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The Biggest Blackouts In History

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 28th October 2014

We have all experienced a power cut in our homes at some point or another. Often they are caused by random events and freak weather conditions but it is very rare these days in the UK to have a major blackout that effects large numbers of people. We thought we would do a bit of digging and see how big the biggest blackouts in history were. We expected them all to have been many years ago, however to our surprise we discovered many of the biggest happened in the last few years. So here are the top 5 in reverse order:

5. 11th March 1999 – Brazil & Paraguay Blackout – Affected 97,000,000 People

At the time the 1999 Southern Brazil Blackout was the biggest in history. The blackout covered major cities both sides of the border between Brazil and Paraguay including Sao Paulo, Rio De Janeiro and many more. At 10:16PM lightning struck an electricity substation in Bauru and caused a chain of events that took out the power to an estimated 75 to 97 million people. Happening late at night made the situation worse and the government had to deploy 1,200 military police and close many tunnels to prevent looting and attacks. 60,000 people were stuck on the subway when the power went down and had to wait until after midnight for power to start returning.

4. 18th August 2005 – Java- Bali Blackout – Affected 100,000,000 People

At 10.23 AM on the 18th August 2005 a transmission line failed in west Java. This led to a cascading failure of 8 power units in both the west and east of the island. The amount of power available dropped and there was a shortfall of 2,700 MW, roughly half the required supply. The blackout lasted until 5PM that day. Whilst the impact was less severe during the day time, disruption to transport, business and usually day to day life remained huge. Following the blackout the government ordered the police and national intelligence agency to investigate the root cause of the event to prevent it from happening again.

3. 2nd January 2001 - 2001 India Blackout – Affected 230,000,000 People

When the 2001 India Blackout hit virtually all of northern India went down. The whole region ground to halt and many hospitals were unable to function properly and millions of people were unable to draw water from underground wells. Trains stopped working and lines were blocked for up 15 hours. At the time this was the biggest blackout in history only to be gazumped 11 years later. It was estimated that the blackout cost the economy over a billion dollars in lost revenue and there were angry scenes across the region where consumers and business leaders called for the electricity systems to be privatised.

2. 30th July 2012 – 2012 India Blackout 1 – Affected 330,000,000 People

The 2 biggest blackouts in history were caused essentially by a late monsoon and extreme heat in New Delhi. Essentially extra power was required to run the agricultural pumps running irrigation in paddy fields. This coupled with the fact that the hydropower plants were generating less power than usual (again due to the late monsoons) put a huge strain on the system.

At 2:35AM circuit breakers on a 400 kV line tripped. As this line fed into another transmission section, breakers at the station also tripped, and power failures cascaded through the grid. All major power stations were shut down in the affected states, causing an estimated shortage of 32 GW. Officials described the failure as "the worst in a decade". The power remained off until 8:00AM but had a knock effect for the rest of the day where planes, trains and the Monday morning rush hour were all effected. The blackout effected over 25% of India population and it took around 15 hours to restore 80% of the service. However this was rather short lived.

1. 31st July 2012 – 2012 India Blackout 2 – Affected 600,000,000 People

At 1PM the next day a relay problem near to the world famous Taj Mahal started a chain of events which eventually saw numerous power stations across the northern region of India go down. The result was that nearly half of India’s population went offline (around 9% of the world’s population!) with 22 of 28 states without power. The blackout lasted around 12 hours and caused even more problems for a country trying the deal with 89% humidity. Outrage followed and the existing power minister ordered an investigation into the cause, however he was not in his post on the 12th August 2012 when the report was issued. The investigation concluded the following:


Weak inter-regional power transmission corridors due to multiple existing outages (both scheduled and forced);

High loading on 400 kV Bina–Gwalior–Agra link;

Inadequate response by State Load Dispatch Centers (SLDCs) to the instructions of Regional Load Dispatch Centres (RLDCs) to reduce over-drawal by the Northern Region utilities and under-drawal/excess generation by the Western Region utilities;

Loss of 400 kV Bina–Gwalior link due to mis-operation of its protection system.

It’s no surprise that India occupies the top 3 spots in this top 5. This is in part due to the huge number of people that live there coupled with an infrastructure which is outdated and often not fit for purpose. India is the 3rd largest electricity consumer in the world behind the USA and China. It is estimated that 27% of energy generated is lost in transmission or stolen! Around 25% of people in the country still live without any electricity at all and the country is used to suffering smaller outages on a regular basis.


