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04 Dec 2019

18th Edition - time for an update?

It’s been almost 12 months since the most recent update to the 18th Edition Regulations was released. However, now the changes have had some time to bed in, what elements are working well, and which areas still have room for improvement?

The good bits

It’s encouraging to see that the Regulations are moving with the times and are reflecting modern working practices and advances in technology. Guidance around energy efficiency, surge protection, arc fault detection and approved parts has all been updated, even though this will likely have little relevance to electricians working in the field.

The updates also included revised guidance around the installation and application of switchgear, reflecting an awareness across the industry of the need to keep up with the times when it comes to industrial hardware.

Room for improvement?

The 18th Edition regulations will always be an essential piece of kit for electricians of all experience levels, however, there are some areas which should be addressed more comprehensively going forward.

Isolation

For example, the guidance around isolation systems on motors remains unclear. The updated regulations 135.15.202 say that “every fixed electric motor shall be provided with an efficient means of switching off which is readily accessible, easily operated and so placed as to prevent danger.” In reality, this means that in complex installations with large numbers of motors, there would have to be a huge number of individual isolation points, which isn’t practical in many circumstances.

Even though the Regulations do give designers the option to install remote isolation systems, providing certain health and safety criteria are met, a better approach would be to define isolation requirements according to current levels and locality to the power source.

Guidance or rules?

Some may argue that the regulations would be more effective if they were transformed into a more stringent set of rules. However, this would create some further problems. Rules are more prescriptive and considering the diverse range of environments industrial electricians find themselves working in, a ‘one rule for all’ approach is not likely to be effective.

Different work setting, different specification

One way the regulations could be made clearer would be better recognition that electricians work in many differing environments. Whilst many of the requirements around earthing, for example, would remain the same, splitting the regulations into domestic, commercial and industrial sections would be useful

Zs values

The current regulations could more comprehensively cover ‘Zs’ values, which represent maximum loop fault impedance. The 18th Edition includes information about the most common values, however, these don’t often give the level of depth needed by industrial electricians. These figures change regularly, so rather than waiting for a new edition of the regulations to be published, amends could be issued as an addendum to the document as and when required.

The 18th Edition regulations are an essential reference guide for any UK electricians, regardless of their area of specialism. However, this is a document which must continue to move with the times if it is to properly reflect evolving working practices in the electrical sector.