This is a question posed by many a householder, however of the reality is that it might not need to be changed. If the fuse board is damaged and there's a chance that people could touch "live" parts (risking an electric shock), then it does need to be changed.

The old fuse board will not meet the requirements of the BS7671 Wiring Regulations 17th Edition Ammendment 1 (2011). The fact that the installation does not meet the requirements doesn't mean it is illegal or indeed unsafe, however the new requirements are intended to make the installation "more" safe by reducing the chances of getting an electric shock.

In order for your domestic installation to meet the requirements of the "Regs" it must also meet the new RCD (Residual Current Device) requirements. RCDs cannot be fitted in older style fuse boards so if your installation needs to be brought up to date and made safer a new consumer unit will be needed.

There are numerous areas where RCDs are required, which should be rated at 30mA. These include;

  • Any cable buried in a wall or partition at a depth of less than 50mm from the surface requires protecting by an RCD unless it is protected by earthed metalwork such as conduit or trunking.
  • Any cable passing through a wall or partition that contains metal parts other than screws or nails.
  • Any cable that is installed outside the 'cable safe zones' needs protecting with both earthed metalwork and an RCD.
  • Every socket outlet rated 20A or less that is used by "ordinary persons" (i.e. home owners) intended for general use, require RCD protection.
  • Mobile equipment used outdoors rated up to 32A.
  • All circuits supplying power to a room that contains a bath or shower are required to be RCD protected.
If you ask an electrician to install a new socket and you do not have RCD protection, then this new work will need to meet the requirements. This could mean that your fuse board will need to be replaced so that the RCDs can be installed! This simple and relatively cheap job has now become much more expensive, but the end result is that your electrical installation is much safer.

Should you be planning to do this (or any other electrical task) yourself, have you considered taking one of Access Training's bespoke electrician courses? Whether you're looking to gain new DIY skills to help you around the home or professional qualifications in order to become an electrician, we can help you.

For more information contact us at 0800 345 7492.

- Mark Jenkins

Combining trades, such as taking both a plumbing and gas engineering course, has always been an ideal way of making sure you are never short work as a qualified professional. It's something we've always encouraged at Access Training, but it's also something that seems to be becoming more and more essential in today's working environment.

The AA training their patrol officers in plumbing emergencies, for example, is a sign of the recession and the need for employers to diversify their workers. With British Gas also now venturing into other areas such as blocked drains, electrics and white goods repairs, it is obvious that in today's climate you cannot rely on a single trade only for a living. I feel grateful that the time I had spent on the tools, only doing plumbing and heating installations for 25 years (single trade only) is now a thing of the past.

It is said there is a major shortage of qualified tradespeople to cover the demand of work that is out there. I suppose I was one of the few tradesman that was never out of work, mainly doing new build but also refurbishments, commercial and industrial installations. I thought I was diversifying at the time, but it would seem even that wouldn't be enough these days. In doing these lines of work I had gained the required qualifications and felt I had gained a vast knowledge of these areas. But I admit that I feel I could not know all there is to known in these fields, with products and techniques regularly changing along with different regulations you need to comply with.

So to think of these mechanics who have to do plumbing course, I don't think it's detrimental to those qualified tradespersons who are of high quality, conscientious and only charge a fair fee for their work. They should not be worried about losing work to companies like British Gas and the AA, but what would be a point of concern is to what level they will be taught to.

Are you a plumber or gas engineer looking to expand your resume in order to take on more work? At Access Training we train both people with no prior experience to become fully qualified in their chosen field and experienced tradesmen looking to train in a new area of work. Each course will give you a professionally recognised qualification, providing you with the skills and knowledge you'll need for any task. For more information, contact us at 0800 345 7492.

- Mark Lewis

Tiles

While the best way to gain enviable plastering and/or tiling skills would be to take one of our bespoke courses and become a qualified plasterer and tiler, Access Training also have a few handy tips to share to DIY enthusiasts looking to improve their work.

More...