Categories: blackouts

New Planning Laws & How They Effect You

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 21st October 2014

In April 2014, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced the Housing Standards Review outcome which reduces the housing standards pages of guidance from 1000 to fewer than 10.

One of the main changes is the options available to householders to get building work checked to ensure compliance.  In the past, building works were subject to several checks with builders having to get the same pieces of work signed off by a range of different organisations.  Inevitably this lead to needless delays on building projects.   Under the new changes, technical competencies will be assessed by Building Control only.

More control for house builders

The changes are very important to anyone who is planning on carrying out new building works.  This is anything from a home extension to a full new house build.  One of the key changes was option to use an Approved Inspector in place of Building Control which is known as an initial notice.

An Approved Inspector is a person who takes overall responsibility for a project and the compliance of it.  A house builder for example could take this position putting them firmly in the driving seat of their building projects rather than relying on Building Control for the project to progress.

The initial notice and what it means

The main change is that householders have the option to use a nominated person, known as the Approved Inspector who has overall named responsibility for the job including the building control function for the work. Known as on site approval, this person will be responsible for providing the details of who is carrying out the individual aspects of the work (i.e. plumbing, gas, electrics etc) and supplying the Local Authority with details of their qualifications and registration details if relevant.

If you plan to use an Approved Inspector, then both the householder and Approved Inspector need to jointly notify the Local Authority that the Approved Inspector is carrying out the Building Control Function on the project.  This is called the initial notice.

The option to use the Building Control Services of a Local Authority will still be available, and this will be known as pre-site approval.

On-Site Approval

For householders opting for an Approved Inspector, the Building Control Service will make a series of statutory and routine inspections of the work as it progresses to ensure that all aspects of the building regulations – including Part P and other relevant legislation is being complied with.

Notice of  no less than two days must be given to the Local Authority before the project commences

Notification of completion must be given no more than 5 days after completion.

In respect of other stages, no less than 1 days notice to be given.  If the Local Authority is not informed of the relevant stages, they can give written notice asking for the work to be opened up for further inspection.

Pre-Site Approval

Householders who opt for a Local Authority building control service will have three types of planning application approvals that can be made.  The charges made for these services will vary between Local Authorities and consist of three options:

Building Notice - Apply for building regulations approval from Building Control Services by giving a building notice.

Regularisation - If building work has been carried out without Building Control approval, regularisation will enable owners to have the building work approved as an alternative to prosecution.

Full plans - Submit a full plans application to the Local Authority for approval.

Pre-Site or On-Site?

The main consideration will be cost.  Using an on-site Approved Inspector will be an added cost initially, however you will also have a person who has overall responsibility for ensuring the project goes to plan, and therefore being more stringent in terms of overall building control standards and making sure things go smoothly.

Pre-site could be more costly overall with the standard of work carried out not being so high, with householders still having to source each trade on an individual basis and effectively taking on the role of an approved inspector. 

How Does This Effect Electricians

The senario with approved inspectors mirrors that created on the 1st april 2013 when DCLG created Third Party Certification scheme for Part P. Essentially they are trying to streamline planning by handing responsibility to private companies and individuals. At present there are around 170 approved inpsectors in the UK, however this number will grow. As such now is a good time for electricians to establish contacts with Approved Inspectors who will be on the look out for electricians who are willing to work on building projects over the longer term and be depended upon for quality and reliability.

If you want to find an approved inspector in your area check out the full list here.



Electrical Darwin Awards Top 5

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 17th October 2014

For those of you who have come across them before you will know that the Darwin Awards are a light hearted way of recognising how stupidity and natural selection combine to kill a person or prevent them from being able to reproduce. The stories quoted are all true and sad as many are, they are all mildly amusing too. We have picked the top 5 related to electrical accidents and listed them below in order of stupidity (1 being the most ridiculous) for your reading pleasure:

1. Eugene Duncan (1 June 2008, West Virginia)

Eugene Duncan tops our list despite the fact he survived his exploits by the skin of his teeth. Eugene had a power line running through his back garden and (maybe following the release The Dark Knight in 2008) decided to climb a pylon and repel himself down one of the lines using just a single piece of rope. Eugene came into contact with a power line carrying 46,000 volts resulting in a huge electric shock and quite a large fall. Amazingly Eugene survived his ordeal but was charged with trespassing by his local police department.

