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#165943 - 07/08/07 12:06 PM How useful are U.K. P.I.R. codes?  
pauluk  Offline
Member
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
Norfolk, England
I've been thinking about this for a while, but just how useful are the codes used on a periodic inspection report -- really?

The decision as to which code to apply to a given "problem" comes down very much to personal opinion in a lot of cases, and there are wide variations. Even the IEE and NICEIC committees cannot agree.

For the benefit of those outside the U.K., let's explain what's involved here. Anything which shows up on an inspection is coded with one of four numbers to indicate its seriousness:

Code 1 = Requires immediate attention.
Code 2 = Requires improvement.
Code 3 = Requires further investigation.
Code 4 = Does not comply with current Regs., but did in the past.

Code 3 is rarely used, at least in domestic work, and would be applied where it's impossible to determine if there's a problem or not without a lot more time to investigate (e.g. a cable which is connected to something but can't be traced).

Certain things are clearly code 1, such as a 9kW shower wired on 2.5 mm cable, or broken housings exposing live parts.

But there seems to be huge disagreement over many items and whether they warrant a code 1 vs. a code 2, or whether something should be code 2 vs. code 4, even code 1 vs. code 4.

Some examples:

Current Regs. (16th) say that any outlet likely to be used to feed equipment outdoors should be RCD protected. That in itself prompts a lot of argument over which outlets are covered, but let's assume a socket right by the door which is not RCD protected. Which code?

Some say code 2, requires improvement. Some say code 4, because whether you consider the RCD desirable or not, it does comply with earlier editions of the Regs. I've even seen some claim this should be code 1 as being "immediately dangerous" (can't agree with that).

Then there's the classic lighting circuit with no earth, allowed under the 13th edition (pre-1966) so long as all-insulated fittings were used. So as long as nobody has come along later and changed fittings to class 1 types, that should be code 4, right?

Some people say no, it must be code 2 because it requires improvement in case somebody comes along later and changes the switches/lights. Some say that this warrants a code 1 even if no unearthed fittings have been added.

Given this sort of wide disparity in assigning codes, just how valuable are they, bearing in mind that they are supposed to be for the general public to assess what needs doing to an installation?

When John Doe can see a code 4 noted on one PIR when exactly the same thing on a PIR carried out by another person is down as code 1, isn't he going to feel that the whole system is quite ridiculous? And doesn't he have a point?



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#166465 - 07/21/07 04:15 PM Re: How useful are U.K. P.I.R. codes? [Re: pauluk]  
Trumpy  Offline


Member
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,217
SI,New Zealand
Originally Posted by pauluk
When John Doe can see a code 4 noted on one PIR when exactly the same thing on a PIR carried out by another person is down as code 1, isn't he going to feel that the whole system is quite ridiculous? And doesn't he have a point?


Paul, I can't help but agree with this last paragraph.
The thing that bothers me about this "rating" system is the fact that it seems to be open to wild interpretation.
Two different inspectors may have totally opposing ideas on the same installation.
IMO, something either complies NOW or it doesn't.


Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

#166492 - 07/22/07 07:00 AM Re: How useful are U.K. P.I.R. codes? [Re: Trumpy]  
pauluk  Offline
Member
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
Norfolk, England
Quote
it seems to be open to wild interpretation


Wild is right. A trawl through some of the arguments over this on the IEE forum provides some extreme examples.

You wouldn't think a silly little thing like earth wires in switch boxes being either unsleeved or sleeved in plain green instead of the current green/yellow would be that controversial. Bare was allowed under the 13th edition, and plain green was allowed by the 14th ed. up to the late 1970s, so code 4, right? Code 4 is meant to convey something which complied in the past, does not comply with the current Regs., but is not necessarily unsafe.

Well, I've seen some guys doing a P.I.R. saying that a green earth would be a code 2.
To be honest, an earth sleeved in the former green instead of green/yellow is barely worth mentioning but in my opinion it absolutely, positively does not warrant anything more than code 4.

I wonder if in a few years we'll have reports listing red/black cable as code 2, suggesting that it needs to be changed to brown/blue?

I've even seen a couple of people say that a bare earth should go down as a code 1. Are they serious? shocked Code 1 is meant for something which is flat-out dangerous and requires immediate attention.

If you start putting down bare earth wires as code 1, what message does that give over genuinely dangerous situations which really warrant that code?