You don't have to take a plumbing course to know that there are a number of different things people can do to save water. Here are some of my suggestions for inside the home;

 

  • Getting smaller toilet cisterns which deliver 4 and 6 litre flushes
  • Water saving taps that aerate the water
  • Taking short showers rather than having a bath
  • Using a dishwasher that is full instead of washing a few items in a sink bowl
  • Using an A-rated washing machine, which not only saves water but also electricity
  • Brushing your teeth with a cup of water and not letting the tap run constantly
  • Having a fitting in your cold water pipe that enters the building to cut off the supply if there is a burst pipe or excessive loss of water (which would be considered abnormal usage)
  • Upgrading your open vented heating system to a sealed system
  • Changing the hot water open vented system (copper cylinder with stored water in the loft) to an unvented hot water system

Meanwhile here are some more tips for saving water outside;
  • Install a device that fits in the rainwater down pipe to divert the water to a barrel, where can collect the rainwater for garden use
  • Wash your vehicle with a bucket, not a hosepipe
  • Having a special water unit fitted underground to collect the rainwater. Here it can feed the toilets and washing machine as well as giving you the ability to water the garden from a dedicated hose (even in a hosepipe ban!). Also the water from the bath, showers and hand wash basins can be recycled with the rainwater.
Using some or all of these items will help conserve water. There is even a water purification unit that turns rainwater and "grey" water into drinking/bathing water again! Personally I think we should do whatever we can to not only save energy but also save on water usage. In the short terms this will help dramatically but in the long term will save you money, especially since suppliers have raised costs.

- Mark Lewis

If you are interested in learning more about plumbing and the range of water-saving alternatives out there, have you considered a career as a professionally qualified plumber? Access Training have a variety of plumbing courses available to those looking for industry qualifications and those looking to sharpen their DIY skills. For more information call 0800 345 7492 today.

 

At Access Training our bricklayer courses will train you up to the highest possible standard. However there have probably been instances where you've seen newly built houses or walls with high quality brickwork, only to see white patches unevenly spread over the structure. This is most probably "efflorescence" and this post aims to teach how you can help prevent it in your future work.

So what is efflorescence? It is the formation of (usually white) salt deposits on the surface of brickwork, which causes a change in appearance. Apart from the unsightly appearance and discolouration, efflorescence can sometimes indicate serious structural weakness.

While there is an agreement that it is caused by a multiple of factors being combined with materials, views differ as to which factor is the main cause of efflorescence. It is usually impossible to deduce the exact causes with absolute certainty.

To help prevent efflorescence, some factors to consider are;

Cement: The type/make of cement chosen can influence efflorescence in exceptional cases. Pigments in coloured cement and other admixtures added to the mortar may contribute to efflorescence through their salt content.

Aggregates: These can contribute to efflorescence if they contain soluble salts. Sand contaminated with salt is a major factor, therefore sands in close proximity to the sea are an obvious risk.

Salts: Soluble salt is present in the materials used to make bricks, therefore it is capable of being transported and deposited on the surface as efflorescence.

Water/Cement ratio: Generally a high water-cement ratio encourages the movement of water and salt through the brick, giving rise to efflorescence.

Mortar Constituents: The composition of mortar is of significance. Lime used should be hydrated and free from calcium sulphate. The use of unwashed sand or sand contaminated with salt, or pigments containing soluble salts can also contribute to efflorescence in brickwork.

The following practices may also cause efflorescence;

  • No protection from the rain, especially during construction.
  • Materials left uncovered on site.
  • Lack of drips on cills.
  • Poorly filled joints/bad workmanship.
Look forward to future articles which will cover other types of staining to brickwork - including lime staining, vanadium and peacocking.

If you are interested in learning more about bricklaying and would like to train professionally, Access Training have a variety of professional bricklaying courses available. Learn more by calling 0800 345 7492.

- Richard James

Full story: Support for Housebuilding should be chancellor's priority says CBI

It was roughly three years ago when the Government announced there was a considerable sum of money that was to be used for social housing building programmes. At the time of the announcement I was uplifted to think that the prospect could bring about an end to the recession. And being a country that isn't known for production, the only way we can produce a financial economy that breaks a recession is by a large scale house building programme.

With all the products used to build homes and all the new products that go into them, the wages earned by the construction workers goes back into the economy. Throughout my career on the tools, I was fortunate to go through two bad recessions - one in the late 80s and then another in the 90s, both of which I was constantly working within the M25 area doing new build work. I personally feel that, and the CBI agree, our most instant way to relieve this recession is to undertake a 50,000 new build affordable home project. If the Government had started their own social housing programme back then, things wouldn't have turned out the way they are today.