Unfortunately we couldnt find a picture of eugene, however the above pic is equally worrying. It is a Czech girl who mistook a high voltage pylon for a bridge whilst high!

2. Gabriel Thomas Mondragon (15 March 2008, Washington)

Gabriel Thomas was an environmentalist with attitude. He sought to make people pay for their apparent sins against nature by cutting off the power supply for thousands. His plan showed he had considered the risks and took precautions, yet he completely underestimated the true power of the line through which he chose to cut. Using rubber gloves for insulation and a tree saw attached to a metal pole Mondragon cut through a 69,000 Volt line. He was found lying on his back, with the gloves partially melted on his hands and his pants burned away from his body. Amazingly he survived and was quoted as saying ”I did it to punish the rich white people of Orcas Island and make them pay for the death of the whales and the depletion of the rain forests”.

3. Daniel (14 February 2002, Pennsylvania)

Daniel and his best friend loved to practice their marksmanship in a local field. However on this occasion their choice of target would prove to be rather costly. Electrical insulators are used to hold power lines in place and they are there for a reason. So when they both shot 6 of the insulators holding the power line above them aloft it soon fell to the ground throwing sparks out everywhere. Despite remaining unscathed at this point Daniel was worried about a serious fire breaking out and opted to simply pick the lose sizzling wire up with his hand and was instantly electrocuted.

4. Michael Anderson Godwin (March 1989, South Carolina, USA)

Michael Anderson Godwin was just 28 years old when he was sentenced to death in South Carolina. Following an appeal he managed to avoid the electric chair, but unfortunately even that couldn’t save him from himself. In March of 1989, Godwin was sat on his steel prison toilet, trying to fix a pair of headphones attached to his TV. He bit into the wire, and the rest is history. The irony of this is astounding.

5. Arthur de Souza (10 January 2010, Brazil)

In 2010 a municipal guard named Arthur de Souza Coelho had enough of the crime in his neighbourhood and decided to take action to protect his car from being stolen. He installed a small but shockingly powerful electric fence around his pride and joy and it worked, no body touched the car. It’s a good thing too as the fence proved to be fatal. When Arthur forgot to turn the fence off one morning he was electrocuted and the inevitable happened.

The message remains clear and simple. Electricity is dangerous so don’t mess with it otherwise you could end up on the list above.


Gate Safety Week - Shocking Survey Findings

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 13th October 2014

For the last few months here at Trade Skills 4U we have been supporting Gate Safe, a charity set up to help improve the safety of automated electrical gates and reduce uneccessary deaths. Gate Safe have been running courses from our head offices in Gatwick and this week sees the launch of Gate Safety Week.

To mark the event, Gate Safe, has revealed the findings from a series of site surveys which confirms some shocking results. The finding show that housing developers and property management companies are still not taking heed of the current guidance to ensure a safe and compliant electric gate installation.   This is despite the fact that there have been five confirmed accidents including three fatalities resulting from children playing around automated gates on a residential estate.  

The first survey, undertaken on behalf of a major London residential property consultancy, involved a review of 23 automated gates which featured on 7 client sites. Shockingly, almost 95% of the gates audited failed to match the accepted safety protocol for automated gates. A further survey for another London property consultant covering six residential complexes comprising six gates, once again revealed a worrying 100% failure rate.  Sadly these findings are consistent with other surveys carried out by Gate Safe over the years. Indeed the industry estimates that more than two thirds of all automated gates installed in the UK do not comply with latest legislation and could pose a serious safety risk.

Commenting on the findings, Gate Safe founder Richard Jackson says “Given the news earlier this year that the government is to donate £50 million to the Local Growth Fund to unlock locally led housing developments and a further £1 billion available as loans to get large scale housing projects off the ground, we are destined to witness a rapid increase in activity for housing developers and that means even more automated gates.  We urge anyone associated with the construction of new homes to pay heed to the latest guidance on how to install a safe and secure automated gate to avoid any further tragedies occurring.  We would also encourage all businesses involved in managing existing residential properties to have any featured automated gates checked by a suitably Gate Safe Aware qualified installer, to prevent the risk of any further accidents occurring as a result of an unsafe installation”

Gate Safe Aware installers can be identified via the Gate Safe website www.gate-safe.org.  Construction businesses involved in housing development projects are welcome to attend the Gate Safe Aware training course, details of the next course are featured on the Gate Safe website.

