is a member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and the Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET).

Author: Andrew P. Linley, Compliance Director, Electrical Safety UK