Baxi trainer Graham Collins dispels the myth that electrics is only for ‘sparkies’ and gives his top tips on safety.
Generally speaking, most heating engineers are not qualified electricians and vice versa. Many heating engineers still believe they don’t need to understand electrics as this is the job of an electrician. But it is important that installers have an understanding of electrics and how to confirm the boiler installation is safe and functioning correctly.
We make no apologies for preaching about safety, and will continue to do so until all installers understand the steps they can take to lessen the risk of electrocution. In recent years there have been several incidents where heating engineers have been electrocuted while carrying out routine work. Electrocution on the job could result in electrical burns, loss of muscle control, thermal burns and in some cases, even death. Even one shock, however small, is too many.
The importance of training
Taking the time to invest in electrical training is a valuable way to protect yourself. For example, our three-day fault finding course shows you how to use a multi-meter, how to conduct basic electrical safety tests such as safe isolation, and how to carry out component electrical fault-finding tests. The course also covers comprehensive training of all boiler components, typical faults encountered and provides ‘hands-on’ fault-finding diagnostics.
Three days is a serious investment of time, but you will have spent this time wisely, understanding safety and risk mitigation and protecting yourself from harm. You wouldn’t work on a gas boiler without the required gas safety knowledge, so why would you work on a boiler without the necessary electrical knowledge?
Don’t fall for DIY
Online training and tutorials are rife in the heating and plumbing industry, which is not surprising with technological advances. Indeed, DIY tutorials on video-sharing platforms, such as YouTube, are more common than ever. These videos might instil installers with the confidence on the job, but they don’t always provide a thorough enough overview of the safety precautions for a service, repair or even an installation – putting lives at risk.
Heating engineers should follow best practice advice and avoid watching unverified videos. After all, it only takes one unverified video to pass on incorrect or dangerous advice. By sticking with the manufacturer’s online advice and tutorials, such as our #TrainingTuesday videos, installers can guarantee that the video they are watching is factual and follows industry best practice. However, it does not replace a training session with experienced professionals giving hands-on electrical training in the safe environment of the training centre.
Working safely with electrics needn’t be a minefield. You can take simple steps to ensure your safety and that of your customer.
• Before even touching the boiler, make sure the boiler case isn’t live by using a no contact voltage indicator.
• Earth loop impedance test to check for adequate earth of the property. Boilers in properties fed from an underground supply will generally have an acceptable reading which is less than 1 Ohm impedance. Older properties with cruder systems will have a bigger allowance.
• Safe isolation to ensure that there is no electricity being supplied to the boiler when the power has been disconnected.
• Basic electrical safety checks to make sure the boiler is earthed, has no short circuits, the electrical insulation is in good condition and the boiler has been wired up the right way round.
It’s easy to dismiss training as nice to have rather than a must-have, but acknowledging the importance of electrical safety, upskilling and taking the time to gain confidence in an area once considered to be for ‘sparkies’, can boost your business, prevent injury and save lives.
Minutes spent conducting the electrical checks will ensure your safety, could reduce the time spent fault finding and reduce the risk of buying unnecessary replacement parts.