Gate Safe is supported by the Electrical Safety Council, Electrical Contractor’s Association, Safety Assessment Federation, RoSPA, School SafetyMARK, Secured by Design, Trade Skills 4 U (no1 provider of electrical qualifications), International Institute of Risk and Safety Management and ECS (Electrotechnical Certification Scheme).

If you wish to book a course please visit the gate safe website directly and book direct. 


Categories: gate safe

Outstanding Pass Rates by Anyone’s Standards

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 10th October 2014

If you already work in the electrical industry you will know that the qualifications required to gain approved contractor status are a step up from the rest. They have in depth written exams that draw on an electricians experience and previous training as well as the content they learn whilst on the course.

The 2394 and 2395 written exams are notoriously hard with national pass rates of 54% and 59% respectively. We have just had our latest batch of results in and were very impressed with the latest crop of students. As a group they managed to achieve first time pass rates of 96% for the 2394 and 76% for the 2395 course way above the national averages.

How Do We Do This?

So now we are going to give away our secrets on how as a training provider we have been able to achieve such high pass rates. We do this in the following ways:

1. We have exceptional tutors who really know their stuff. They have all been working in the industry for years but are not just sparkies they are qualified teachers too.

2. We have specially designed dual purpose classrooms which we haven’t seen anywhere else. This means you can quickly put into practice what you learn as you learn rather than have to have separate sessions in a workshop and classroom.

3. We vet all candidates on these courses to make sure they have the right training and experience. This is key to maintaining a good pass rate. It means the course can be taught at the right level for the class and that the students have the maximum potential to pass.

Obviously the high pass rates are a combination of hard work from teachers, TS4U staff and of course the students who took the exams. So if you are one of those students congratulations and well done you have earned it.



Categories: pass rates

17th Edition 3rd Amendment – What You Need To Know

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 6th October 2014

The industry is buzzing with commentary on the latest amendment to the 17th Edition Wiring Regulations. The 3rd Amendment is due to be published on the 1st January 2015 and installations designed after the 1st July 2015 will need to comply with the new amendment.

The draft  for Public comment was available on the IET website for feedback from 14th December, 2013 until March 7th, 2014. This means we know overall what is likely to be changing in the new amendment; however we won’t know the absolute final details of until the new book is published in January 2015. The IET is taking pre orders for BS7671 but says on its website ‘These changes are expected to include’. The final ratification of the changes by JPEL 64 is due by 1st November, 2014.

Will I Need to Re-Take my Current 17th Edition Course?

Simply put if you have taken a 17th edition course then no. If you still have your 16th edition then clearly yes (What have you been doing for the last few years?) This is an amendment only, as such you will be required to install to the latest amendment in from 1st July 2015, however there is no requirement for a formal qualification covering this amendment. You will need to own a copy of the new book and have an understanding of the changes in it. As such anyone who has taken the current C&G 2382 qualification will still be fine to register with a scheme provider. It is worth remembering that between 1st January and the 30th June, 2015 designers and installers can use BS 7671 2013 or 2015 version.

From July 1st 2015 you will need to design and install to Amendment 3 which means you will need to know what is in the amendment and as such we will be ensuring that all students that take a current 17th edition course with Trade Skills 4U will have access to our online student support website which will publish the latest course materials and amendment details for you to brush up on.

When will the new C&G course be available?

Currently we don’t know for sure but it is likely to be in the first quarter of 2015. Once the amendment has been published City & Guilds will need to update the courses and exams to reflect the changes. This means as an estimate the course will not change until February or March 2015. Rest assured once it is available we will be delivering it here. If you are thinking of booking a 17th edition course in the meantime the key thing is not to worry too much. You can still take the course now and then get updated on the amendments later on.

Will the book change?

There will be a brand new book for the latest amendment and the colour will be yellow. This means for those of you training in the New Year you will possibly want to hold back on buying any books until nearer the time. You will need to check with us to find out exactly which book you should bring for your course and it will depend on your specific course start date and not the date you book the course.

Once City & Guilds have released the most up to date course for delivery we will be setting a date from which the new qualification will be taught and if you book a course that starts from that date you will need to ensure you buy the latest book.

Will you be delivering seminars on the amendment?

