Every week, someone in the UK dies from an electrical accident. Dodgy electrics also cause half of all house fires and result in 350,000 serious injuries a year. And yet, our research has found that the use of non-registered electricians has trebled in the last year. This really concerns us. We fear that casual attitudes to using non-registered electricians are contributing to the number of electrical accidents in people's homes.
We estimate there are as many as 20,000 unregistered electricians operating in the UK. Using an electrician who is registered with one of the government-approved scheme operators is the only way to guarantee they have the skills to carry out the job properly and to be sure that there will be a procedure in place should something go wrong. The implications of not using one could be serious. A third of registered electricians we spoke to say they have witnessed an increase in the amount of substandard and potentially dangerous work being carried out by non-registered electricians. At best, this work requires a costly fix; at worst it could cost someone their life.
We know that many people use non-registered electricians without realising, because they haven't checked or haven't known how to check their credentials. Indeed, many people may tell you that they're qualified to undertake electrical work - from your neighbour to a friend's recommendation - but you must always make sure you've hired a registered electrician. You wouldn't use an unregistered heating engineer to fix your boiler, so why do it for your electrics?
So that's why I'm glad to announce that Electrical Safety First have recently helped launch a new official consumer mark for registered electricians in England and Wales: the Registered Competent Person Electrical Mark. The new mark provides an instant visible safety assurance and the accompanying website lists in one place all electricians registered with one of the government approved scheme operators for domestic work. Simply by entering your postcode online at www.electricalcompetentperson.co.uk, you can easily find a list of local registered electricians. And if you've already got someone in mind, you can easily validate their credentials by entering their company name on the site. It's an important tool that helps people stay safe and keeps the industry transparent for everyone's benefit. Don't take the risk: always use a registered electrician.
There are a number of ways you can better protect yourself, wherever you are in the UK. Follow these simple tips:
• Don't be embarrassed - ask to see their credentials:
If they're unwilling to show you their credentials, you're better off with someone else.
• Ask for a reference:
Don't just take their word for it. Ask for a reference from a happy customer. Find out what work they've done before, and how satisfied their previous clients were with it.
• Get more than one quote:
Get at least three quotes so you can compare options. It can then be tempting to go with the cheapest option. But if they're considerably cheaper than the rest, alarm bells should be ringing. Don't scrimp the first time around - you could end up paying far more later to repair the damage.
• Know everyone working on your home - don't rely on the contractor to make the choices:
Contractors might not have the same standards as you do; after all, it's not their home. Find out who everybody is, and get proof of competence before they undertake any work.
• If something doesn't feel right - take a step back and reassess:
Never feel pressured to make a decision quickly. If anyone is making you feel uneasy, it's best to seek advice before you contract them. For any dispute, contact the scheme operator that your electrician is registered with, and for any ongoing disputes, you can speak with the Citizen's Advice Bureau and Trading Standards.
For more information, with specific tips related to England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, visit: www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/find-an-electrician