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THE huge problems the industry faces surrounding the interpretation of standards is a clear indication that years of insufficient training of electrical contractors, in particular Registered Persons, is taking its toll.
I am concerned with ongoing training after qualification - training that keeps Registered Persons up-to-date with changes, especially changes in legislation - however, I am more concerned with the lack of training.
To a large extent, problems manifest when it comes to the completion of paperwork. I review many Certificates of Compliance (CoCs) every month and 90% of the time, the ‘paperwork' leaves much to be desired. It is evident to me, when reviewing these documents, why the public places so little value on the issuing of CoCs.
I believe that the public has lost all understanding of why it is necessary to issue a CoC and this apathy is perpetuated by many electrical contractors who, when issuing CoCs, reflect the lack of professionalism that is rampant in this industry at present.
As an industry, we pass legal documentation into the hands of attorneys who deal with these matters, and sadly this documentation could often be called "a dog's breakfast"!
It seems to me that many electricians lose the ability to write after they have qualified (this also applies to some doctors) and often I find it impossible to decipher the content of the CoCs that I review.
Enormous protection factors for Registered Persons are built into the CoC documentation, but this means nothing when no one can read - or even understand - what parts of the electrical installation are covered by the CoC and indeed, which parts of the electrical installation may not be covered by the CoC.
Once I have got past deciphering the content of documentation that has been ‘filled in' by Registered Persons, I am then faced with other daunting areas - particularly in the test report - that have been by-passed, either because of a lack of understanding of what is required or just ignored in the course of ‘getting the document out so we can get paid'.
I believe it is this ‘couldn't care' attitude that is the greatest contributing factor to the reputation of non-professionalism currently associated with the electrical industry.
I think that before we will be in a position to bring the public around to understanding why we issue CoCs, there will have to be a massive drive to train Registered Persons in matters of relevant law. This knowledge will ensure that when the CoC leaves the hands of the Registered Person, that the document itself passes the ‘ridicule element' by the legal fraternity. In so doing, we can perhaps again attach ‘value' to the importance of the initial inspection and test and then to the ‘value of safety' to which we should all subscribe.
The legal issues mentioned above are clearly identified in current legislation. The CoC (Annexure 1) itself comes with a warning detailed on the document as a note, and I quote:
"This certificate is not valid unless all the sections have been completed correctly and the test report in the format approved by the Chief Inspector is attached".
Could it be any clearer? Complete all sections correctly or the CoC will be invalid.
In many of the complaints that I deal with on a regular basis, the first response to the AIA is normally as a result of standards interpretation and yet many Registered Persons fail to understand that the CoC was already invalid long before the AIA even went on site to determine compliance with required standards, purely as a result of ‘negligent paperwork'.
I firmly believe that we need to get the basics right before we can tackle the technical problems.
The Gauteng Electrical Inspection Authority (GEIA) and my AIA colleague in the Western Cape (WCAEIA) offer many training courses to Registered persons in these very basics and I implore Registered Persons to attend these courses to refine their skills in completing ‘valid' documentation.