We will be scheduling some free seminars once the amendment has been finalised. These will be available to existing Trade skills 4U customers in the first instance and if space is available we will open these up to the public. However as stated above all students that take the a 17th edition course with us between now and the changes coming into place will have access to the latest details on our student support website. We provide all students with access on the first day of their course and this access is available for as long as the site is live which we envisage to be for many, many years to come.

The key message from us is simply we will keep you up to date whether you train now or in the future.


Categories: 17th edition

Top 3 Apps For Electricians & A Few More Too!

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 2nd October 2014

Smartphone apps have become increasingly popular as the number of people owning a smartphone rises year on year.  As of July 2013 72% of UK people owned a Smartphone – approximately 7 in 10 people. The release in the last few days of the Iphone 6, should increase that figure even more with extended capabilities including wireless technology, mobile video and a whole host of new services to feed a speed hungry market.

Mobile web out – Apps are in

Back in April 2014, the Guardian published an article challenging the use of Apps over mobile web usage.  Their research showed that people use their smartphones for an average of 2 hours 38 minutes per day and most of this time is made up of App usage.  Use of the mobile web continues to dwindle despite technology advances like the introduction of 4G.  According to research company ComScore, people are spending just 22 minutes each day using mobile web.

These findings do not come as a surprise, after all Apps are fast and keep all your information to hand.  There is no need to log in and wait ages whilst the screen loads up.  From popular apps like Facebook to an app which can promote your own electrical business, they all meet three essential requirements:


Satisfaction of needs

Cheap – many are free or low cost

Using Apps at work

Using an app to help with electrical work may have raised a few eyebrows years ago, however electricians are now increasingly using Apps which are fast replacing bulky and cumbersome books. Apps provide answers and clarification quickly enabling the job to progress more smoothly and quickly.

Many big names in the electrical industry including Schneider, Electrical Safety First and Legrand have been producing apps designed to make working life easier. We also came across some other interesting apps such an Ohms Law calculator, Electrical Toolkit app and even an iHandy level app where you can turn your Smartphone into a spirit level!

For our August survey, we asked electricians what they rated as their top app and indeed, whether an essential app is missing from what's on offer currently.

Electricians Top 3 Rated Apps

1. Icertifi

Free to download and offering in-app purchases, icertifi was our top pick amongst UK electricians.  Offering the ability to produce electrical certificates without the need for expensive desk top software, the app also acts as an 'assistant' monitoring and checking test results and calculating data making electrical safety testing accurate and more productive.

The App is free to use although a subscription is required to send and save certificates.

2. EasyCert Mobile

EasyCert works in conjunction with EasyCert desktop software by allowing electricians to record and input results directly into a smartphone ready for importing to the desktop software.  The information only needs to be entered once saving time and effort.  The EasyCert mobile wizards guide you through each part of the certificate avoiding mistakes.

The complete range of electrical certificates is supported on the EasyCert App.

3. Megger Cable Calculator

The cable calculator tool app offers a comprehensive cable selection and volt drop calculator tool for installations up to 25KW 100A.  Most cable types can be calculated with the app recently updated to include calculations of up to 400mm SWA.  MICC light and heavy duty cables have also been added.

There is a wide range of reference methods and videos within the app and a handy guide to the use of electrical test instruments.

Other Electrician Approved Apps


From VitalSource Technologies Inc, the app is free to download and allows the downloading and access of VitalSource e-books.  E-books contain exactly the same information as the printed versions and can be leafed through in full colour exactly like the books.  Note taking and zooming in of images is possible as well as the option of jumping straight to a specific page.

Downloads of essential publications such as BS7671, guidance notes 1 to 8, on-site guide, design guide and code of practice for electricians are all available to download.

Calendar – better than a paper diary, easy to use and one less thing to loose!

AseePro – Shows CCTV live

Signeasy – A convenient way to sign documents, worksheets and the filling in of forms which can then be signed electronically.

Sumup – Get paid quicker by turning your Smartphone into a card terminal and accept card payments.

Simplenote – An easy way to sync notes and 'to do' lists to your desktop

Ohms Law Calc – great for reference

Apollo Fire HD – Contains a version of the BS5839 Guide to help you stay within the rules and regulations when installing fire detectors and devices.

What electricians would like to see

On every electricians wish list is a fault finding app! Unfortunately it is unlikely that one will ever exist! If you're a budding inventor, you might like to start developing the impossible dream now......