- Mark Lewis

Thinking of going self-employed? Need to join a Competent Person scheme? Well if you don't have the current entry requirements (an electrical installation qualification, 17th Edition Wiring Regulation qualification plus anything else your chosen scheme requires of you), you may well encounter problems if you haven't applied for membership by 6th April 2013.

As of this date entry requirements to a Competent Person scheme are changing. You will need a level 3 NVQ that includes installing electrical installations, Inspection and Testing of electrical installations and Ensuring Compliance of Electrical Installations with building regulations.

Sounds easy? A number of awarding bodies have produced relevant qualifications, but the problem will be the time it will take people to achieve the required level of competence and produce a portfolio as the proof that all the elements have been covered. I would suggest that you will be looking at 18+ months to put the portfolio together!

The knock-on effect of this will be that no one will be eligible to join a Competent Person scheme for some time, causing a void in so-called competent persons. Home owners may find it difficult to find existing electricians that are prepared to take on small jobs - such as installing extra sockets (these are the kind of jobs newly qualified persons use to gain experience), as the current competent electricians will be looking for bigger contracts.

Does this mean home owners will be more tempted to "have a go" themselves? Causing mistakes to be made that could result in dangerous situations occurring? Possibly!

- Mark Jenkins

Today at Access Training we are celebrating World Plumbing Day not only across our plumbing courses, but also what it means to become a plumber and the importance it has.

In the UK it's quite easy to take for granted the benefit of having safe drinking water and functioning sanitation systems. However many countries do not have this luxury, and following the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Japan tsunami (which happened 2 years ago today) it has become clear just how far the advancement in plumbing has come over the years and the devastation it can cause when it is taken away.

World Plumbing Day is an event initiated by the World Plumbing Council to be held on March 11th every year, celebrating the role plumbing plays in the health and safety of modern society. According to research, preventable diseases related to water and sanitation claim about 3.1 million lives a year, most of them children under the age of 5. Of these, around 1.6 million die of diseases associated with a lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation.

By training to become a plumber, you are not only giving yourself a job and skill for life. You are providing a service which mankind has depended on for centuries and is constantly improving not just to make our lives better, but to also improve humanity's impact on the environment. Though its often underappreciated by the general public, plumbers play a huge role in keeping people safe and healthy every day.

There may only be one World Plumbing Day a year, but that doesn't mean we should only appreciate plumbers once a year.

For more information on Access Training's range of plumbing courses, contact us at 0800 345 7492

TrustMark, the government-endorsed quality mark for tradesmen, have issued guidance for homeowners who are keen to take advantage of new Green Deal upgrades.

The new guidance has been issued amidst fears that an increasing number of Green Deal cowboys are in operation, who are quick to fleece householders for any other work which arises out of the Green Deal work.

The work carried out under the Green Deal is regulated by certain controls which have been put in place. However, as TrustMark chairman Liz Male explains, it is the supplementary work which does not fall under the bracket of the Green Deal which is the route of the problem.

“We want to give the Green Deal every chance of becoming a roaring success, boosting the energy efficiency and comfort of homes across the UK. However, with the oldest housing stock in Europe, we are also well aware that many homes will require essential repair and maintenance work before they are in a position where solid wall insulation, new heating systems and other upgrades can be installed. Much of this work will not be covered by the Green Deal and therefore the consumer protection safeguards we have put in place will not apply. In this instance householders should turn to TrustMark registered tradesmen to complete the work.

“Having lobbied hard for a code of practice, we will not allow the Green Deal to be used by rogue traders as a method of deceiving or conning the public. The guidance we have set out includes clear advice to Green Deal providers that they must ensure any ‘ancillary works’ are completed properly by vetted and insured tradesmen who work under the TrustMark banner”.

The advice being given to householders wishing to be a part of the Green Deal scheme is not to be tempted to ask an installer to carry out any repair work as they are already in your home. You should always insist on using a TrustMark registered tradesmen, even if you are offered the repair, maintenance or improvement work there and then.

The leaflet is free to download at www.trustmark.org.uk/green-deal/.      

