Electrical Contracting News (ECN) June 2016 - Page 32

CUT-OUT FUSES CUT IT OUT Jim O’Neil of the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) urges the industry to come together to put a stop to the cut-out fuse debacle. O ne of the most widespread and frustrating issues faced by electricians and engineers is the process for the removal of cut-out fuses in households. As ECN readers will know, electricians currently need to secure the approval of the energy supplier (known as the DNO), who will then arrange for this removal (done either in-house or by a meter operator). Time consuming This process in itself takes up valuable time, preventing electricians from getting started on the actual electrical work they have been hired for. In addition, it often leads to an additional charge of around £75 from the DNO for the removal, which is typically passed onto the consumer. The DNOs take a cautious view on the removal of cut-out fuses, in part due to their legal and safety obligations under Section 24 of the Electricity, Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002. This position has though led to an entire commercial industry of meter operators developing, who, along with some DNOs, stand to benefit financially from the onerous process mentioned above. Opportunity Despite calls from the ECA and our partners at the time, the last government missed an opportunity to correct this issue by mandating steps within the nationwide smart meter roll out. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. One DNO – SSE – recognises that skilled electricians are more than capable of removing cut-out fuses themselves, and has introduced a system to facilitate this. SSE stipulates that member firms of trade bodies such as the ECA and SELECT, and contractors from certification bodies such as NICEIC, are allowed to remove cut-out fuses. This pragmatic approach used by SSE is widely supported by contractors, and it is a solution whose time has certainly come. It’s now up to the industry to come together and find a mutually agreeable deal, based on the SSE model, which saves both electricians’ time and households’ money, while also putting to bed any perceived safety concerns. Yet if the industry itself cannot find common ground on this issue, with a deregulatory Conservative administration in power for at least four more years, it may be the government itself is willing to take direct action by cutting red tape to curtail this unnecessary burden on the electrical sector. Support The ECA is working closely with partners across the industry to push for change on the removal of cut-out fuses and urges contractors to contact mike.giles@eca. co.uk if you would be willing to support its efforts. Jim O’Neil is director of technical and joined the ECA from Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions in 2014, where he was the company’s principal electrical engineer. Jim previously worked at director level for several major building services contractors and ECA members. He has also served as chairman of both the ECA’s Technical Committee and ‘M&E Sustainability’, the joint ECA/B&ES initiative that underpinned the role of building services in the growing sustainability agenda. Jim oversees all of ECA’s technical activity, providing members with practical advice and guidance, as well as influencing the regulations and standards that govern the industry. 32 32 Cut-out Fuses – ECA.indd 32 12/05/2016 14:17