Although the fault finding app will be forever absent, the Smartphone is still definitely a saviour when it comes to space saving and time saving.  Imagine the resources you would have to carry around with you without one! Come to think of it, we wonder how the 28% of people without a Smartphone manage.  We're assuming they can't be electricians!


Sparkies Don't Share Tools

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 23rd September 2014

Experienced electricians will be only too aware of the implications of sharing tools.  Tools are essentially an electricians bread and butter, and lending them out, even just for a supposed few minutes can have costly consequences for your electrical business.

It might only be a drill, or a hand tool, but if the person borrowing them is without these straightforward tools, then you need to be asking yourself if you should be lending to them in the first place.

Why sparkies don't lend out their tools

Putting aside potential theft, there are some good reasons why you should think twice about lending someone else your tools, no matter how nicely they ask.

They won't look after your tools as you do

No doubt you'll have saved up hard to get the tools you need.  However you obtain your tools, they don't come cheap.  Because of this, you tend to look after them and avoid careless use. When a tool isn't your own, you perhaps do not worry about over using a bit here and there or using it for something other than it's intended purpose.

Besides, that quick 5 minutes could turn into 5 hours, or more annoyingly could involve a search around to try and locate your tool because you need it yourself.

It's a lesson learnt the hard way.  In time you will know who to trust to lend your tools to.  Never feel obligated to hand your tools over.  It might only be a drill, but it's your drill!

You might not get it back

Once borrowed, the urgency to return it is not the same.  Borrowed tools can 'inadvertently' end up in someone else's toolbox.  Tools can also be fragile, if the tool gets broken, are you going to get a replacement? You probably won't, and you'll find yourself having to foot the bill for repair or replacement.  Once bitten, twice shy and all that!  Hands up those who want to go to work to earn money to re-buy borrowed tools!

If you do lend, to the trusted few, make sure it is on the understanding that if it breaks it gets replaced.

Beware of lending to apprentices or trainee electricians

As nice as it is to help someone out of a tight spot, especially if they're training to do what you do, it can have a sting in it's tail.

You'll remember the days when you used to leave tools above ceilings.  You don't want those tools to be yours! Apprentice and trainee electricians need to be encouraged to take responsibility for their own tools.  Leaving them at home is not an option! Besides, the boss might send them home to get them and dock their pay.  They won't forget again....and your tools will be safe for a bit longer!

Your tools can last a lifetime

Consider your tools as a business investment.  Quality tools have the potential to last your entire working life (and beyond!) You may think retirement is a long way off, but it'll be even further away if you have to keep replacing expensive tools!

There is an old saying “never mess with another mans tools” In other words, treating your tools well, keeping them clean and well organised in your tool box will ensure they look after you in return!  And don't even consider lending them out.....it goes against the grain (or cable!) Oh and never leave them lying around for someone to borrow without even asking!

Fed up with being asked for your tools?

From a fellow plumber to your apprentice, in time constantly being asked for your tools can become a wearing experience.  So we asked the opinion of an experienced electrician on how they handle the tool borrowing situation:

“I have a policy that I do not lend any tool, not even for a minute out of my primary kit, not even to my own family\staff, although I will lend them items from my secondary kit."

"When my son's took up Plastering, Motor Mechanics and HVAC\Ducting, I brought all the correct tools to encourage and help them, but I lent them to them on condition they understood they remained mine, therefore they could not sell them, abuse them, fail to clean & look after them, yet they could use them for as long as they needed too."

"To my staff, I provide a standard kit of Tools & PPE, but I expect them to look after them, I have been lucky that I have some fantastic staff and they have not abused my trust. If any staff member want another tool for a particular job, I buy it, and they add it to their kit unless it is very specialist then it usually ends up with us, in effect as a "pool" tool. that others use as and when. Finally, all my engineers get a £200 a year allowance to buy tools they want, for example some like the CK Magma case rather than the Veto Pro Pac or some like to acquire the CK Combicutter.”

Some good food for thought there, with some great tips especially if you hate losing your tools or worry about them being wrecked on return!

Identify your own tools

Lastly, it is worth considering identifying your tools as your own.  If you sub contract, you might find that the main contractor won't want your company name visible.  However identifying your tools by name and postcode is extremely useful if they ever get stolen. It is much harder to re-sell something with someone elses name on it.

Tools are your most important business asset, don't compromise your livelihood by being the 'nice guy!'


