Graham Collins, Training Support Manager at Baxi Heating, explains why engineers must prove that they have technical knowledge or experience of safe electrical isolation.

Electrical work continues to be regarded as a subject solely for electricians, but installers must shake off this mindset and instead build a better understanding of best practice and how to safely work with electrics. This has never been more important given that, very soon, engineers must show that they have technical knowledge or experience of safe electrical isolation.

These new electrical safety rules stipulate that, from July of this year, proving knowledge and competence to isolate the electrical supply to a gas appliance safely when going for assessment or reassessment for Gas Safe registration via ACS, a Group Competence Scheme (GCS), or any other recognised route, will be vital. 

This competence can be achieved by in-house training, external training, or self-learning, with the overall mission that, by 2025, all engineers should have knowledge of safe electrical isolation. 

Getting to grips with electrics
Working safely with electrics doesn’t have to be a complicated minefield to manoeuvre. Making use of a multi-meter and other electrical test equipment can assist with checking the safety of the boiler and identifying whether components are working properly. 

The first focus for a heating engineer should be to ascertain whether the boiler is safe to work on. This should be done before even touching the boiler by using suitable equipment to determine that the case is not live.

The heating engineer should then conduct further tests, including earth loop impedance, safe isolation, earth continuity test, a short circuit test, resistance to earth test, and a voltage polarity test.

Understanding how to carry out these basic electrical tests can make fault-finding much easier and, importantly, a safe process. 

Don’t underestimate its importance
While electrical safety has always been important, it is now a perfect time to take stock of your capabilities when it comes to working with electrics and to take appropriate steps to increase your knowledge if needed. Doing so will not only keep you safe, but will also make your working life quicker and more efficient when you are confident knowing what you are doing. 

Even if you feel competent, the importance of electrical safety cannot be stressed enough. Over recent years, there have been several incidents where heating engineers have been electrocuted while performing routine work. While these incidents are by no means common, it demonstrates that there is still confusion when it comes to electrics.

Proving competency 
Consider all of the training options available to you, including attending a course. In-person training is especially vital if you lack the confidence or real hands-on experience of safe electrical isolation.

However, a variety of learning can be undertaken and, because the new rules are flexible, the way you prove competency in this area is largely up to you. 

One example is Baxi’s ‘Training Tuesday’ video series, which explains the necessary test equipment required for electrical safety tests and how they should be used when working on boilers. Choosing reliable home learning options like this is a good way to refresh your knowledge, especially if you are a newly registered engineer who should have been trained in this area as part of the curriculum.

It is imperative that heating engineers remain up to date when it comes to electrical safety competency and take advantage of all training resources available to them. Not only will this result in better safe working practices, it could prevent injury and save lives. 

If in doubt, boiler manufacturers are there to help and are always mindful to provide robust safety instructions, guidance, and advice to ensure that engineers have the full information they need before embarking on any installation, maintenance, or repair work on a gas boiler.