Another example: There was a P.I.R. argument over an old Crabtree C50 distribution panel (common in commercial applications 30-35 years ago). Somebody was arguing that it should go down as code 1 because -- get this -- it has bare busbars inside the enclosure. Someone else was suggesting code 2, or code 4.

The fact is, even though many new panels are now so insulated inside that removing the outer cover hardly exposes any live terminal, there is absolutely nothing in the current Regs. which would be violated by that old Crabtree panel. In fact the C50 range is still available!

So the fact that removing the outer cover exposes live parts doesn't warrant anything, not even a code 4.


#166639 - 07/25/07 01:16 AM Re: How useful are U.K. P.I.R. codes? [Re: pauluk]  
Trumpy  Offline


Member
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,217
SI,New Zealand
Paul,
I can't help but think that this system is probably a little mis-guided.
Sure Code 1, where an immediate danger to life or property has occurred, remedial action must be forth-coming.
Code 2 IMO, shouldn't even be there, if you install something to the extent that improvement on your original installation practice is bought into question, what was the point in the first place?.
In my opinion, a Code like this would be under No.1.
Either you do it correctly in the first place or not at all.


Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

#166770 - 07/28/07 06:12 AM Re: How useful are U.K. P.I.R. codes? [Re: Trumpy]  
pauluk  Offline
Member
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
Norfolk, England
Originally Posted by Trumpy
Paul,Code 2 IMO, shouldn't even be there, if you install something to the extent that improvement on your original installation practice is bought into question, what was the point in the first place?.


Remember that these codes are used on a periodic inspection report, so you're not necessarily reporting on your own work.

Code 2 can also be used for things like a cracked socket faceplate -- Not damaged to the extent that it exposes anything so it's not an immediate danger, but clearly something which could do with being replaced.

I agree though, it's very difficult to categorize certain things.


#166807 - 07/29/07 08:14 AM Re: How useful are U.K. P.I.R. codes? [Re: pauluk]  
Trumpy  Offline


Member
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,217
SI,New Zealand
OK then Paul,
If this is a Periodic Inspection, WHO does this inspection and how often is it done?.


Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

#166843 - 07/30/07 09:27 AM Re: How useful are U.K. P.I.R. codes? [Re: Trumpy]  
pauluk  Offline
Member
Joined: Aug 2001
Posts: 7,520
Norfolk, England
Quote
WHO does this inspection and how often is it done?


It could be the person who installed the system originally, but it could be anyone.

How often? That's another debate in itself. Guidelines are generally that a domestic system should be inspected at least every 10 years and commercial at least every 5 years, but the standard inspection forms leave a space for the person carrying out the P.I.R. to insert his recommendations for when the next inspection should be carried out.

So again, it's open to personal opinion to a large degree. If the person doing the P.I.R. feels that the wiring, environment, use/abuse make it sensible to inspect more often, then he can note that on the report.

Only certain places (filling stations, theatres, etc.) have anything mandating regular inspections at more frequent intervals by law. When it comes to domestic, it's more a case of an inspection being carried out only when somebody asks for one -- Mortgage company, insurance assessor, etc.
So in practice, there are plenty of homes which never get a regular P.I.R. from the time they were originally wired.


#166868 - 07/30/07 10:00 PM Re: How useful are U.K. P.I.R. codes? [Re: pauluk]  
Trumpy  Offline


Member
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,217
SI,New Zealand
Paul,
From your comments above, I seem to get the feeling that this could easily be mis-construed by outsiders as a "jobs for the boys" scheme.
Reason I say that is because we have a system, that there are no definite grades of compliance, at least where there is, it is open to the opinion of the person implementing it.
This system has some very good ideas behind it, it seems to me, a shame that the actual workings of it seem to be a tad "up in the air".
I would like to see some sort of an inspection regime here for domestic places, especially rental accomodation, however I can't really see domestic dwelling owners being too happy about having inspections done, even if it is once every 10 years.
If a system like this were instituted here, we would need probably double the number of Inspectors and Electricians, just for the initial "stock-take" and remedial work from that.
This would indeed be a good thing for the safety of everyone in thier homes, considering the number of house fires that occur here every year caused by worn out wiring and the like.
BTW, I'm talking about the mere basics of electrical safety here Paul, I'm not saying that everyone should have to have thier old switchboard pulled out and replaced with the latest and greatest, it's all about priorities.
Fires very rarely start in switchboards in houses, usually a bad connection at a light fitting or a socket-outlet is to blame.


Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin


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