From CSCS to ECS, Which Cards Do Electricians Need And Why?

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 15th September 2014

It is almost impossible to gain access to a construction site without being in possession of a trade card.  Not only does a card prove your identity, qualification level and occupation, it also confirms your awareness of site Health and Safety. Deaths on construction sites are currently at their lowest level ever with 48 deaths recorded in 2011/12.

The Card for Electricians

There are several cards used on construction sites, the most commonly known about is the CSCS card which demonstrates your competence to work at industry standards.  Almost any job on a construction site will require a valid CSCS card, however as an electrician it is the ECS card you will need as this is the only card that will allow you access to carry out electrical work on site.  An ECS card proves your electrical skills and is the only CSCS affiliated card for the electrical industry.

The ECS Card Explained

The ECS is known as the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme and is the occupational card scheme for UK Electrotechnical workers.  Whether you are a technically qualified manager or a trainee electrician, you will require a valid ECS card which proves your competence to industry standards.

There are currently in excess of 100,000 registered ECS card holders in the UK.  It is worth getting an ECS card even if you are not currently working on site.  It takes time to apply and around 4 weeks to receive your card and without an ECS card, you will be sent home which could cost you a job opportunity in the future.

The difference between a CSCS card and an ECS card

There is often confusion surrounding a CSCS card and an ECS card.  If you see an electrical site job advertised that asks for a CSCS card, it is the usually ECS card that you will need.  The ECS scheme is affiliated to and recognised by the CSCS as the equivalent competence card. Most job advertisements ask for a CSCS card on any construction related jobs, however a CSCS card on it's own will not allow you to carry out electrical work.

A CSCS card is proof that individuals can work safely on a construction site, however there are a number of other site occupations that require a different type of card.  All are of the same standard as the CSCS and are affiliated to it.  So there is no difference between a CSCS card and an ECS card in terms of site safety.

Which ECS card will I need?

Having confirmed that you need an ECS card as an electrician, you may well have heard electricians talking about the various types of cards they hold.

In England and Wales, the cards are known as ECS cards, in Scotland they are known as SJIB (Scottish Joint Industry Board.)  The cards are essentially the same, although you will need the appropriate card to work in these areas.

You may also have heard an ECS card being known as a JIB (Joint Industry Board) card. The JIB is the issuing authority on the ECS card, there is no additional card.

Finally,  for electrical installers there are two tiers to an ECS card, gold card (installation electrician) and white card (trainee or apprentice.) Which card you receive will be dependant on your qualifications or training.  It is important before applying that you meet the requirements for the card you are applying for.

Once issued, an ECS card is valid for 3 years after which it must be renewed and a Health and Safety assessment taken.

ECS Installation Electrician – Gold card

An ECS Installation Electrician card is issued to electricians who have demonstrated that they have completed a formal industry regulated competency based qualification which includes technical theory with practical and competency assessments.

As a general guide, the mandatory requirements are an NVQ level 3 in a recognised competency based qualification.  Additionally, new trainees to the electrical industry from the 1st September 2011 will have to compete the technical theory, practical and competency assessments of the Level 3 NVQ diploma in Installing Electrotechnical systems and equipment (building, structures and the environment.)

If your qualifications are more than 3 years old, you will also need a current recognised health and safety qualification or certificate and a formal BS7671 qualification.

There is also the opportunity to have your grade printed on your ECS card if you hold an appropriate NVQ Level 3 qualification and have relevant practical experience.

ECS Apprentice – white with red stripe

To be eligible for an ECS Apprentice card, applicants must be undertaking any electrical or Electrotechnical Advanced Modern Apprenticeship (AMA.)

ECS Trainee Electrician – white with red stripe

Many students training with Trade Skills 4U for the first time will fall into this category. There are 3 levels to being a trainee electrician and the qualifications completed will determine which card you can get. 

Level 1: If you have completed your Level 2 Technical Certificate such as C&G 2330 L2, C&G 2365 L2, EAL equivalent then you will be at Level 1.

Level 2: If you have completed your Level 2 & 3 Technical Certificate such as C&G 2330 L2 & L3, C&G 2365 L2 &L3 or EAL equivalents then you will be at Level 2.

Level 3: If you have your Level 2 & Level 3 Tech Certs plus evidence of your Employer’s sponsorship then you will be at Level 3. In addition, evidence that you are working towards the AM2 and level NVQ 3  is required. 

