Last edited 30 Jan 2021

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ECA Institute / association Website

Disturbing complacency over short courses

Grenfell tower repair ECA.jpg

What has emerged from the discussions, investigations and reports following the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017 is that a disturbingly complacent approach to competence lies at the heart of many of the problems that led to the fire.

ECA has warned government and industry against a counterproductive trend towards short, classroom-based courses, which claim to prepare budding tradespeople for electrical and other installation work. These courses do not provide the technical understanding, or the extended real-life, on-the-job experience needed to ensure safe electrical work.

However, within the electrotechnical industry, many individuals are claiming to be competent electricians despite having trained, in some cases, for only a matter of weeks.

The publication in August 2019 of the ‘Raising the Bar’ recommendations underline the urgency and importance of ensuring that everyone who works in and on buildings must be sufficiently competent.

We should all remember we are talking about protecting people’s lives. To be blunt, It is time to stop messing around with low levels of electrical and fire safety competence, and in particular it is high time to say a final goodbye to the so-called ‘five-week wonders’ – wrongly deemed by some as competent to design and install electrical work.

ECA has mapped a way forward in its response to ‘Raising the Bar’. ECA and the wider industry need to stop settling for low levels of competence, which put buildings, and hence lives, at risk.

In the months following the Grenfell fire, former Chair of the Health and Safety Executive Dame Judith Hackitt was tasked with undertaking an independent review of building regulations and fire safety to address the flaws in the system which allowed the disaster to happen.

ECA and the Fire and Security Association (FSA) made a number of influential representations to the review, having listened closely to industry concerns over competence and fire safety.

In early 2019, ECA welcomed the government’s confirmation that a new regulatory system would come into place, supported by stronger sanctions and enforcement powers.

As 2019 draws to a close, and with phase two of the Grenfell inquiry report underway, ECA and the FSA will continue to offer advice and informed opinion wherever possible, to ensure such a tragedy can never happen again.

[edit] About this article

This article was written by Andrew Eldred, ECA Director of Employment and Skills. It previously appeared on the website of the Electrical Contractors' Association (ECA) in November 2019 and can be accessed HERE.

More articles by ECA on Designing Buildings Wiki can be accessed HERE.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki


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