Ryan Dempsey: Time to Make a Difference

Guest blog: Ryan Dempsey, Chair of the Electrical Safety Roundtable’s ‘Social Housing Sub-Group’ reflects on their impressive first year developing pioneering electrical safety guidance and outlines the next steps for the group.

One of the hardest parts about working in Social Housing as a Compliance or Electrical Manager is the process of justification when challenged on electrotechnical issues. The reason it’s so difficult is because the electrical sector develops guidance and standards for issues which are black and white. Very rarely do we get, if at all, publications that look towards the strains on housing budgets and processes. In most cases are playing catch-up on decisions made in committees where the level of competence is incredible ‘electrically’ but lacks substance when considering the competence around client requirements. Sometimes the implementation of changes consumes us so much that we fall behind.

It was because of this that I requested to sit on the main Electrical Safety RoundTable group. I wanted to be somewhere I could provide comments that would help steer our sector to consider the impact as well as the benefits to introducing new technology and process. I had tried to get on other committees but was unsuccessful as my skills and experience were not looked upon as required, well at least that’s the professional answer I will portray here!!!

I attended the first few meetings of ESR and was shocked at the third meeting when an agenda item appeared that warranted the whole group to turn and look directly at me. There was a desire within the RoundTable to create a sub group of Housing Associations to look at some of the key issues regarding Electrical Safety Management in Social Housing and I was selected to be Chair.

A high number of organisations were interested in joining the ESR Social Housing Sub-Group and an initial 20 of these were selected to attend the inaugural meeting. The sub-group focussed on key issues and that the detail in the Code of Practice which we developed, was clear and concise and did not contain information that could be led to misinterpretation or unnecessary debate. After the first couple of meetings we started to put the document together and agreed collectively that we would spread the word to get more organisations to comment on the content. A growing number of social housing provers were keen to get involved and we had an additional 40 organisations keen to provide their view on the document. The best thing about this was the majority of these organisations were Social Housing providers who simply aimed to gain improvements to how they worked.

The Code of Practice provides a consistent approach for the management of electrical instillations within domestic tenanted properties in the social housing sector. It is free to download from the Electrical Safety Roundtable website, together with a short summary document of key recommendations and an infographic to educate tenants on the dangers of electricity. It’s the first sector defined Code of Practice, something I am really proud to have been involved with. The Code of Practice of the Management of Electrotechnical Care in Social Housing provides clarification on some of the main issues we face each day at work. Legal Access, Electrical policy, the frequency of inspection and the competence of those working in the sector have all been covered, along with other items, by people who manage these things and deal with them all the time. That’s how we know it works and that’s also how we know it’s the right thing to publish.

The Code of Practice was launched at the Houses of Parliament on 23rd January and a number of organisations have now embedded this into their tendering and management processes. It is now important for the Social Housing Sub-Group to continue the momentum with their impressive achievements. The next step is to add the Code of Practice while also developing another that clarifies issues with High Risk/Rise Residential Buildings (HRRB), commencing with identifying the correct processes around some of the key issues in HRRB. We have already started to develop a document which clearly defines the issues and solutions of around 33 different areas of concern. This is a really important piece of work due to the spotlight currently on HRRB and the need to gather as much information and data as possible to ensure the right processes are put in the place to effectively manage these types of buildings.

Over the next few months I am presenting at Elex events around the country. I believe it’s important to get the message out and help others understand the changes coming. It is also a great opportunity to put Social Housing on the map.

NAPIT played an active role in producing and reviewing the Code of Practice , while also sponsoring the launch event at the House of Commons.

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