Please note in the points above we have referred to the most recent qualifications that our students are likely to have completed, however on the ECS website it still refers to older equivalent qualifications such as C&G 2351 & 2360. 

You will also need an up to date recognised health and safety qualification or certificate.

Every card is different

It is important to read the application form carefully when applying for an ECS card.  Electricians have been disappointed when not issued with the correct card.  The only way to prove competence is by the verification of documents, so if the correct documentation is not sent, it could lead to a card being issued that you were not expecting.

Holding an ECS card proves your skill level and also means you are committed to setting the high standards required in the electrical industry.  All levels of ECS card demonstrate a high level of commitment and competency in electrical work and Health and Safety awareness.

It is only by demonstrating this commitment that construction sites will continue to become safer places to work in the future.


Categories: ecs card, cscs card

How To Stay Safe & Avoid Tool Theft From Your Van

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 5th September 2014

One of the main issues that affect electricians is the security of tools.  From light fingered workers to van thieves, there is always some factor that can affect the safety of tools.  Tools are an essential to the work of an electrician and whilst insurance cover does help, there is still the time and inconvenience of having to replace tools that have taken years to build up, not to mention the revenue lost from being unable to work.

Tool Theft

Tool theft from vans is on the increase again in part due to the upturn of the economy.  Specialist insurer ECIC has seen claims for tool theft rise year on year with an average cost per claim now in excess of £5,000.  Tool theft has always been common, with many thieves being 'opportunist' and calculating their move on you before you are even aware.

Unfortunately tool theft seems to have moved with the times and despite advances in technology on vans, thieves have also developed technology to enable overriding of features such as electronic keys.

Covering the basics

All seasoned sparkies will know to not leave their tools in the van overnight or if this is unavoidable parking with the doors against a wall in a well lit area is the best security you can hope for to protect your tools. We had a an experienced electrician doing some update training with us a few months back who was unfortunately the victim of tool theft on a grand scale.  After emptying his van of his tools into his home, he was then burgled that night with thieves accessing the property undetected and making off with all his tools.  Damage to the van was also caused.  Lost revenue to his business went into the thousands by the time the damage was repaired, tools replaced, working time lost not to mention the associated stress.

Hearing this story inspired us to write this article as it made us think more about vehicle security.

How to secure your van

Securing your van is the first step to keeping your tools safe.  Don't rely on the locks supplied as standard on your van.  Some vans have locks fitted that thieves can open within 60 seconds using a cheap lock pick brought on line.  Insurer ECIC recommend replacing all your van locks with Thatcham Research endorsed locks.  These locks have undergone extensive testing and will therefore buy additional time and make the thief think twice about touching your van.

Once your locks are up to the job, additional locks should be considered.  Popular options amongst electricians include Slamlocks where the door automatically locks once closed, Slamplates which add additional protection over locks and deadlocks which add extra locking points are all worthy considerations.  Although it is another expense and often a bind in some cases to get this work done, it will offer security that works.

Put it this way, a thief will go to the van they can target easily as against the one they can't.

Check your van is actually locked

This may seem obvious, but how many of us nowadays simply rely on the electronic transmissions given by the electronic key to lock the van.  Pressing the button as we walk away has become common place.  However as we mentioned earlier in the article, thieves have developed technology to over ride the functions of these transmissions meaning that your van won't actually lock when you press the button.

Known as lock jammers, these unscrupulous thieves block the signal given by your key unknown to you, and your van won't actually lock leaving the thief with full access to your tools without any damage being caused to your van! Sickening isn't it?  There is an easy remedy to this however, and that is to actually check that your van is locked before you leave.  It is the old fashioned try the handle to see if it's locked!

Do you own a Ford Transit?

Investing in your locks is particularly recommended as thieves in recent times have developed a tool that will unlock a Ford Transit without force in around 30 seconds.  The tool which has a number of spindles can be easily manipulated in a lock without the knowledge of anyone around.

With the Ford Transit being the most popular van on the road at the moment, it is not much of a surprise that thieves are targeting Transits specifically.

Prior preparation avoids a poor performance!

It is worth remembering that most thieves are opportunist and are just looking for an easy way to steal.  Making their job as hard as possible minimises your chances of being their next victim.  Always remembering to lock your van every time you leave it, even if you're just popping into the shop can stop a whole load of grief.