The importance of individual competence

NAPIT Group Chief Executive, Mike Andrews, discusses how the company’s original raison d’etre is being realised, 25 years on.

NAPIT was founded 25 years ago by a small group of electricians, with the simple but laudable aim of improving the standards within the electrical industry by recognising the competence of individuals across both electrical installation and inspection.

Throughout the last 25 years, NAPIT has continued to push for recognising individual competence at every opportunity; indeed, when we first applied to run an Electrical Competent Person Scheme, it was based on assessing the competence of individuals within a registered electrical enterprise.  My desire to see individual competence within the electrical sector goes way beyond the domestic sector and that’s why we operate a Registered Competent Operative model within our Electrical Competent Person Scheme. Many of our registered members operate within the commercial and industrial sectors, where they have embraced and supported the individual competence solution. Our approach is to register the Company as being deemed to meet the requirements within the Electrotechnical Assessment Specification (EAS) and then to assess individuals onsite to ensure their technical competence and certificate them as such. There are a number of so called electrical registration schemes who issue cards, with the word ‘assessed’ on, where the extent of their checks involves only a desktop audit of qualifications. We deem this approach to be wholly inadequate. We are working on ways to improve the ability throughout the electrical industry to identify individual competence. This will demonstrate the individual who is listed as competent has been technically assessed onsite on the type of work for which they are certificated and will be subject to regular onsite technical assessments.

We’ve maintained this ethos since our inception as quite frankly we believe it is the right thing to do, and the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy has brought the importance of electrical safety into even sharper focus. Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of Fire Regulations and Building Safety, along with calls to re-examine Part P and introduce mandatory safety checks on electrical installations in the Private Rental Sector, mean that the focus on identifying individual competence is increasing.

The 2015 changes to EAS, which introduced guidance requiring the Qualified Supervisor (QS) to consider the level of the operatives under supervision based on a risk matrix, firmly put the emphasis on the QS to ensure appropriate levels of individual competency, and to demonstrate how they monitor this. This is just one initiative the industry has taken to move closer to a model of individual competence, but it didn’t go as far as we would have liked.

So we are now taking steps with other industry parties to align our assessment regimes towards assessing individual competence within the existing scheme structure. This will mean that UKAS accredited company registration is maintained, but is based on the assessment of all operatives rather than a supervisory operative – a model we have never subscribed to. Such an approach is already used in the combustion and heating Competent Person Schemes, so there is a precedent.

I am feeling positive about this exciting new journey, and hope that over the course of this year we can enhance the electrical industry so that competent individuals who have been technically assessed can easily be identified to undertake electrical installation and inspection, not just a registered enterprise – so watch this space!


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