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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.

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 AKA C&G 2357). Here at Trade Skills 4U we deliver the C&G 2365 Diploma complete with the bridging unit that allows you to APL (application of prior learning) into the C&G 2357 Diploma as and when you are working in industry so you can work towards Gold Card status.

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.

Other ECS Cards

If you have not completed your NVQ you will be able to apply for a variety of other cards which range from Electrical Labourer to Electrical Apprentice. Essentially if you are just breaking into the industry you can apply for an Electrical Labourers ECS card which will allow you work as an electricians mate on site, get hands on experience and work towards your NVQ. Once you have your employers sponsorship and are working towards your NVQ you will be able to apply for a trainee card if you prefer.

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.

Contact us on 01293 529777 for more information on our electrician courses or view all our electrical courses here.


Categories: cscs card, ecs 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.