BUILT ENVIRONMENT JOURNAL

Supporting electrical safety management in HRBs

The Electrical Safety Roundtable has published guidance for those managing risks presented by electrical systems in higher-risk buildings

Author:

  • Martin Simmonds

24 February 2022

Electrical cables and plugs

Electrical safety in higher-risk buildings (HRBs) – such as a block of high-rise flats – is a key risk area. Managing and monitoring electrical safety presents several difficulties, especially in terms of access, tenancy types and the large-scale nature of any refurbishment projects.

The Electrical Safety Roundtable (ESR)'s Social Housing subgroup has therefore produced guidance on How to Manage Electrical Systems in Higher-risk Buildings. It worked with more than 20 organisations to prepare the document, published in October.

The guidance responds to the appeal from Dame Judith Hackitt – the UK government-appointed adviser to the building safety regulator – for the construction industry to act now rather than wait for regulations to improve safety in HRBs.

The document aims to support those responsible for managing and monitoring electrical systems in HRBs by providing them with clear information and advice. Although the guidance is particularly relevant to HRBs, it is also relevant to properties containing multiple dwellings.

In her foreword to the guidance, Dame Judith writes that 'it shines a spotlight on the importance of electrical safety in higher-risk buildings and the complexity of effective management. This guidance will [help] the industry review its current practices and consider how they can improve the safety of residents.'

Electrical cables and plugs

Expertise supports safety management

The ESR brings together a diversity of experts to enhance electrical safety in the home and workplace. Our research, discussions and advice inform decisions by customers, the government and wider industry alike.

The 106-page guidance document therefore covers parts of HRBs with an electrical supply that must be managed and monitored for safety. The 24 chapters address topics such as electrical supply management, emergency planning and lights, proximity access, closed-circuit TV, lightning and fire protection systems, electric vehicle charging points, and frequency of testing.

The guidance makes 13 key recommendations for managing the safety of electrical systems in HRBs. These include clearly designating responsibility for electrical safety in a building, regular monitoring by a technically competent person, robust risk assessments, emergency planning documents and advice on tenancy and leaseholder agreements.

The ESR's intention is to promote consistency in electrical safety, and provide a user-friendly overview for those unfamiliar with what this requires. The document also aims to raise awareness of the considerations, risks and complexities of managing electrical installations in HRBs.

The guidance can provide an opportunity for organisations to examine their current electrical safety management policy, and determine how better to help those new to the discipline or transitioning into new roles.

Benefits across the surveying profession

The guidance will benefit building surveyors, building control surveyors and related professionals by developing their understanding of common electrical systems in HRBs. It will also serve as a starting point for further research and information if needed.

I urge surveyors, building managers and other professionals to keep electrical systems and their safety in mind. I have spent my whole career in the electrical profession, and worked for many years in the social housing sector. It's great, therefore, to bring together expertise from the social rented sector in the guidance. The ESR is particularly proud of this document, and hopes it will help the persons responsible to manage the risks associated with HRB electrical systems.

The guidance has been commended by Peter Baker, the chief inspector of buildings, who leads the Health and Safety Executive's building safety regulator. He said:

'The ESR guidance is a welcome example of how the industry has taken the initiative and is sharing the knowledge, experience and expertise of several organisations. This will help those responsible for the safety of high-risk buildings manage electrical safety risks and prepare for building safety reforms becoming law.'

Martin Simmonds

Martin Simmonds is the mechanical and electrical investment delivery manager at Stonewater and chair of the ESR Social Housing subgroup
Contact Martin: Email

Related competencies include: Fire safety, Health and safety, Housing maintenance, repairs and improvements, Inspection

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