Danger of unqualified electricians must be regulated before there’s a tragedy, SELECT MD tells radio listeners

People’s lives are being put at risk from electrical work carried out by unqualified or incompetent “electricians” the Managing Director of Scotland’s largest construction trade association, SELECT, has told national radio. 

Speaking on the popular Thomas Nagy Electrical Show on Fix Radio, Alan Wilson said: rogue tradespeople “pose dangers not only to themselves and people they might be working beside, but more importantly to the end user”. 

Lack of regulation currently means anyone can claim to be an electrician and carry out electrical work in Scotland – a situation which SELECT says puts people at risk of injury and death and has led to its ongoing campaign for the title ‘electrician’ to be protected.  

Mr Wilson said: “To call yourself an electrician – to have the word ‘electrician’ on your business card, in an advert in the local paper or on your van – you should have to go through a proper apprenticeship and keep your qualifications up to date, Sadly, this isn’t always the case. 

“I would rather be on the front foot and be criticized for trying to prevent something happening than explain to somebody’s children or widow, ‘I’m sorry your loved one died. We were thinking of regulating the industry, but we just didn’t get around to it’.”  

During his guest spot on the UK radio station for tradespeople on 2 September, Mr Wilson also said that unqualified individuals practising as electricians was not a good look for an industry trying to attract new recruits. 

He said: “If you’ve done your four or five years’ of training and you then become  a qualified electrician, and yet somebody down the road just puts the title ‘electrician’ on their van and has no qualifications and no training whatsoever, how galling must that be for a newly qualified person?” 

He also pointed out that are currently around 117 protected titles, all protected by law and whose professionals must be registered to use them. 

“Nurses, doctors, teachers and even night club bouncers are protected,” Mr Wilson explained. “If you want to shoe a horse, you have to be regulated – it’s a protected title. You can’t call yourself a farrier unless you are a member of the scheme and have been through training.  

“You can’t go off to your local stables and say, ‘Give me a shot of that – I’ll put that shoe on that horse.’ But yet you can come along and wire my house.”  

SELECT is seeking the introduction of protection of title for the profession of electrician alongside partner bodies, including The Scottish Joint Industry BoardUnite the Union and the Scottish Electrical Charitable Training Trust

More than 70 politicians, trade unions, professional bodies, electrical contractors and other organisations are also backing the call through SELECT’s Wall of Support and its #BackTheBrick campaign. They include Electrical Safety FirstThe Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Scottish Association of Landlords and the Energy Saving Trust.  

As a result of SELECT’s lobbying, the Scottish Government has set up an Electricians Working Group to explore the challenge of ensuring the safety of electrical installations, with two consultations taking place on the topic in November 2020 and February this year

Mr Wilson said: “Regulation of the industry is really important and protection of title is what’s needed in the sector across the UK, not just in Scotland. A voluntary approach doesn’t work, I’m afraid. You need statutory regulation. It’s back to the carrot and stick approach. You need real penalties. 

“Grenfell is a really sad example of where people have identified endemic problems in the sector –cheapest cost practices etc, things that have gone on for many, many years. But it takes a tragedy to expose them to the public and to politicians.” 

Mr Wilson previously appeared on the show on 26 August to discuss cash retentions, telling listeners that the practice damages reinvestment and “disproportionately penalises small businesses”. 

  • The SELECT Wall of Support can be viewed here. The Thomas Nagy Electrical Show featuring Alan Wilson can be listened to again here

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