Retrospective Design: Why it's important to examine electrical installations

September 25, 2017

Old electrical installation

Older electrical installations are often poorly understood by those responsible for maintaining them. Electrical installations are accepted as being in compliance with the current wiring standards upon receipt of a satisfactory Electrical Installation Certificate, however this may not be the case. It is possible that any larger than average installations that have been subjected to additions and alterations over periods of time may not comply with the design requirements of both new and even the old standards.

Retrospective design tools can be used by duty holders and electrical installation designers to ensure that existing systems are in compliance.


Why is it important to examine installations retrospectively?

All installations must be designed to comply with the requirements of BS 7671. The requirements contained within this non-statutory document are recognised by the HSE as likely to achieve conformity with the relevant parts of the Electricity At Work Regulations.

The HSE may use the requirements of BS 7671 in a court of law as persuasive evidence to confirm where appropriate, the non-compliance with the appropriate EAW Regulation. More often than not the prosecution usually results from loss of life or limb etc. Many other incidents occur within installations that do not involve the HSE but will involve claims via insurance companies.

Non-compliant installations may not only carry significant risk of loss of life or limb, but also be a cause of expensive equipment damage, supply failure, downtime and business financial loss. Potential problems could include motors either failing to start or stalling, lighting levels reduced to below safe levels, potential failure of high bay light fittings and the failure of any voltage dependent equipment including IT equipment.


“It is acknowledged that 75% of the businesses that are involved in large insurance claims and have lost, either close within 12 months or, even worse, never re-open.”


Insurance claims

With insurers being openly more pro-active in demanding higher standards in risk management from their clients; it becomes increasingly more important for the clients to read, understand and comply with the requirements specified in what is termed ‘the small print’.

A current condition report for an installation may be insufficient to satisfy the insurers that the installation was in compliance with the design parameters contained within BS 7671 at the time of the incident resulting in the insurance claim.

It must be stated that insurers, against common belief, do not generally try to escape or shirk their responsibilities but where the insured has not been seen to comply with what is specified within the policy then obviously it is within their rights to decline payment.


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