According to the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIJC), the minimum wage for construction workers is now £8.03 for general operatives and £10.67 for a craft worker.

In their announcement the CILJ state that the change will apply to workers who fall under the terms of the Working Rule Agreement, which totals some 500,000, but they don’t actually clarify who these “under the agreement” include.

Steve Murphy, the secretary for UCATT, said: “Construction workers undertake physically demanding, highly skilled jobs and it is essential that all companies covered by the CIJC pay the agreed increase.”

Although this is an obvious move forward for some people could there potentially be a negative effect for others?

An increase in minimum wages is always welcome, but are employers going to view this simply as an additional expense. If they have to employ someone on a higher wage, are they going to employ them or look for a solution elsewhere? Will the employer employ a person if the cost is greater than the value produced?

Take for instance a bricklayer who gets paid £10.67 per hour on a 40hour week (£426.80). This, along with a general operative’s wage of £321.20, produces a combined total of £748.00. At today’s rate of £300 per thousand for bricks, he needs to lay roughly 2500 bricks to cover his wages. If the bricklayer is only laying 1500 bricks, then is it worth him being employed?

So, is the increase a good thing? On a personal level I think the increase is too low. To become a qualified tradesperson through the NVQ route involves a lot of hard work and plenty of studying and commitment, with workers not reaching the top rate until they are fully qualified (if your are under twenty one then the minimum wage is less). The rise is also not in line with the level of inflation over the past few years so maybe it should be be recalculated. As the secretary of UCATT stated, “Construction workers undertake physical demanding highly skilled jobs”, so let the wages reflect this.

At last the proposed changes to ‘Part P’ have been announced, specifically the changes to electrical work in domestic premises that require notifying Building Control Services.
From April 2013, homeowners will no longer have to pre-notify certain electrical work in their homes, or have a registered (member of a competent person scheme) electrician complete the work. The financial saving to the homeowner for not having to pre-notify the work is in the region of £240 (depending where you live) per job.

So from April if you want to:

•    Fit an extra socket in your kitchen,
•    Fit extra security lighting to your home,
•    Fit an exterior socket (for the lawnmower)

You can, and you do not need to notify the work as was required previously.

Any electrical work being carried out in rooms containing a bath or shower will still require notification, as will the installation of any new circuit anywhere in the property.

These changes will not only save DIY homeowners a bit of cash; they also bring the requirements of ‘Part P’ more into line with BS7671 IET Wiring Regulations, in terms of Special Locations/Installations.

Before all you DIYers rush out to buy cable, sockets etc. from B&Q (other outlets are available) it might be a good idea to check your home insurance policy. If you do the job yourself and a problem occurs, will your insurance cover you? It would be a shame to save £200 only to find out your insurance is null and void and the cost of repairing your home will be your responsibility.

My advice would be: be careful, consider using a qualified electrician even if it is only to double check your work.

Mark Jenkins

The United Kingdom Government is due to announce changes to Part ‘P’. Part ‘P’ was introduced to improve the electrical safety within dwellings and requires some electrical work in dwellings to be pre-notified to building control authorities, or be carried out by members of an electrical competent person scheme. Part P is one of a number of approved documents that accompany the Building Regulations 2000.

The Building Regulations 2000 apply in England and Wales (Scotland and N Ireland have their own building regulations and versions of Part P). However, when the amendment to Part P comes out it will only apply in England.

The Building Regulations were devolved down to the Welsh Assembly in 2012; giving the Assembly the power to change the Building Regulations in Wales, and recent indications from the Assembly indicates there are no immediate plans to change the existing regulations.

So what does this mean for electricians?

If you work on the boarders of England, Scotland and Wales, you no longer have to only deal with the different paperwork and procedures devised by the different building control authorities when notifying work; you will now have different legislation requirements to cope with at the same time. This could end up being a paperwork nightmare, to such an extent that people may ‘forget’ to apply the requirements of Part P!

As Part P was intended to improve the electrical safety in dwellings, any watering down of its requirements could result in a compromise in people’s safety.

Surely the United Kingdom Government should ‘get a grip’ and unite with us a single set of regulations that apply in every area of the kingdom and help electricians to keep people safe in their homes.

Mark Jenkins.

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